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How To Reduce Stress and Prevent Employee Burnout

Team BuildingHow-to

What is Burnout?


There isn’t one precise cause of burnout. The Mayo Clinic suggests that depression might be behind the phenomenon, though research also indicates personal traits and circumstances as risk factors.


We all know that employee burnout is a miserable state of high stress and exhaustion that takes a physical and mental toll on anyone experiencing it. It’s not simply feeling tired after a long day at work; it’s feeling profoundly disengaged with your job as a whole. Read on to find out the most common signs and what can be done to prevent employee burnout.

Recognizing Signs to Prevent Employee Burnout

To deal with employee burnout, you must be able to recognize the signs in both yourself and others. No matter the exact cause, we know that being in such a state has almost endless negative consequences for the individual and their workplace. 


By taking active steps to be familiar with telltale signs, one can be better placed to deal with the question, “how to avoid burnout at work?” 

Uncharacteristic Decrease in Productivity

Someone suffering from burnout will find themselves unable to perform to their best. One of the key signs of this is an employee seeing an unusual decline in performance when they typically produce work of excellent quality. 


Burnout can also sometimes manifest as a slower pace of productivity rather than a lack of quality. Either presentation can be equally indicative that something is wrong.

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A lack of emotional energy might show up as reluctance to participate in work culture, lack of enthusiasm for the job, or “going through the motions” and just meeting minimum requirements for assignments.

A Pervasive Negative Attitude

One could argue that we could all benefit from a more positive attitude. After all, our brains are hardwired to better remember the negative even though it makes us feel worse so it takes effort to see the good around us.


However, someone struggling to manage burnout in the workplace will not be merely cynical. They will likely also have trouble seeing the positives in any situation because they can’t see beyond the cons.

Lack of Energy

Lack of energy is another indicator that an employee is not feeling rested enough to perform as usual. That might be obvious in a physical sense, evidenced by frequent yawning or a sluggish walk, but it can manifest emotionally too.


A lack of emotional energy might show up as reluctance to participate in work culture, lack of enthusiasm for the job, or “going through the motions” and just meeting minimum requirements for assignments.

woman lying on a bed with her face covered by hair

Unexplained Physical Complaints

It’s not uncommon for burnout to manifest as physical aches and pains or even a greater frequency of common illnesses. We know that stress weakens the immune system’s ability to fight off infection, and high levels of stress lead to burnout.

Missing Work More Often

Increased absenteeism is one of the most noticeable signs because it’s an objective and easily observed statistic.


An employee feeling burnt out will probably call in sick to work more often, both because of the physical impact of stress and the overall lack of energy characteristic of burnout.

How To Prevent Burnout in the Workplace

While it’s helpful to recognize when someone is burnt out, the best way to treat any problem is to prevent it in the first place. So, how to prevent burnout? These suggestions may not eliminate all cases, but they can help us learn how to avoid it.

Approach Performance Issues With Curiosity

Unseen barriers are the likely culprit when someone is underperforming, at work or otherwise. Managers who want to reduce stress in the workplace and avoid burnout on their teams should try to discover these unseen barriers by adopting a curious rather than judgmental mindset.


A curious mindset promotes genuine problem-solving to address any existing issues so that an employee can return to their usual behavior. Judgment, on the other hand, brings only defensiveness and further stress.


Considering that unchecked stress and overwhelm are core components of burnout, avoiding burnout at work requires managers to check in with employees to figure out performance issues. Doing so can identify whether the root of the issue is burnout itself or something else entirely. 

Prioritize Mental Health

No one is immune to mental health concerns. The more an employee “stuffs” down their own needs, especially as stress increases, the more likely they will develop signs of burnout. 


On the other hand, when mental health is a priority, we take the time to acknowledge stress alongside other emotions. We seek support as needed and make time for personal hobbies and interests. 


In the workplace, it can be harder to directly promote mental health because only a certain degree of sharing thoughts and feelings is appropriate.


However, employees should feel comfortable addressing any issues with their supervisor should the need arise. Open communication actively eats away at the shame and stigma associated with mental health issues.


As an individual, you can also work to fight mental habits holding you (and others) back professionally. For example, you can combat perfectionism by setting small goals and taking a positive tone with yourself, even when you make mistakes.

Recognize Rest as Part of Productivity

Managing burnout in the workplace is impossible without recognition that rest is essential to productivity. It’s no coincidence that the recommendation to rest nearly always appears in productivity tips. The amount of rest an employee gets at home may not be enough if, for instance, they do not take regular breaks throughout the day or are expected to respond to emails from home.


The fact is that our capacity for stress and additional workload is finite. An expectation of infinite energy will only lead to disappointment and burnout somewhere down the line.

Encourage Fun Activities

Along those lines, consider introducing several activities to promote good mental health and lessen the strain on employees. After all, even if you recognize rest is part of productivity, that doesn’t mean an employee will feel able to step back from a project.


Some examples of fun activities include organizing lunches away from the workplace, setting up game rooms with consoles or board games, and organizing “happy hours” to unwind how one sees fit. Whatever your approach, fun activities can be an invaluable outlet for stressed employees looking to blow off steam.

A Final Word

Workplace burnout drags people down not only professionally, but personally as well. So, how to prevent workplace burnout? First and foremost, we need to actively learn to recognize its signs. Only then can we begin the process to address its impact and move toward a healthier work culture that values the well-being of its workers.

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