How to Prevent Employee Burnout and Create a More Productive Workplace

Burnout is a real issue in the workplace, with many workers being continuously stressed with work demands. Employers play a crucial role in curbing the systemic factors responsible for workplace stress.

Many managers may be underestimating the burden and risks of burnout in their organizations.

A recent study found that 77% of workers reported experiencing burnout at their current workplaces, even among employers who truly loved what they do.


Burnout is a spectrum of physical and emotional signs of exhaustion and stress, which occurs when the demands of work are greater than the capabilities of and resources available to workers. A number of workplace risk factors set the stage for this: excess work demands, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, poor employee support, poor work-life balance, and lack of control at work. These factors create an atmosphere that breeds employee burnout.

Employee burnout is a serious topic today because of its impact on the mental and physical health of employees, which in turn, stifles workers’ performance and leads to an overall decline in productivity. This is the vicious cycle it creates for any organization.
‍What’s more? Job burnout costs organizations high employee turnover, making them lose their most competent hands to competitors, further crippling the business.


The majority of employees experiencing burnout will remain at work. Being aware of changes in attitudes and energy can help with early identification. Employees may not realize that they are dealing with burnout and may instead believe that they are just struggling to keep up during stressful times. Stress, however, is usually experienced as feeling anxious and having a sense of urgency while burnout is more commonly experienced as helplessness, hopelessness, or apathy.

Employees may not be aware of the negative impacts on their performance that this can have, such as increased errors or lower productivity. Employers and co-workers may attribute the changes to a poor attitude or loss of motivation. The negative effects of burnout can increase significantly before anyone recognizes or addresses the problem and unaddressed burnout can increase the chance of developing clinical depression or other serious conditions.

Some of the signs and symptoms that an employee experiencing burnout may exhibit include:

  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm
  • Moving slower than normal
  • Disinterest in conversation
  • Disengagement
  • Exhibiting a negative attitude
  • Frequent tardiness or absences
  • Decline in productivity
  • Producing lower quality work

Noticing and taking steps to mitigate employee burnout is an important practice for businesses. Burnout can happen to anyone, including supervisors and those in upper management. Employers who ignore burnout often encounter unusually high job dissatisfaction and employee turnover rates.

You may also find that employee burnout can cause long-term losses. Burned-out employees are more likely to take PTO and call in sick during busy workweeks. They’re also often looking for other jobs and may resign with little to no notice. That means learning to handle employee burnout effectively can save you time, money and mental strain.


What steps, then, can employers take to reverse this trend and keep their employees engaged and working at peak performance? Here are a few ideas.


Taking vacation time is an important tool in preventing burnout. Managers should gently remind employees that they are free to take time off and that the company encourages it, to unplug and recharge. Make sure your teams are aware and able to shift workloads and responsibilities efficiently when colleagues take time off.


Providing tools that promote wellness and self-care is one step in mitigating factors of burnout. Offering resources, such as free subscriptions to health and wellness apps, Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), and conversational AI like chatbots and digital assistants, can be combined and offer 24/7 support to the workforce.


Finding ways to give employees the flexibility needed to complete their work without the traditional parameters helps employees. This includes offering extra paid time off, flexible work hours, and supporting employees that are caretakers and guardians with daycare arrangements.


Making sure your workforce knows there are wellness programs available to support – such as fitness classes, ergonomics, diet advice, and general counseling is an important step. Hosting workshops and offering training addressing the new ways people work can help employees process change and avoid factors that lead to burnout.


Encouraging employees to stay connected and providing creative ways via various learning and communication channels helps the workforce feel engaged. Offering virtual happy hours and coffee breaks to remind the workforce they are part of a community can be a tremendous tool for preventing burnout and increasing connection.


Recommending senior leadership share messages emphasizing the importance of mental health and wellbeing and asking managers to be flexible regarding work schedules is key. Removing the stigma around burnout and advocating for EAP can offer the workforce support they didn’t know existed or that they needed.


Recognizing those who are contributing to the success of the organization, providing motivational videos, sharing messages of support, and offering praise are all collaborative ways to keep the workforce engaged. Encouraging expressions of gratitude and appreciation both internally and externally counteracts the risk factors for burnout


Creating and respecting boundaries for a work and life balance must be considered when reviewing the risk factors for burnout. Prioritizing and encouraging a focus on health, safety, and family across the organization and providing updates on all circumstances impacting the workforce will help build trust and remove risks of burnout.


Offering flexibility around when work is completed, reprioritizing the work that is ‘must-do’ versus ‘nice to do’ and scheduling career growth conversations around goals and learning paths, some that may have drastically changed, will help employees feel supported – critical to reducing fear factors leading to burnout.


Checking-in with remote workers, and employees who have returned to an in-person role, is the simplest way to let the workforce know they are supported and prevent symptoms of burnout. Asking questions and offering tools to support – whether it is through an internal survey, a wellness chatbot, or a therapist offered in an EAP – share that the environment at work is safe, and that employees are heard. Then listen and respond.


Remaining open to new ways of work and providing options for flexible working structures helps employees feel supported. Creating a schedule and inviting employees to build one that best fits their current work structure and time constraints provides employees with a sense of empowerment and support that reduces burnout risk factors and promotes wellness.

