What Are the Signs of Burnout and How Can Supervisors Help Employees?

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek July 13, 2020
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employee burnout

​This is the latest in a series of compilations of answers to a #NextChat question of the day. 

COVID-19 not only poses physical health risks, but it also is a cause of stress for many people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Workers may be worried about losing their jobs, having their hours reduced or being furloughed. Some are putting in more hours to demonstrate their productivity. They may feel burdened as they juggle caregiving responsibilities with remote work. They may be employed in front-line jobs that are especially demanding during the pandemic.

They are feeling burned out.

Employers can play a big part in helping their employees address burnout, SHRM Online reported, but what are the signs, and how can managers help employees deal with the stress they're feeling? These were the questions posed on a recent SHRM #NextChat by Mary Kaylor, SHRM-SCP, manager of public affairs at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The following is a compilation of responses from LinkedIn and Twitter:

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Signs that I have noticed are employees who begin to disengage and in many instances have become cynical. Employees may also begin to miss days, and the quality of work decreases.
Elizabeth G., regional director of HR at American Addiction Centers in the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., area, on LinkedIn. 

Lack of productivity and poor performance and increased irritability are some of the key signs of burnout. As a manager, if you notice that an employee's work performance is slipping, then this is your chance to use empathy and have a conversation. You can together come up with a game plan to address the burnout, whether that be taking some time off or goal planning to allow them to feel in control.
Karina Hon, contingent workforce manager at Dignity Health in the San Francisco Bay Area, on LinkedIn.

—Jessica Nevitt, SHRM-SCP, lecturer at Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Bloomington, Ind., on Twitter.

—Nancy Walker, deputy director at Southwest Health and Human Services in the Sioux Falls, S.D., area, on Twitter.

It's tough. I think a lot of managers may be experiencing it themselves. They may not have the bandwidth to see it in their employees.
William "Billy" Kilmer, SHRM-CP, HR coordinator at Querencia at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, on LinkedIn.

As a follow-up discussion, what are some suggestions of how to help employees overcome burnout once it is recognized? I've found in my line of business burnout [is] very common due to the constant high demand required of employees.
Rachael Ostertag, senior technology recruiter at KForce in Houston, on LinkedIn.

Rachael, if you can encourage them to step away for a day and take a breather, that is helpful but unfortunately often a temporary fix to the problem. You really need to find out why they are in burnout mode. I have found it beneficial to create ways to help them conquer the workload, if that is the main reason for the stress. If high demand is the stressor, then partner them up with someone [who] can be a source of support when the waves are getting too high and rough. I worked with a team partner for years. We each had our own accounts, but we shared information and shared those daily experiences. If either one of us was drowning, we immediately knew it because we were so in tune with each other. I could jump in and take ownership of an issue that was tossed at her, and she would do the same for me. Point is, we were in it together but we did not step on each other's toes. We were able to effectively manage an ever-increasing workload and keep each other sane. It was one of the greatest experiences of my professional career.
Amy Schellenberg, project manager, greater Houston area, on LinkedIn. 

This situation need not occur. My team is a family for whom I care, and [I] respect their dignity. Since the inception of our work-from-home period, I have engaged in more frequent check-ins with my team and individually. We begin with non-work-related discussion to emphasize that I regard their self-care more highly than mere work product. I encourage each member to flex their days to best accommodate their own individual family & household rhythms to reduce unnecessary stress. Thus, some may work more early mornings or midnights, with intervals of walks, swimming, errands, checking on older relatives. 100% retention, strong engagement, continued investment in professional development, and increased productivity have resulted.
Cris Mattoon, bank chief compliance officer/head of corporate compliance and ethics at AAA in Dearborn, Mich., on LinkedIn. 


More from this series:

  1. Juggling Child Care with Telework? Here Are Some Tips

  2. Bone Broth Cleanse, Push-Up Clubs: HR Pros Share COVID-19 Workout Routines

  3. For Better or Worse During COVID-19: Sharing Telework Space

  4. Tips for Employee Orientation During COVID-19

  5. COVID-19 Continuity Planning: Identify Critical Tasks, Broaden Tech Use

  6. Pet Pals Are 'Co-Workers' During Quarantine

  7. People Look Forward to Simple Pleasures After COVID-19

  8. Performance Reviews During COVID-19: Should You Suspend Them?

  9. Safety, Poor Planning Among Concerns as Employers Plan a Return to the Workplace

  10. Monday, Monday: How Do You Gear Up for the Week?

  11. Virtual Happy Hours, Games and Meals: Team Building Varies During COVID-19

  12. Pandemic Poses Recruiting, Hiring Challenges

  13. Important Lessons Learned from Your First Job

  14. Promote Mental Health by Communicating Benefits, Leading by Example

  15. NextChat: Tips for Small Businesses Post-COVID-19

  16. NextChat: HR Professionals Hope Safety Initiatives, Remote Work Will Continue in Future

  17. NextChat: Should Employers Monitor Workers' Social Distancing Away from Work?

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