How burnout can negatively affect productivity

The physical and mental toll of burnout.

A guest blog by Molly Roberts. Molly is an experienced marketing manager and copywriter in the mental health and wellbeing sector. She has vast experience writing for various organisations, often focusing on workplace wellbeing.

Burnout, a state of chronic workplace stress, has profound implications not just for productivity but also for the physical and mental health of employees. It’s not just ‘feeling tired’ after a stormy night’s sleep; burnout is complete physical and mental exhaustion caused by various triggers.

At the physical level, burnout can trigger a host of health issues, such as weakened immunity, frequent headaches, and even an increased risk of heart disease. This physical decline is not only detrimental to an individual’s health but can also trigger a spiral of decreased productivity, absenteeism, and increased medical costs for organisations.

On the mental health front, burnout is associated with heightened feelings of cynicism, detachment from work and a sense of ineffectiveness. Prolonged exposure to high-stress environments can often leave individuals feeling emotionally exhausted. This can manifest as anxiety, depression, and a decrease in self-esteem – all of which can seriously affect a person’s quality of life.

Burnout’s mental stress can lead to cognitive challenges, such as difficulty in concentration, decision-making, and memory. These challenges can diminish work performance and impact individuals’ personal lives.

A business is only as good as its employees, and when your team runs empty, it can’t thrive. Implementing strategies to identify, prevent and manage burnout is crucial.

Businesses must prioritise the well-being of their workforce, creating an environment that promotes mental resilience.

How to promote resilience amongst your team

When we talk about resilience, we’re really talking about the ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenging situations and the coping skills to handle difficult emotions. Being resilient means having the capacity to resist and cope with stress, setbacks, and adversity while maintaining a positive outlook.

This is a tremendous skill to have, especially in the workplace. It helps us handle stress better, stay motivated, and focus on our goals.

But resilience isn’t innate. It must be strengthened, and managers can promote team resilience by embedding a few strategies into their workplaces.

  • Set realistic goals: Establish clear, achievable goals that align with your team’s capabilities and resources. Break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks, and celebrate milestones along the way to maintain motivation and momentum.
  • Encourage positive thinking: Encouraging a positive outlook on life can help build workplace resilience. Encourage employees to think positively about challenging situations, even when the odds seem stacked against them. Positive thinking can help to reduce stress and increase motivation.
  • Develop problem-solving skills: Developing problem-solving skills can help employees to manage difficult situations better. Teach employees how to identify the cause of a problem and brainstorm potential solutions. Encourage employees to take ownership of the problem and develop creative solutions.
  • Provide support and resources: Ensure your team members have access to the support, resources, and tools needed to succeed. Offer guidance, mentorship, and coaching to help them effectively develop their skills and overcome challenges.
  • Promote self-care: Self-care is essential for building resilience in the workplace. Encourage employees to take regular breaks, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy meals. Provide employees with the resources they need to take care of their mental health and well-being.
  • Build strong relationships: Nurturing solid relationships among team members by organising team-building activities, facilitating opportunities for social interaction, and encouraging mutual support and empathy. Strong interpersonal connections can provide valuable emotional support during difficult times.
  • Promote adaptability: Help your team adapt to change by promoting flexibility, agility, and resilience in the face of unexpected developments. Encourage experimentation, innovation, and a willingness to try new approaches to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities. Supporting employees with resilience training is one way to help them cultivate the tools and knowledge to deal with changes in the workplace.
  • Celebrate successes and learn from failures: Acknowledge and celebrate your team’s successes, no matter how small, to boost morale and reinforce positive behaviours. Similarly, encourage a culture of learning from failures by facilitating post-mortem discussions, identifying lessons learned, and applying them to future endeavours.

A resilient team is less likely to succumb to burnout as they have better skills and coping strategies to manage stress triggers before their battery is drained. These vital skills help them remain agile, open-minded and flexible in their approach to work, which reduces the feeling of overwhelm.

Disrupted work-life balance and burnout

Burnout doesn’t manifest overnight. One of the biggest causes of burnout is an unhealthy work-life balance.

It’s the result of prolonged exposure to excessive stress and an unhealthy imbalance between work and personal life. This misalignment can result from long work hours, high job demands, or lack of control over one’s work schedule—factors that leave little room for relaxation and personal time.

When work-life balance is disrupted, individuals often find switching off from their professional responsibilities challenging. This constant tension invades their personal time, affecting relationships, hobbies, and essential self-care practices. As this tension continues, it creates an environment for burnout to thrive.

Creating a sustainable work-life balance is crucial to avoiding burnout. So what can managers do to ensure their staff balance their work and personal lives healthily and productively?

  • Set boundaries: Clearly communicate expectations of work hours, availability, and response time. Encourage employees to establish boundaries between work and personal life by avoiding after-hours emails or calls unless absolutely necessary. Respect these boundaries to prevent burnout and support work-life balance.
  • Encourage time off and holidays: Emphasise the importance of taking breaks for rest and rejuvenation to encourage employees to use their allocated vacation and personal days. Avoid situations where employees feel guilty or pressured for taking time off and ensure adequate coverage to manage workload during absences.
  • Regularly assess workload and resources: Monitor workload distribution within the team and proactively address situations where employees are consistently overburdened. Consider redistributing tasks, adjusting deadlines, or providing additional resources or support to prevent burnout.
  • Offer employee assistance programs (EAPs): Provide access to EAPs or other resources that support employees’ mental health, stress management, and work-life balance. These programs can offer counselling, workshops, and other support services to help employees navigate personal and professional challenges.

Remember, as a manager, you lead by example and you are also susceptible to burnout, especially if you support team members struggling with their mental well-being. While helping others, take time to look after yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Resilience is an ongoing process; be patient. With the right strategies, you can make resilience one of your team’s greatest strengths. It’s easier and healthier to prevent burnout than to cure it once it sets in.

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