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6 employee burnout warning signs and the reasons behind them


A businesswoman is tired and stressed while working on her laptop.

Employee burnout doesn't just affect workers personally; it can be detrimental to an organization. Businesses with high rates of employee burnout can expect to see disengaged workers, increased turnover rates and lost productivity overall. A survey from Deloitte found 77% of professionals have experienced burnout at their current job and employers and managers have a much larger impact on this disengagement than they may realize.

The 5 most common reasons for employee burnout include:

1. Unclear job expectations
2. Lack of communication and support from managers
3. Unmanageable workloads
4. Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
5. Unreasonable time pressure

Knowing the warning signs of employee burnout can be extremely valuable for managers to detect these issues early and remedy them as soon as possible. The common symptoms of burnout to pay attention to include:

1. Exhaustion
Workers who are constantly complaining about exhaustion or fatigue could be experiencing burnout. An overload of stress at work can make it nearly impossible to relax or get a proper night's sleep. Extreme cases of fatigue will not only result in below-average work but workers can suffer long-term health risks as well.

2. Irritability
The inability to get along with any coworkers is a strong signal there's an underlying issue of too much stress or pressure. This is often a result of frustration from feeling ineffective, unimportant and useless. Because this also affects others in the organization, it's essential to address it quickly to avoid irrevocable damage to any workplace relationships.

3. Recurring sickness
With constant stress and fatigue weighing employees down, they are more susceptible to colds and other viruses. Paying attention to workers who are taking a high number of sick days is meaningful because burnout is a major reason for a depressed immune system. 

4. Feelings of alienation at work
Employees who feel alienated in the workplace are more likely to have negative feelings toward their job. This results in a lack of motivation and engagement, which can be costly for the organization. Fostering an environment of support and respect is vital to ensure workers feel like they are an important part of the team.

5. Inability to concentrate
Workers who have a hard time focusing are often disengaged and highly likely to make avoidable mistakes. According to GuideSpark, disengaged employees are less likely to work hard or meet expectations, and they cause 60% more errors in work performance.

6. Cynicism towards people and their job
A cynical attitude doesn't only indicate burnout in individual employees but also affects the perspective and feelings of their coworkers as well. As workers' passion for the job diminishes, it will likely negatively alter the overall company culture.

Before any of these warning signs are present, the most effective way for employers and managers to avoid employee burnout is to be proactive instead of reactive. Exhaustion and disengagement in employees are much more difficult to correct after the fact. Employers communicating properly and setting realistic expectations from the beginning is fundamental to avoid the damaging costs of burnout in the long run.