How to Address Employee Burnout in the HR Office

November 12, 2021
Author: ThinkWhy Staff

Talent acquisition professionals and recruiters bear a heavy burden trying to fill the millions of job openings and haven’t taken a real break in 18 months.¹ They’re also caught between the angst of hiring managers unable to meet productivity demands without workers, on one hand, and salary budget restrictions and the apparent indifference and scarcity of serious job seekers on the other. Meanwhile, talent managers have their hands full with retention efforts, dealing with counteroffers, and pursuing DEI and inclusion initiatives.

It’s enough to overwhelm a talent professional — and with HR burnout, comes an obvious ripple effect across the company.

Employee burnout in HR can have a ripple effect across the business.

Employee Burnout Insights

What’s the difference between being under a lot of stress and experiencing burnout?² Some stress can be helpful for meeting goals and staying focused and motivated. Think of mild-to-moderate stress as a force for forward momentum. You may not be comfortable or happy, but there’s a feeling that hard work and perseverance will help you accomplish your goal.

Burnout, on the other hand, is the outcome of unrelenting stress that can feel like a boulder pressing you down, utter exhaustion, with no hope of forward progress. The task ahead is just too much to conquer, and the body and mind retreat.

In a Gallup study³ released just before the pandemic hit, over 75% of full-time employees admit to experiencing burnout at least sometimes. The rest experience burnout more often. The top issues associated with burnout, which contributes to increased employee turnover, were:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Unclear communication from managers
  4. Lack of manager support
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

While a vacation may have temporarily relieved employees from the stress, the minute they walked back into the office (or virtual office), these same issues resurfaced.

Key indicators of employee burnout

1. Increased health problems & absence from work – Employees who often experience burnout are 63% more likely to take a day off and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.³
2. Missed deadlines – One of the classic signs of workplace burnout happens when a dedicated, hard-working employee misses established deadlines for an attainable level of output (up to 50% of employees are “overemployed” or over-tasked).
3. Lack of communication & employee isolation – Does your company openly discuss mental health — or is it closer to: “How are you?” and “I’m good.” Such communication can intensify existing feelings of workplace isolation.

How Management Can Better Respond to Burnout

Executives and managers control the work factors associated with employee burnout, holding the key to burnout prevention. Invest time and attention in fair and reasonable policies and workload expectations. Maintain healthy and positive communication with employees. Provide adequate tools and training to meet the assigned responsibilities.

It’s important for HR leaders to address these factors for their teams. HR teams must be at their best to effectively handle the load, especially with the high turnover rate in the labor market and associated pressure on talent acquisition and HR to hire, onboard and retain.

“Burnout will never go away on its own,” said burnout and mind-wellness expert Jessica Rector of jessICAREctor Enterprises.⁴ She offers the following advice.

  • Have leaders share their personal experiences with stress to help employees feel comfortable asking for help when needed.

  • Offer an ongoing, affordable and accessible support program through work. It can range from self-help training to professional treatment providers.

  • Provide communication and mental health training to company leaders and managers to help prevent poor interpersonal communication from contributing to burnout.

  • Include time for employees to take breaks and interact to build workplace connections.

  • Ask employees what they feel is working and what isn’t to lead to effective solutions.

  • Incorporate fun into the workday to counter burnout.

The Best Move to Counter Burnout: Get Ahead of the Curve

Proactively addressing burnout prevents health problems, missed deadlines, poor communication and prolonged absences — and it’ll benefit your business by equipping every individual to succeed. For HR departments, it also helps keep hiring, onboarding and talent management on track to meet company needs. With the added pressures of the post-pandemic hiring gap, this preemptive approach is more critical than ever.

Related Reads

Breaking Point: The Importance of Mental Health in the Workplace

Under Pressure: Mid-Level Managers Impact Culture and Turnover