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04 May 2023
by Kate Smith

Recognising employee burnout — and what to do to help

Why communication is key when it comes to reducing employee stress, especially if they are working from home

Recognising employee burnout — and what do do to help.jpg 1


Working from home has been a bit of a luxury for many – no commute, getting to spend more time with family and being more productive at work. 

The flip-side, however, is that some people have struggled to separate work and home life, which has also brought financial problems and the feeling of isolation. Subsequently, there is an increased likelihood of burnout.

There are various signs of employee burnout to look out for – some of which can be subtle: 

  • employees who always seem exhausted
  • employees making more mistakes than they normally would and just don’t seem themselves
  • or a noticeable loss of professional efficacy

If you’ve picked up that an employee is showing any of these signs, then you should consider what you can do to help them. 

Stop employees doing extra in a bid to impress 

We’ve all done it – working more than we should to show our boss that we deserve a pay rise or promotion. This can be driven by two things – we want a salary to reflect what we do in our role, or we have financial issues to deal with. 

It's good to make sure your employees know you value them, especially if you can’t give them a pay rise. Things like prioritising their work-life balance is particularly important if they work from home, as it’s all too easy to keep working after hours and never switch off.

Other ways you can let employees know they’re valued include offering a good pay package with additional perks, such as private medical insurance and a good workplace pension. It’s also important to celebrate any achievements, such as sharing good news across the company or recognising them for their work. 

Could financial issues be a factor?

The problem may not be work related at all. It could easily be a financial issue your employee is struggling with, such as a high level of debt, a partner losing their job or their working hours having been cut. This could lead to your employee feeling the need to work extra hours just to make ends meet. Working longer hours and struggling to switch off might then lead to them being more stressed and less productive. 

Our research found that four in 10 people have less than £100 left to spend at the of each month. Unsurprisingly, most of this group (75%) say they worry about money, especially general costs of living, lack of savings and rent. Aegon’s Financial Wellbeing Index has hints and tips that can help. Invite a workplace scheme adviser (or a financial adviser or debt charity) to hold regular workshops, webinars or meetings to help educate employees about money management.

The costs of working from home

If your employees are working from home or if you’ve adopted a hybrid model, paying for bills and the right equipment for a home office could be a worry for them.

Having a slow internet connection could lead to employees having to work extra hours to overcompensate for time lost when the internet is playing up.

As an employer, you could offer support to help employees upgrade their home office equipment and internet service.

Additionally, your employees might not be aware that they may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs if they work from home on a regular basis from the UK government.  

Don’t let it be all work and no play

One thing most of us miss when working from home is the conversations with colleagues in the office over tea or coffee. It’s those conversations that help break up our day. Even banter across the desk can help to create a better bond between your employees and relieve daily stresses about work and finances.

Encourage your employees to put time in their diary to catch up for 5-10 minutes with colleagues, set-up virtual fitness classes and encourage group coffee breaks. This can help reduce burnout as your employees find more balance in their daily workload, and are able to have some down time with colleagues. 

Check your own working habits

It’s all very well trying to be supportive of your employees, but sending them emails at all hours of the day and night doesn't set a good example. Keeping work conversations to work hours as much as possible will result in employees having lower stress levels. It also creates a better work-life balance for yourself. 

If you prefer to work flexibly, adding a note at the bottom of your email signature will let employees know that’s the case and that you don’t expect them to reply outside of their own working hours. 

Communication is key

The more support you can give employees, whether they’re in the office or working from home, the less likely they’re to suffer from burnout. Understanding their workload, working environment and any external factors that might affect their work, as well as when you expect them to take time for themselves, is vital. And that’s down to communication.  

Open communication is the ultimate way to avoid employees suffering from burnout. Even if some of these conversations are uncomfortable, they’re necessary to prove your support for your employees. 

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