Spring has sprung and hopefully with it, a new sense of vitality. That said, with hectic schedules, tight timelines and competing priorities at meetings we may not take the time to chit chat about what’s new with each other, as a result, employees who may be struggling with feeling burnt out might not be easy to spot. In a virtual world, where we don’t have the luxury of body language, this can be even more of a challenge.
Burnout is more than just being tired after a long or challenging week. For those who are truly burnt out, it is a considerable problem that interferes with one’s productivity, job satisfaction, wellbeing and overall quality of life. Those who are able to identify burn out early on can reverse the down ward spiral. So, how can you determine if you, or an employee, have been suffering from a long couple of weeks, or if it’s a true case of burn out?
The definition of burn out is a state of chronic stress and frustration. This can lead to:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Cynicism and detachment
- Feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment.
The end result is one where the person experiencing burn out is not able to function personally or professionally.
Signs to look for:
Physical and emotional exhaustion symptoms can range from chronic fatigue, insomnia, impaired concentration and attention, increased episodes of illness, anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, anger and/or serious physical symptoms such as chest pain, etc…
Cynicism and detachment symptoms can look like an inability to enjoy day to day life, pessimism, isolation and detaching from people and the environment. Feelings of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment symptoms can cause one to have a general sense of apathy, helplessness and hopelessness, increased irritability, lack of productivity and poor performance.
Some organizations may take the view that burn out is an individual’s concern and issue to deal with. Here are some compelling reasons for organizations to take note and do what they can to help employees avoid becoming burnt out.
When employees are burnt out their productivity levels fluctuate, they are more likely to call in sick, they aren’t fully present, and their creativity and innovation reduces if not stops altogether.
Has an employee who is typically upbeat and optimistic started shutting down, or making negative comments? Perhaps an employee who has previously never really used sick days suddenly starts taking personal or sick days. These could be signs that burn out is setting in. In the virtual environment, these signs can be difficult to detect, however by using careful listening skills, paying attention to changes in your team’s dynamic and/or their productivity you may be able to identify burn out before it’s too late.
As an employer, if you’re trying to determine the difference between a burnt out employee and one who is just having a stressful week, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are your employees frequently putting in long hours? This can be hard to determine in a virtual environment where you may not see when employees start and end their days. However, if you’re receiving emails from employees at all hours of the night and day, chances are they are putting in more than 40 hour weeks, and likely aren’t taking time to relax because they’re taking their jobs home with them.
- Feeling isolated from the rest of the team can contribute to burnout. Do you have employees who work independently more frequently than others? That independence could be inadvertently creating a negative consequence.
Are your team members achieving less than they have in the past. Is there a valid reason for this, such as the economy isn’t doing as well? If not, it could be that they are experiencing burnout. If you are able to answer yes or maybe to more than one of these questions, it is a good idea to have an honest conversation with your employee.
Join us in coming weeks when we’ll look at how to deal with this type of conversation, additional reasons why it’s important to recognize and understand burn out, as well as what you can do to counter it.