How Can You Support an Employee with Burnout?

Posted April 17 2024 By Jackie MacGregor

The Accountancy firm KPMG has announced that it will be performing “data driven” check-ins across all 36,000 of its staff to ensure that any individual at risk of burnout is supported appropriately. This feels like a fabulous idea in terms of taking action before someone’s mental health truly plummets. It is sure to keep employees feeling engaged and supported, too, which could help with staff retention rates.

Burnout is a word that has been thrown about – with increasing pace – since the pandemic. When our worlds were a lot smaller, many realised that they had been perhaps doing too much. For many people, now, even being in the office five days a week would feel like a slog that would eventually take its toll.

As it stands, it is quite possible that up to 7 million working people in the UK have experienced burnout. But what does burnout really mean? And how can you spot the signs amongst your own team and colleagues? And, most importantly, what can you do to support them?

Here are some ideas and observations that I have from my years in management.

Spot the signs

Whilst no list of “symptoms” is definitive, there are common traits of burnout that you should look out for. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Frequently making mistakes
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Difficulty concentrating / following instructions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Negative attitude / seeming “checked out”
  • Lack of participation
  • Increased physical illness e.g. headaches or colds or generally run down

If you spot any of this in usually productive and positive colleagues, it might be time to start a conversation.

Start a conversation

It can be awkward to try and get an individual on their own and to encourage them to open up. For all the awareness weeks and social media posts, many people still feel vulnerable about having these discussions for fear it will be used against them at a later date. The most important thing you can do is reassure your colleague or employee that you are here to listen and to support them. It might be an idea to take them out for a coffee – removing them from the environment that is potentially causing their issues in the first place. If they don’t want to open up, initially, don’t give up. It’s important not to let things spiral further.

Offer short- and long-term support

Obviously, it would be better to catch burnout before it has a detrimental impact on your colleague or employee. But if you have noticed someone struggling, co-ordinate with HR and offer to put into place short- and long-term solutions such as:

  • Signposts for support – Does your workplace offer access to an EAP or can they even put posters up recommending free services?
  • Balance – Can you give the person more flexibility in terms of working hours or location if that helps?
  • Workload – This isn’t about taking someone’s entire to-do list off them, but it is about making sure that work is allocated fairly across a team so that no one person is carrying the burden. How can everyone pitch in?
  • Keep talking – Get to the root cause of their burnout by keeping conversations going. This isn’t a “one and done” situation.
  • Set the example – As a manager, are you in the office before everyone else and last to leave? Are you setting the right example of balance within your team?

We all have our part to play in ensuring that work does not have a negative impact on the mental health of those we employ and work alongside.

If you would like to speak to me about hiring great HR people to put burnout and wellbeing policies in place in your business, drop me an email.

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