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Can Worker Burnout Be Reversed?

November 05, 2021 Collaboration and Productivity
Kaya Ismail
By Kaya Ismail

It probably goes without saying, but the feelings of exhaustion and ineffectiveness that come along with employee burnout are detrimental to the people who suffer from them and the organizations that employ them.

While some level of stress at work can be productive and make employees feel they are solving major problems and working towards a bigger goal, too much can lead to burnout. The shift to remote work over the last two years seems to have exacerbated the problem, with 53% of work-from-home employees stating they are working much more than when they were in the office, according to Indeed's Employee Burnout Report.  

Recovering from burnout is a challenge. What can organizational leaders do to recognize the signs of burnout before they go too far and, when they do, can they reverse the effects be? 

Employee Burnout Signs

Typically, employees suffering from burnout might notice feelings of exhaustion, lack of motivation to complete certain activities, and feelings of frustration that manifest themselves in various ways, from issues in their personal lives to a lack of professionalism in certain situations.

These employees may find it difficult to perform even simple administrative tasks related to their jobs. Things which might have been easy for them to do are suddenly much more difficult. But just because an employee is showing signs of burnout doesn't mean that their organizational leaders should dive into a potential fix to the problem or immediately lessen their workload.  

"Rather than assume the reason why a team member is burned out, have a one-on-one conversation with them to address what the root cause is," said Christine MacDonald, director at Stockport, England-based The Hub Events.

During these conversations, it's essential that organization leaders actively listen and ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the issue. That will determine whether to implement a pre-existing plan or go a different route. 

Related Article: What Burnout Is Costing Us

Tips to Deal With Employee Burnout

Burnout can happen to anyone at any time. Here are some tips to help employees recover from burnout: 

Provide Mental Health Resources

Sometimes, the simplest way to reverse the effects of burnout is to have an employee take time off. But many employees are not necessarily aware or even capable of taking as much time off as they would like. In that case, access to therapy and activities like meditation and yoga can help. Encourage employees to take a mental wellness day or two and provide them with resources to aid their mental health.

“Mental health and wellness resources can help with refreshing burnt-out team members,” said Albert Galarza, global vice president of HR at TELUS International.

Track Their Time

Employees may spend a lot of time working on tasks that don't generate revenue or have much impact. That can drain their energy and leave them feeling unable or unmotivated to perform other tasks. Using analytics and productivity tools to help them identify what they're spending their time on can help focus them on tasks that boost their energy and drive.

Related Article: Your Digital Workplace Can Be a Cause — and Antidote — to Burnout

Put the Ball in Their Court

"The worst thing you can do is dictate what your team member needs to do to recover," MacDonald said. Especially when dealing with remote employees, a better approach is to let them decide the help they need and simply be an advocate for them and provide them with options, rather than forcing them to do a particular thing. 

Cater to Their Interests

"The best way to refresh a burnt-out worker is to put the person in charge of something that they are good at," said David Cacik, head of marketing at New York City-based CloudTalk.io. When employees do things they don't want to, performance can suffer and lead to frustration. Instead, speak with them to understand what interests them and allow them to do that wherever possible. 

Give Them New Targets

In some situations, burnout may be due to a lack of motivation or passion for what they're doing. "Help them identify goals they're passionate about and set deadlines for how these goals can be met," Cacik sai.

There are several things leaders can do to help reinvigorate burned-out employees. Providing them with time off and options to help them make decisions about their next steps can refocus them and get them performing at their best once again. 


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