Are you managing a team or working in Human Resources? If yes, there is (unfortunately) a big chance that you have already been confronted with burnout among your coworkers. With 52% declaring that they feel work depressed, this is a serious issue that every business needs to be aware of. What are the employee burnout signs to look at to avoid this negative condition? Focusing on your staff’s mental health is key to fostering workers’ well-being and happiness. To succeed, understanding what burnout is, the difference between the symptoms and signs of work depression, and how to prevent it to happen, or treat it when it’s too late, is crucial. Let’s dig into a topic affecting the business world globally and see how your role is essential, as an employer, a leader, or an HR manager.
What is employee burnout? A choice of words
Burnout vs. Depression
From a medical point of view, burnout is identified as a diagnosable mental health condition by the WHO, while depression is considered an officially classified mental health disorder everywhere in the world. Knowing this distinction is essential for managers, HR department teams, and employers to help their employees best in this difficult situation.
Burnout is characterized by chronic stress, physical and mental exhaustion, cynicism, depersonalization, and a decrease in efficiency. People who experience depression can have similar signs and symptoms. However, they often feel hopeless, show low self-esteem, and have suicidal thoughts.
Another difference between burnout and depression is that depression affects every aspect of your life. In contrast, burnout is usually linked to a specific one (work, parenting, marriage, etc.). Also, burnout is more accessible to treat than depression as it is a temporary state of mind that requires tackling “only” one aspect of life.
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The difference between a sign and a symptom of burnout
Signs and symptoms are often cited together when talking about burnout. Nevertheless, there is also a fundamental difference between these two terms. People perceive symptoms as physical, emotional, or psychological sensations. A sign can fall into one of these three categories. However, it can be observed by others. Simply put, if one of your employees is going through work depression, you will notice the signs while they will experience the symptoms.
Here are some examples of symptoms of burnout to be aware of:
- a feeling of exhaustion
- an absence of motivation
- a loss or gain of weight
- sleeping issues
- stomach aches
Building a strong relationship with your staff can help you notice these symptoms without them talking to you. By paying attention, exhaustion can be perceived by both sides, for instance. As a leader, it is important to recognize and address these negative feelings as some people keep them hidden until it’s too late.
What are the most common employee burnout signs?
Emotional signs of burnout
Team members’ self-perception may be an indicator of their mental health. Some emotional signs of burnout include:
- a sensation of being trapped and alienated
- feeling useless and worthless at work
- lack of patience
- inner emptiness
- excessive stress level
Mental signs of work depression
From a psychological perspective, our brain can also develop mental signs of work depression, such as:
- troubles staying focus
- tendency to isolate oneself
- difficulty in finding purpose and meaning
- cynicism toward job and colleagues
Physical employee burnout signs
Our bodies can also send your clear signs of burnout. It is important to know them to be able to identify them. Common physical employee burnout signs are:
- sleeping issues (insomnia, problems falling asleep, abnormal amount of sleeping time)
- gastrointestinal disorders
- high blood pressure
- frequent illness
- neglecting basic needs.
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How to prevent signs of work depression from appearing?
Put your workforce first
As you’ve identified the signs of work depression and learned how it affects your business, you might want to know how you can prevent it from occurring. The most important action is to adopt an employee-centric approach. Being available for your team, listening to them, and answering their expectations are essential to creating a healthy and trustworthy work environment.
Focus on work-life balance
One of the main reasons for burnout is a lack of work-life balance. People’s professional lives are taking over their personal lives. After work or on their days off, they don’t have enough time or energy for their family, friends, hobbies, and self-care. Supporting your workforce to find a healthy work-life balance is a core pillar of burnout prevention. Hybrid work and flexitime opportunities can highly improve this aspect.
Create workplace connection
Yes, flexible work is a great solution to provide a better work-life balance. However, working from home can also trigger signs and symptoms of burnout, such as a feeling of disconnection and loneliness. Learning about hybrid teams’ best practices and enhancing workplace connection is crucial to avoid hints of work depression from emerging. Employees who work for a company that meets their expectations, with people sharing the same values while doing a job with purpose, have more chances to be happy and satisfied.
Conduct employee satisfaction surveys
An easy way to keep an eye on your employees’ satisfaction and happiness is to conduct surveys. When you ask your workforce regularly how they feel about different topics related to their work environment, you can uncover any issues and areas that need improvement. Common questions are:
- Are you satisfied with the level of recognition you receive for the work you deliver?
- Are you happy with the employee benefits provided by the company?
- Are you feeling connected to your colleagues?
- Are you fulfilled about your career evolution?
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How to treat and help a person get out of burnout at work?
Give your workforce more time off to focus on personal activities
Despite applying all the best practices, is one of your team members still experiencing burnout? The first thing to do is to give them some time off to rest and refocus on themselves. As mentioned, work-life balance is fundamental for mental health. This period of rest will allow them more time for personal activities and hopefully, it will act as a reboot.
Time off alone doesn’t always suffice to recover from burnout, especially when the underlying cause is not clear. Assuming to know what your burnout employee needs would be a big mistake. Instead, ask kindly how you can best support them and what you can actually do at your level that would help them. The simple fact of attempting to understand and offer your assistance will already improve how your workers’ condition as they will feel less lonely. Then try to figure out solutions together and regularly check if they get better.
Offer employee wellness programs or suggest getting external help
Even with the best intentions, helping people who are experiencing burnout can be difficult. For this reason, you can also recommend that your coworker participates in an employee wellness program. Another solution to support someone enduring burnout is to advise them to see an expert. This person can be a mental health medical professional or a non-conventional specialist such as a life coach.
Show recognition and appreciation
The lack of recognition and appreciation is one of the primary sources of negativity in the workplace. Thanking your coworkers and showing them how grateful and aware of their values you are is fundamental. In case of burnout in your team, it is even more important to focus on this aspect. Make sure you include the rest of your team in the conversation, not just the person experiencing burnout. It should be a common practice you do as a manager or employer.
Burnout at work is a real issue that companies need to understand to first prevent from happening, second be able to recognize the employee burnout signs, and last, treat it if it couldn’t be avoided. Some signs of work depression are not as obvious as others. Having an employee-centric approach and paying attention to your workers’ behaviors is essential to spot any indication of exhaustion, anxiety, loss of purpose, and so on. As mentioned, improving your team members’ work-life balance is crucial, and flexibility is a key denominator.
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