How to Address Company-Wide Burnout as a Business Leader

company-wide burnout

Burnout is a widespread issue across all workplaces. In the past, it was not at the forefront of any employer’s mind, and they continued to push their employees to the brink. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and their 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), burnout is a diagnosable disease. It is important to keep in mind that burnout is currency only directed to your employment and although you may feel tired or stressed due to other life circumstances, those cannot be quantified as burnout currently. 

Business leaders play a critical role in employee burnout and should know when to identify and prevent it in the workplace. Burnout is not a new concept and has been around since 1974 when Herbert Freudenberger coined the phrase. It has psychological and physical symptoms that are often a response to the stress placed on an individual with high demands. The good news is that burnout can be prevented and treated by changing the workplace and at home. Prevention can start with business leaders. 

What Is Burnout?

According to WHO, burnout is “a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” There are three critical components to diagnosing burnout in individuals:

  1. Increased mental distance from one’s job
  2. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  3. Reduced professional effectiveness

You may also have negative feelings related to your job. It is essential to remember that although it is now a diagnosable disease, it is not considered a medical condition. The unfortunate reality is that you cannot necessarily control burnout since it is due to your job. Yes, you can find a new job, but you may face burnout once again if you are still in a high-stakes position. Instead, it has been found that burnout can only be treated in the workplace by reforming the workplace. That is where business leaders must take their roles in employee burnout more seriously. You can contribute to your employees avoiding burnout. 

How to Identify Burnout

It can be challenging to identify burnout as opposed to stress since they do carry similar symptoms. Burnout can have many symptoms that can also overlap with other physical and mental illnesses. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach issues
  • Weight fluctuations

Burnout is tied to high-risk workers like those with low levels of education and minority workers. Unfortunately, more studies and research need to be conducted as there is not enough evidence to separate burnout from other diseases. The symptoms are far too similar, and in the current state, many of those who suffer burnout do not have many options for prevention or treatment. It is currently seen as a luxury and the result of overall workplace culture. 

Studies have found that one of the biggest causes of burnout is poor leadership. Other contributing factors include:

  • Toxic workplace
  • Work overload
  • No control of your career 

These can also be linked to poor leadership. Leaders will need to take a hard look in the mirror and see how they can prevent and treat burnout in the workplace.

Preventing Burnout

Preventing burnout lies heavily on leadership teams. It is easy to push employees to the brink, and a minor stressor can be too much when they have endured so much. This final stressor can genuinely push them over the edge. You should pay attention and ensure that you do not push an employee over the edge. Have some wiggle room and empathy when delegating tasks and help out as much as you can. 

Empathy is one of the keys to preventing burnout. You will need to step away from your role as a leader to analyze what is taking place. Doing so requires throwing bias out the window. Each employee may have different needs and be able to handle different amounts of stress. Take this into account when showing empathy leadership. You may also have to adjust the workload and ensure that people take time off that they so desperately need without worrying about a looming deadline.

You will also need to adapt to your workforce and implement strategies that help them. There is no one fix solution for these problems as each industry may have different demographics and workforces. It is essential to provide resources for your employees and give space for them to form friendships. It has been found that workplace friendships play a critical role in dealing with stressful events, especially in the workplace. 

As a leader, you can openly implement an open-door policy to communicate about woes at work and home. They can often feel better by simply letting you know there is an issue. You should ensure that they feel comfortable doing so and that confidentiality is of the utmost importance. You never want an employee to think their manager is going to spread gossip about them. 

Workloads play a critical role in burnout, and you will need to set some boundaries when it comes to heavy workloads. Setting boundaries can change the company culture, and employees will not fear constantly trying to stay productive simply to impress upper management or meet a tight deadline. You can set a boundary to prevent employees from checking emails outside of business hours. 

You should also have a clear direction for any projects. Employees should not be left in the dark about their role and assignment related to a particular project. Enact a system that allows all members to check-in and be able to access resources easily. Enacting these changes can go a long way in changing the company culture and preventing burnout. 

Treating Burnout

Although burnout is rampant and there is not much that can be done from an employee standpoint, there are some methods those suffering from burnout can use. Coping skills like gratitude and self-compassion can go a long way in treating burnout in yourself if you cannot make any workplace changes. An employee can also place boundaries at work, like working a certain number of hours and learning to say no to ask, and setting realistic deadlines. 

Business leaders must also do their part by enacting operational and structural change in the company. The demands of a job may not change, but delegating and setting a deadline may help ease some of the stress that your employees have. Also, reducing overtime and managing your team can go a long way in preventing burnout. You will also need to implement new strategies into the workplace to promote a healthy work environment and avoid an overabundance of stress. 

Ask your employees for input when creating these policies. Doing so can make it easier for everyone in the organization struggling with stress, anxiety, and other problems while on the job. When you involve your employees in the process of developing burnout policies, it shows them you are dedicated to their mental health and wellbeing. It can also improve the turnover rate at your company since employees know how they will be treated.

Put Mental Health First

As a manager or leader in your workplace, you will also need to consider your mental health. You will need to find ways to decompress and combat burnout inside and outside of the workplace. One of those is often binge-watching your favorite television show, especially since you can be enthralled in the front and completely lose all sense of your surroundings and stress. However, this may not be the healthiest way to prevent burnout. it is essential to find balance.

There are various effects you should look out for when it comes to binge-watching your favorite shows. You can become addicted to binge-watching the same way you would if you used alcohol or drugs as an escape. You can also use music streaming to relax; you can do this at home and work. Sometimes just having music playing in the background can change your mood and help with your mental health. The one caveat is to find the right playlist. Your attitude might influence the kind of music you wish to hear.

Another way to unwind is through video games. You can also get a sense of reward when you beat a level and progress through the game. The downside is that you can also become stressed and frustrated when you do not pass a level.  One of the main ways to decompress is by getting ample exercise. You do not have to become an avid gym-goer, but a simple 20-minute walk can drastically improve your mental and physical health. 

Preventing Burnout in the Workplace

When you take care of yourself, you will be better equipped to take care of your employees. You should promote mental health among everyone in the workplace. If possible, allow employees to listen to soft music while working so long as it does not affect their safety or current environment. Encourage employees to get out and get some fresh air during breaks and rest periods. Preventing burnout lies heavily on business leaders and the discernment of their workplace and employees. The change starts with you.


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