How to Prevent Employee Burnout as a Manager
employee burnout stress

Employee burnout is all too common in the U.S. and it does more than just slowing productivity. It makes employees physically and mentally sick. It’s usually caused by a variety of factors stacking up over time. Causes of burnout include:

  • Increased stress
  • Lack of control
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Extremes of activity
  • Lack of social support
  • Work-life imbalance

A recent Gallup study of around 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. Common issues we’re seeing today are overwork, lack of balance/separation, lack of support and unrealistic expectations. Addressing the root of burnout starts with providing the correct support for employees to stay healthy. This means managing the causes of employee burnout, stopping it in its tracks.

Rather than being just an issue with the employee, the issue is partly to do with the organization and can be tackled as a management issue. What can management do to help their employees unplug and avoid burnout by managing stress? Here are a few simple fixes that will support employee wellness.

Work and life boundaries

More employees working from home, especially ones that take care of a family, are having trouble setting clear-cut work hours. They end up working more hours than they normally do, and this contributes to burnout. Work can bleed into family time, shifting the household dynamic and causing stress and exhaustion.

As management, you can help improve this. Encourage dedicated family time each day so they can be fully present. Suggest that employees designate a specific room or area of a room where they only do work. Suggest “exercise snacking,” or short bursts of exercise sprinkled in throughout the day. For example, doing 10 pushups after replying to an email.

Tiny habits to avoid employee burnout 

 Stacking habits is effective, like pairing taking a walk with eating lunch. Social Scientist BJ Fogg designed the Tiny Habits® recipe method in which you focus on tiny behaviors and use an existing routine (an anchor) as a reminder. Tiny habits work because they take a new action you want to achieve and make it part of your existing routine by pairing it with actions you already take. It cuts down on the number of steps you have to do to achieve a bigger goal, reducing friction and making habits stick. This can be drinking a glass of water every time you finish a meeting, or walking around the block right before your morning coffee. Try this formula for creating two achievable tiny habits:

After I _________________ , I will __________________

After I _________________ , I will __________________

Don’t get in the way of bedtime

If you don’t want employees up checking email at 2 a.m., don’t send any late in the night (or past working hours if possible). Even if emails don’t require a response, the act of checking them can put employees in a work mindset, even if that’s at 2 a.m. when they wake up to use the restroom. It makes it harder for them to create boundaries with their time and spend time relaxing or sleeping. Scheduling emails through Outlook can address this problem and remove the need to check email at all hours of the day. This supports employees’ overall digital wellness.

 Employees’ sleep quality has taken a hit in recent months. Bedtime has shifted later to, on average, 12:32 a.m. We are seeing more parents staying up late to work after putting their kids to bed since they were parenting them all day. In addition to getting good sleep later, most people are experiencing 1.8 sleep disruptions per night. These are times when they get up from bed and get on their phones. In turn, this affects their mental health and ability to function under stress, causing employee burnout.

Office challenges to encourage mindfulness

Mindfulness can be hard to achieve when workplace stress has us constantly thinking about what we need to do next. But practicing mindfulness helps employees effectively deal with the daily stress they encounter. An office challenge, like meditating for 30 minutes a week on the Calm app, can encourage employees to develop healthy mindfulness habits. Running mindfulness challenges through the Mequilibrium platform would make it more of a team effort. Meditation is great for lowering the stress-inducing hormone cortisol. Equip them to manage stress and avoid employee burnout.

Promoting physical activity to avoid employee burnout

A sedentary lifestyle has always been a culprit for poor mental and physical health, but in recent months the numbers are concerning. With more people staying at home, daily step counts have plummeted. Regular physical activity helps us effectively deal with stress. A manager who promotes being active creates healthier employees who are less likely to be burned out. 

If employees are in the office, a quick walk together at lunch can be a routine to get some steps in. Additionally, quick fixes like a contest around step count or a 5K run/walk challenge can be effective in the short term. Giving employees resources will help in the long-term. For example, give studies on physical activity and stress, and encourage them to share with each other how they’re being active. A community approach can be in the form of a 21-day challenge like at Help employees understand why they should prioritize physical activity. The stress-relieving effects will combat employee burnout. 

Preventing employee burnout can be as simple as equipping employees to manage their own stress. Workplace stress is the culprit for so many physical and mental health problems that it needs to be taken seriously. Addressing the causes is easier than treating the effects. As management, you can and should take the reins on this. Your employees are your company, so prioritize their wellness

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?