Using these tips for addressing burnout and taking actions to mitigate the risks will help keep your workforce engaged even in tough and unpredictable times. In addition, creating a supportive community based on communication and connection will position your organization to thrive now and in the future. Burnout awareness and prevention is vital to keeping employees healthy and productive, and for continued business success.


How to Boost Your Mood and Combat Seasonal Depression

Feeling especially down this time of year? You’re not alone. Millions of Americans experience SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder—a form of depression that usually starts in the fall when the days begin to get shorter and there is less sunlight, and lasts until the spring. In fact, the third Monday in January has earned the title of Blue Monday as the most depressing day of the year!

Although the science behind Blue Monday is a bit questionable, this time of year is notoriously bleak, particularly for those living farther north of the equator where there are less daylight hours in the winter. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help manage and alleviate the symptoms that this seasonal depression brings. But first, let’s learn a little more about Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes referred to as ‘winter blues’, is not a separate disorder but, rather, a type of depression characterized by its recurrent seasonal pattern, with symptoms lasting about 4 to 5 months per year. The most difficult months for people feeling depressed with SAD in the United States tend to be January and February.

The causes of SAD are not fully understood, but has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain exacerbated by shorter daylight hours and less sunlight in winter. During this time, people experience a shift in their biological internal clock or circadian rhythm that can cause them to be out of sync with their usual schedule.

Research suggests that the lack of sunlight reduces our serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) levels while increasing our melatonin (the “sleep” hormone) levels. In people with SAD, the changes in serotonin and melatonin levels disrupt the normal daily rhythms. As a result, some people can no longer adjust to the seasonal changes in day length, leading to sleep, mood, and behavior changes.

What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?

People with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression such as sadness, loss of interest, low energy, hopelessness, agitation, and difficulty concentrating. In addition, common symptoms of seasonal depression, which may range from mild to severe, may also include:

  • Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
  • Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)

Who is at risk?

SAD can affect anyone, but is more common in people with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. People with other mental disorders—or who have relatives diagnosed with them—such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or an eating, anxiety, or panic disorder are at higher risk than those who do not have them.

As mentioned, people who live in areas of the world that have reduced daylight hours in winter are at increased risk as compared to those living in areas with more sunlight.

Can seasonal depression be treated with medication?

Seasonal depression is typically treated with a combination of medication and other non-pharmacological therapies. Treatment for seasonal depression may include: Psychotherapy

Cognitive and behavioral therapy may help a person understand what they are feeling. A therapist can work with a person to identify any stressors or triggers that may be worsening depressive symptoms.

What you can do: Everyday tips for managing SAD

While therapy and medication may be essential for some people with SAD, anyone can employ simple strategies to help self-manage symptoms throughout the season. Try some of these tips to help lessen the effects of seasonal depression:

Let There Be Light

Let as much natural light into your space as possible, preferably as soon as you get up. Open those curtains and blinds.

Another simple way to get light during the winter month is by using light therapy with a SAD lamp—a box that emits a very bright light (and filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays)—which is very effective if you use it consistently. Typically, it requires 20 minutes or more per day, preferably first thing in the morning during the winter months. Most people see improvement within one or two weeks of beginning treatment.

Buy Some Plants

Plants have been shown to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety, especially during a long winter. They give people something to nurture and help make us more aware of how natural light enters our homes. No green thumb? No problem! Simply search, “easy care plants,” and lots of options will pop up!

Get Moving

Get some form of daily physical activity, preferably outdoors. Don’t overthink this one! A 20-minute walk counts. Set a reasonable bar and then you can build up later if you’d like. Simply establishing this habit is the most important part.

Do some stretching or strength training indoors—near a window, if possible—if the weather is too severe for outdoor activities.

Maintain a Routine

As you begin to become tired, often it is really easy to slip out of your daily routines. You could find yourself sleeping more and being restless at night. Seasonal depression can also cause you to feel down in general and very overwhelmed. This can be tough to deal with as it is hard to stay productive and get the things done you need to. That is why it is helpful to recognize this and try your best to maintain a consistent schedule, including meals, physical activity, and sleep. (Seems pretty basic, but it’s worth emphasizing.)

Vitamin D

In addition to many cancers, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, a vitamin D deficiency is also linked to depression. So if you’re feeling SAD, now is a good time to get your D levels tested.

You can consume Vitamin D through your diet, but you may not receive a high enough dose to be effective. Instead, consider purchasing a vitamin D supplement, or have your doctor prescribe a higher-concentrated version of vitamin D, such as 10,000 IU or 50,000 IU.

Healthy Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet is critical for both physical and mental health. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in comfort foods during the colder winter months, but those items don’t have to be packed with sugar or unhealthy fats. Be sure to include good fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil. These fats can help you feel fuller longer and may discourage overeating or carbohydrate cravings.

Smile & Laugh

As simple as that may sound, try to intentionally make space for joy! Laughter is a well-documented stress reliever. Turn on your favorite comedy film, stream a stand-up special, watch a compilation of funny YouTube videos, or call someone who always makes you laugh. Prioritizing joy and connection can have a powerful impact on mood.

Talk About It

Normalizing mental health issues is important. Millions of people are dealing with this, so you may be surprised by how helpful opening up the conversation with friends and family may be. If you feel like you need the extra support from a professional therapist, meeting with one throughout the winter could be extra helpful.