Avoid the high cost of worker burnout with this checklist

Burnout is costly and managers are critical in preventing it.

Burnout does not come from sleeping little or working long hours. Burnout, complete with depression, lethargy, exhaustion and disillusionment, hits when internal and environmental factors at work affect an employee's well-being – mentally and physically. In many cases, it occurs when employees feel they have no control in their current position and are no longer able to cope.

However, in order to take action against burnout, you first need to spot it. In a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review, professor Thomas Hellwig recommended using his stress guidelines (adapted from the 1952 APGAR newborn well-being test) to assess whether individuals are at risk of a burnout.

Use this checklist to recognize the main factors that lead to exhaustion. And ultimately, loss of money.

Burnout warning signs

Appearance: Look at the individual in question. Does he or she look exhausted? Has their weight fluctuated? Are they abusing drugs or alcohol?

Performance: Is the individual performing well, or is their performance level decreasing? Are they becoming a workaholic, feeling stressed to over-perform?

Growth tension: Is this individual bored or overwhelmed? Are they growing professionally and taking on new challenges?

Affect control: Is this person managing their emotions in a way that does not negatively impact the workplace? Do they constantly fluctuate emotional states? Watch for outbursts or mood swings, which can be indicative of "an overload of physical and psychological pressure," Hellwig writes.

Relationships: Personal relationships are an essential part of mental health. In situations of increased stress, it is possible to observe deterioration in the quality of relationships at work, including social isolation.

The cost of burnout

The cost of worker burnout is high.

The cost of worker burnout is high.

According to a Gallup poll from 2016, "burnout costs German workplaces 9 billion euros (10.1 billion USD) annually in lost productivity."

They asked employees to rate their level of agreement with several statements such as, "My company cares about my overall well-being" or "During the last 30 days, did you feel mentally burnout because of work stress?"

Thirty-one per cent of the respondents were stressed and 24 per cent were tired or burned out, according to the poll. This translates to 4.1 million German workers experiencing some form of mental or emotional distress.

This is a serious issue for employees, but also important from a business perspective. Employees with a higher well-being are 81 per cent less likely to seek out a new employer in the next year and miss 41 per cent less work as a result of poor health. Plus, money is lost due to "bungled deals, misguided decisions, or cover-up of mistakes that can be linked to work-related stress," Hellwig says.

Dealing with work-related stress

Strong leaders and managers need to create work environments that prevent burnouts from happening in the first place, Gallup's Marco Nink writes. Implementing a wellness program is one way to help employees see their job as a benefit to their well-being.

But ultimately, leaders need to respect, support and motivate their employees. Here are five easy ways to ensure employees feel engaged and motivated,  which will help prevent burnout.

  1. Help employees feel that they are contributing to the company and that their contributions are valued.
  2. Provide frequent and immediate recognition for good work.
  3. Give employees what they need to do their work right.
  4. Listen to employees and include them in problem-solving.
  5. Create a trusting environment that encourages open discussion.

Nink elaborates in detail on these five points here.

Photo credit: Skley via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND

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