How to avoid and recognise burnout

January has come and gone, and the festive dust has finally settled 

New Year’s Resolution lists are there and many have started ticking off the accomplishments already.

But for some its the opposite, working relentlessly pressure-packed environments, with an unreasonably heavy workload during the festive season has left them experiencing the beginning of the burnout.

Experts say, employees may be reluctant to admit feeling burned out, and therefore managers need to recognise the warning signs and take steps to facilitate resiliency. 

A 2018 study conducted by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) revealed that more than 40 % of all work-related illness is due to work-related stress, major depression, burnout and anxiety disorders.

According to the Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report 2015, job burnout affects professionals working across all occupations, but appears to be most prevalent among those in service jobs, particularly physicians, 46% of whom have reported experiencing it.

Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa says, “burnout will not only cause physical and mental health issues for employees but will also cause ineffectiveness in the workplace. Therefore, it is in employers best interest to ensure they take the correct steps to mitigate this.” 

In 2017 SADAG released stats following a survey to find out what the impact of mental illness has in the workplace. The results were shocking.

*61% of respondents had disclosed their mental illness to their manager, with 69% of them saying they had experienced a negative or no response when they discussed the issue with them. 

*44% of respondents felt uncomfortable disclosing their mental health issue to their manager.

ManpowerGroup and its partner Right Management suggest the following strategies for effectively combating workplace burnout. 

Recognise the warning signs 

Burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways, including decreased satisfaction and commitment, lower productivity, increased personal conflicts, and a desire to disengage and disconnect. Employees may feel like they can’t admit they are burned out because it feels like a personal shortcoming or shows a lack of commitment. To get around this issue, astute managers will pay attention to changes in employees’ attitudes, which may indicate a deeper issue of burnout. 


Offer flexibility 

Often, the treatment for burnout can be simple and puts control in the hands of employees.  Globally, 40% of people say schedule flexibility — especially flexible start and finish times and the ability to work from home — is one of the top three factors when making career decisions, according to ManpowerGroup research. The SABPP Work Practices report 2018 stated that flexible work practices are reportedly becoming more prevalent in organisations around the world due to technology enabling different ways of working. “This presents an opportunity for businesses in today’s industries to adopt more employee-centric work practices which align with the 21st century’s technological developments,” says van den Barselaar. Offering flexibility ensures that when stressful situations hit, employees can bend and not break.

Encourage regular vacation time on regular intervals 

The human body and mind need downtime and regular rest periods. Employees who push themselves for long periods of time and then cram all their time into one vacation – or worse, don’t take their full allotted time off – aren’t receiving an optimal recovery. Instead, encourage employees whenever possible to spread out their vacations throughout the year. The rhythms of hard work and rest need to balance over time.

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