Recognising Warning Signs of Burnout in Employees

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet the demands being placed on you. It can affect your physical health, mood, concentration, motivation, and overall performance.

Burnout progresses gradually over time. This means that it can be difficult to recognise it emerging, until it is already having a significant impact.

Burnout in tech

If left unmanaged, burnout can begin to interfere with daily life. Decreased productivity at work and home can impact relationships with family members and colleagues. Individuals can develop depression and anxiety. A weakened immune system due to prolonged stress can lead to physical illness such as catching viruses.

Symptoms include:

  • feeling exhausted or depleted most days
  • increased irritability
  • increased feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feelings of detachment or isolation from“ colleagues and peers
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • changes to eating habits
  • difficulty focusing or completing tasks at work
  • feeling unmotivated or disinterested in work-related activities
  • reduced performance levels due to energy depletion or lack of motivation.


The best way to avoid burnout is by taking steps to prevent it. Making time for breaks in work, engaging in relaxation exercises such as yoga or meditation, improving work-life separation, getting enough sleep, regular exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet each day, can all prevent burnout. Taking regular holidays away from work is also important, to gain distance from your work. Finally, prioritising maintaining meaningful connections with people around you – friends, family members and colleagues – can also ensure you receive necessary support during times of high stress or pressure.

How does Burnout Develop?

The causes of burnout have their roots within the workplace. It can be caused by a demanding work environment, lack of support from colleagues or managers, or feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities as examples. 

Burnout typically develops over a long period of time as the result of cumulative stressors. The individual may feel overwhelmed by their own feelings of anxiety, helplessness and frustration, leading them to become increasingly isolated from their team and colleagues. Over time, this can lead to feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion – both mentally and physically – which can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension and digestive disorders.   

Other symptoms of burnout include: difficulty concentrating; feeling emotionally drained; having difficulty sleeping; increased negative thoughts; decreased motivation; irritability with colleagues; apathy towards work tasks; lower levels of productivity; being more prone to making mistakes; seeking frequent sick days or avoiding work altogether.   

These signs don’t necessarily indicate that your employee is suffering from burnout – they could be experiencing temporary stress. Regardless, if you recognise these signs in your employees, then it’s important that you speak with the individual about supporting them, such as by reducing their workload or providing additional support. Prevention is key, though if unavoidable, early intervention.

Understanding the Impact of Burnout

Understanding how burnout affects individuals and organisations is vital for employers who are looking to create better workplace mental health outcomes. By understanding the more subtle signs of burnout, as well as its potential consequences, businesses can take steps to prevent employee burnout before it becomes a major issue.   

The symptoms of burnout are wide-ranging and can vary from person to person. They may include physical fatigue, feelings of irritability or restlessness, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, changes in moods or emotions, sleep disturbances and increased anxiety levels. Often these symptoms are compounded by reduced productivity at work and lower job satisfaction as an individual’s focus shifts away from their tasks towards their own health concerns.  

In addition to the psychological effects of burnout mentioned above, there are also physical consequences which may manifest over time if left unaddressed. These physical symptoms may include headaches, muscle tension or weakness, digestive issues such as nausea and heartburn, chest pain or rapid heart rate. Feeling constantly tired or fatigued is another common symptom associated with burnout – this can lead to poor performance at work due to a lack of concentration or energy levels decreased significantly below what they were previously.   

It is important that employers understand the impact of burnout on employees and the organisation itself – not only in terms of its financial cost but also its effect on morale within the workplace. Unresolved burnout issues could lead to decreased loyalty among staff members and higher absenteeism rates due to ill health – both resulting in decreased productivity which directly affects profitability margins. In addition, if employees leave due to an unresolved issue with burnout this could result in recruitment costs being incurred to fill any vacancies left behind which would further add financial strain onto the business finances. 

Recognising Burnout Developing in Employees

It’s important for employers to be able to recognise the warning signs of burnout developing in employees so they you can offer support and prevent deterioration. Here are some key warning signs you should look out for:   

  1. Changes in behaviour – Burnout often presents as a change in behaviour. This could include anything from reduced motivation and energy levels to increased negativity and irritability.  


  1. Loss of interest and enthusiasm – Someone suffering from burnout will often lose interest in their work and may no longer find satisfaction or pleasure in activities which they once enjoyed. They may also appear disinterested in conversations regarding their work or display a lack of enthusiasm when they achieve. 


  1. Exhaustion and fatigue – Fatigue is another common symptom of burnout due to excessive stress levels; employees may experience constant exhaustion, even after adequate sleep or relaxation time.  


  1. Impaired job performance – Burnout affects an individual’s ability to perform at optimum levels, resulting in lower quality work than usual or missed deadlines on important projects.  


  1. Increased absenteeism – Employees who are struggling with burnout may begin to take more frequent days off or arrive late more regularly, suggesting that they are not able to cope with their workload anymore.  


