What is Burnout?

You will have heard about this condition before, but what is ‘burnout’? The World Health Organisation recognised it as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ in 2019. It is described as a state of both mental and physical exhaustion. Long-term work stress and working in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long period of time is a key factor.

What are the common signs of burnout?

There are several signs relating to burnout, and these include:

  • Feeling tired or drained
  • A feeling of helplessness and defeat
  • Self-doubt
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Having a cynical or negative outlook

Unless the underlying issues causing burnout are addressed, it could progress and cause further harm to your physical and mental health in the future. As an employer, you have a duty of care to try and deal with employees heading for burnout before it becomes a real issue in the workplace.

Contributing factors associated with burnout

An employer should think about what effect their job role and working environment have on their employees’ physical and mental health.

Working from home

Although during the pandemic this was key to keeping businesses running smoothly, the lack of structure could be a contributor. It is all too easy for employees to log on early, not take regular breaks and not finish at the appropriate time. As many staff continue to work from home, either through personal choice or because the business requires it, this is still an issue.

Having a break from the screen

A small 5-minute break away from the screen can help to improve wellbeing and concentration.

Keeping in touch with colleagues

Are employees encouraged to keep in contact with their colleagues on a regular basis rather than working in solitary isolation?

Physical health

Keeping physically fit and active can help employees to reduce stress and anxiety.


Getting the right amount of sleep can affect how you feel. In a survey, 83% of people thought that poor sleep was a contributing factor to their burnout.

The above information has been sourced from https://mentalhealth-uk.org

For more in-depth information, please click on the above link.

What can you do as an employer to help avoid employees experiencing burnout?

Ideally, you want to ensure that your employees are not even close to experiencing burnout. Making sure that the working environment and employee workload are what they should be is key. Overloading your staff could have really negative end results for your business.

Mental health workplace champion

Do you have an employee who is a mental health workplace champion? This small change could make a big difference. Having a member of the team trained specifically in mental health issues could be key to spotting the early signs of burnout, along with many other mental health issues. There are a number of mental health training courses available in the UK for either online or face-to-face learning.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP)

If you don’t have the budget available for full private medical insurance, an EAP offers your employees a number of benefits that could help with burnout. These include 24/7 counselling, a legal and information line, critical incident advice and support, and face-to face counselling. An EAP is a low-cost policy with instantly available benefits.

Benenden Health for Business

Another low-cost option for private health treatment, your employees can access 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, Mental Health support, and Health and Wellbeing support through the Benenden Health app.

How can your employees help themselves?

There are several things that your staff can do to avoid heading for burnout. When warning signs appear, there are adjustments that can be made such as:

  • Making sure they take the annual leave available to them
  • Getting a good night’s sleep*
  • Finishing work on time**
  • Scheduling time for hobbies and relaxation
  • Asking for help from their supervisor or HR department

*Insomnia and mental health issues are often closely linked. You can find many tips online about improving sleep, or advice can be obtained from a sleep specialist.

**There are always times when finishing work on time is not possible, but this should not become the norm.

We spend so many of our waking hours working and it is essential to make these working hours tolerable. If employees are unhappy, dread going to work, have an unrealistic workload or no way to express concern, then burnout is likely to occur. The symptoms of burnout and depression are similar. Depression  however, carries negativity to all areas of life rather than being mainly work focused.