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4 Ways Managers Can Help Employees Avoid Burnout

LuAnn Heinen

Vice President, WellBeing & Workforce Strategy, National Business Group on Health

Employees all across the nation increasingly want help, and in many cases more help, from their employer to deal with “burnout at work.”  The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as a legitimate syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. “Burned out” is the opposite of engaged at work. Those with burnout may feel numb, detached, hopeless, overworked and undervalued.

 A confluence of causes

Burnout isn’t just about stressful work, multi-tasking or work-life conflict. Lifestyle factors, such as the lack of close relationships or poor sleep habits, and personality traits, such as perfectionism, pessimism, and high need for control can also contribute. 

Still, the modern workplace stresses us with more demands than we have time and capacity to fulfill, can remove our sense of control, and may leave us struggling for meaning.

What to do

Given the pervasiveness of the problem and employees’ cry for support, employers can and should help. Here’s how: 

  1. Cultivate a culture of trust, collaboration, kindness, professionalism, and purpose. According to neuroscience and resilience expert Dr. Amit Sood, “a culture that fosters perfectionism, excessive competition, fear, and adversarial relationships with little control and meaning in work, is sure to kindle burnout.” 
  2. Promote social connection at the workplace. Having relationships, socializing and laughing with friends at work reduces the likelihood of burnout by relieving stress and increasing positive emotions.
  3. Support sleep, good nutrition, and physical activity. Employer offerings in these areas can improve mood, energy level, and resilience.
  4. Encourage use of vacation time and flexible work arrangements. Time away from work is necessary to recharge, while telework and flextime help employees avoid stressful commutes and manage work-life conflicts.

But remember this

Most importantly, stick to these practices to cultivate well-being over time. Rooting out toxic behaviors, promoting resilience in ways employees find beneficial (e.g. mindfulness training, gratitude practice, relaxation spaces), and acknowledging that not all burnout can be prevented is key.

LuAnn Heinen, Vice President, WellBeing & Workforce Strategy, National Business Group on Health, [email protected]

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