Tips for Putting Out the Sparks of Employee Burnout

You may have noticed that there’s a little something called the “Great Resignation” going on. A record number of people quit their jobs this year, and about 40% of the people who haven’t quit say they’re thinking about it.

Let’s face it: the last couple of years have been unbelievably difficult, what with a global pandemic and everything that goes along with it, from fear of illness to the need to juggle home and work. So if you’re already committed to fostering a sane, supportive workplace, let’s start from the assumption that your employees are burned out because of endless months of COVID-related pressure – and that you really want to do something to help them recover from it.

There’s a difference between stress and burnout. Stress can actually make us more alert and motivated in small doses. It winds us up – we get cranky and anxious, we race around trying to deal with things, we struggle to sleep as our mind chatters away – but it won’t do any lasting damage if it doesn’t last too long. On the other hand, if someone constantly feels like they’re in fight-or-flight mode, that’s when it’s time to get some help breaking the cycle. Exercise, goal-setting, therapy, and, yes, meditation can all help.

When stress goes on for too long with no relief and no end in sight, that’s when it turns into burnout. If stress is like getting more and more wound up, burnout is like the spring getting wound to the breaking point and snapping.

Instead of being worried, someone who’s burned out becomes apathetic. Instead of trying to fix things, they lose motivation. Instead of being frantic, they’re exhausted and fuzzy-headed. And they sleep a lot, but never seem to be refreshed.

Burnout isn’t one-size-fits-all. Some people can take a lot of stress before they burst into flames, while others start getting crispy around the edges after just a little while.

There’s also no universal cure. Sometimes people just need time off or a shift in work responsibilities; but sometimes they have to walk away from their job, employer, or entire career path because of the stress inherent in it. And some people take years to recover, while others can bounce back fast by paying scrupulous attention to their mental health and applying tools like guided meditation to bolster it.

Obviously, burnout makes it hard to work. It’s also linked to physical illnesses ranging from depression and reduced immunity to atrial fibrillation, a leading cause of stroke. So it’s in your best interests to help your employees fend it off as much as possible and recover from it as needed. By offering tools to support them and making it clear that you won’t penalize them for speaking up when something at work is stressing them out, your organization will be a lot more likely to get through the “Great Resignation” without losing them.