  1. Physical symptoms – burnout can cause physical health ailments such as headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension or insomnia.

If you recognise any of these warning signs in an employee then it’s important that you provide support. This can be done by offering additional resources such as counselling services if necessary and reduce their day-to-day workload until they have recovered from the condition fully.   

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Recognising Burnout Developing in Yourself

It can be challenging to recognise that your own mental health is declining. Here are some warning signs that may indicate you may be developing burnout: 

You feel constantly exhausted: Feeling drained and lacking energy can be one of the earliest indicators that burnout is developing. This can be physical exhaustion or being unable to concentrate and complete tasks effectively due to lack of energy.  


You’re sleep has suffered: Irregular sleep patterns may include insomnia, waking frequently during the night, or sleeping significantly more than usual. All of these can impact your ability to concentrate during work hours. 


You’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed: If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with work tasks that you would typically manage without bother, or struggling to get started, then this could be an indicator that you are becoming overwhelmed. 


Your relationship with colleagues has become strained: A key indicator that burnout is progressing is irritability towards colleagues at work. You may find yourself becoming easily frustrated with others, blaming them for your overwhelm at work, and feeling disconnected from colleagues.


You’re becoming indifferent towards your job: If you’re starting to feel apathetic about your role, and not feeling connected to a sense of achievement when you have done well, then your mental health may be being impacted.  


You’re having difficulty making decisions: If decision-making is becoming increasingly difficult then this could signal that something isn’t quite right – maybe it’s time for a break? Also watch out for any feelings of guilt associated with taking breaks from work; some individuals struggle so much with their workloads that they deny themselves basic rights like lunch!  


Recognising these warning signs in yourself is essential to maintain your mental health and wellbeing! Taking regular breaks and time in nature, are simple ways which can help keep your stress levels under control throughout the working day. Remember, self-care is self-respect! 

Reaching Out for Support if you are Experiencing Burnout

It is important to reach out for professional support if you find yourself struggling with stress, overwhelm or recognise that you are experiencing burnout. 

It can feel daunting to reach out for support but there are many resources available that can provide emotional guidance when dealing with burnout. Counselling services offer a safe space to discuss your experiences openly and begin the process of healing from burnout in a supportive environment. Therapy can offer strategies and techniques to help you to improve your wellbeing. Additionally, there are many online communities that provide advice on how best to manage feelings of overwhelm during difficult times.  

For those who need more immediate assistance, there are helplines which provide free support for anyone experiencing mental health difficulties such as stress or anxiety caused by burnout. These services are staffed by qualified professionals who understand the struggles associated with burnout and can provide necessary emotional support until you’re able to secure further help from doctors or counsellors.   

Finally, connecting with family members and friends can also be beneficial in managing feelings associated with burnout. Having someone close by who understands your situation can reduce feelings of isolation and make it easier to address any underlying issues causing the burnout in the first place. It is important that those close to someone suffering from burnout actively listen without judgement so that their loved one feels safe discussing their experiences honestly and openly.   

Reaching out for professional or personal support when dealing with burnout is an essential step towards ensuring recovery; it is not only crucial for successfully managing the symptoms but also provides necessary emotional guidance during this difficult period in life. 

How to Support Colleagues who are Experiencing Burnout

The first step in supporting those dealing with burnout is to recognise the signs. Warning signs of burnout can include an increase in absenteeism or lateness; irritability or other changes in behaviour; a lack of energy or enthusiasm; difficulty concentrating; and physical complaints such as headaches or stomach aches. If you notice any changes in behaviour among your team, it is important to reach out and express concern about their mental wellbeing.  

When supporting colleagues who are struggling with burnout, it is essential to create a safe space where they feel comfortable talking about their situation, concerns and needs without fear of judgement. Listening actively, demonstrating empathy and showing patience is key. When in a state of overwhelm, it can be particularly challenging to problem solve or think critically, so patience and understanding is necessary. 

It can also help to provide resources that encourage healthy habits such as offering flexible working hours, providing time off for mental health days or holidays, promoting positive coping strategies such as exercise or meditation, connecting them with counselling services if necessary, reducing workloads by hiring additional employees if possible, creating achievable goals that are tailored to individual circumstances rather than having one-size-fits-all expectations from employees etc. Additionally, creating an environment that promotes professional growth amongst employees through workshops and open discussion forums can help reduce feelings of burnout while strengthening team dynamics simultaneously.   

It’s important to remember that everyone experiences different types of stressors differently. While one colleague may benefit from reduced workload, another may need more guidance on how to cope better at work, so it’s important for employers to remain flexible when responding to situations around employee burnout. Taking proactive steps towards preventing employee burnout through training sessions on managing stress can improve wellbeing and ultimately result in better business outcomes! 

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