2021 is over, so why are so many of us still feeling burnout?

27 January 2022 Sharyn Waterworth

Employee burnout

While the doors may have closed on the sh*tshow that was 2021, burnout is still a real problem for business’ and their employees going into 2022. 

77% of employees reported feeling burnt out last year and, unfortunately, most feel like their companies aren’t doing enough to address it. 

And — contrary to what your social media feed might look like — just because the calendar year ticked over, doesn’t mean people are returning to work feeling refreshed and ready to kick some big goals in the new year.

In fact, the end of 2021 saw many Australians dealing with COVID-19 up close for the first time since the pandemic started (thanks Omicron). 

Add the kids being on school holidays, the lovely (but never-ending) list of family events to attend, and that fact that many of know there’s going to be a huge pile of work to go back to when the holidays wrap up— and it’s safe to say many of us are still feeling, frankly, exhausted.

So, if you’re an employer or a manager, what can you do to help? Here’s how to tell who’s still feeling burnt out and what you can do about it.

First things first, what is burnout? 

Burnout is what happens when you’re under severe and constant stress at work. It can make you feel disillusioned by your job, cynical and like your role doesn’t matter. And no, it doesn’t just happen overnight. 

It typically requires a series of triggers that eventually lead to a feeling of depletion and almost total apathy towards your job. 

Those dealing with burnout might feel they’re not contributing much to the workplace — and the thing is — they might be so burnt out emotionally, that they don’t really care, either. 

Burnout at work may start as mental fatigue and overwhelm, but as it worsens, it could become a physical problem, too. Research has proven that our mental state affects our physical health

So, while you, or others around you, might not take the mental symptoms of burnout seriously (the go-to response for so many of us is to just push through it) your body might have other plans. 

Meaning, you’re more susceptible to illnesses like a cold or the flu the longer your state of stress continues. And that’s not good news for anyone. 

What are the signs of burnout at work? 

If you or an employee is suffering from burnout, here are some common signs

  • Finding it difficult to get motivated about work 

  • Constantly finding work to be overwhelming

  • Feeling exhausted and depleted all the time (like you just have nothing left to give)

  • Feeling unsatisfied by achievements or disillusioned about your job

  • Being unable to concentrate or be productive for extended periods (if at all)

  • Feeling irritable and impatient with your co-workers 

  • Feeling extra-sensitive towards feedback 

How can I help employees suffering from burnout? 

1. Make sure to check in


When’s the last time you checked in with your staff and asked how they were really doing? 

You might talk to your employees everyday — coffee-break banter or casual weekend updates — but when did you last sit them down and ask if they needed anything from you? 

Employees suffering from burnout may do so quietly, feeling like they just have to get through it or like their situation can’t be improved.

Reaffirm to your employees that you really care about their mental state and that you’re there to talk when they need to.

2. Remove the stigma around mental health in the workplace 

Employees might not feel safe raising how they feel because mental health can feel like a vulnerable topic. And not only that — but they may feel like their problems aren’t legitimate and won’t be taken seriously. 

Did you know that depression is often tied to feelings of burnout? It’s likely that if an employee is showing signs of burnout at work, they might be struggling with depression as well. 

The first thing you can do is encourage people to speak up about the state of their mental health. It’s important that employees are told to come forward when they’re struggling, so they know the door is always open. 

Next, is the rhetoric in your workplace pro mental health? Or is it framed as an illegitimate or ‘soft’ issue? Is it given the same weight and attention as a physical illness might receive? 

Not sure how to promote the right attitudes around mental health in your workplace? Check out these quick tips from Headspace

3. Restore your team's energy reserves 

Encourage your team to take regular breaks. 

You know what that means? Not promoting working through lunch breaks or at all hours of the day. 

Switch the mentality in your office from always having to work, to not feeling guilty for taking (well deserved) breaks. 

Make sure your team isn't being overworked. 

In line with the last tip, stop burnout before it gets a chance to wreak havoc on your team. Or, if it already has, make sure it isn’t being worsened by unreasonable workloads. 

If your employees have an excessive workload, they’ll probably be staying back and working longer hours to fulfil it. Meaning, they’re more likely to get tired, stressed and fed up with their job. 

Promote a culture of flexibility. 

Flexibility is a huge drawcard when it comes to improving company culture and the output of businesses. 

People often develop burnout because they feel like they have no say in the way their day-to-day unfolds. By giving your employees flexibility  they’ll feel like they have control, and not like their job rules them. 

Communicate the importance of family-time. 

Going hand-in-hand with flexibility is family-time. Let your employees know they’re able to be there for their family without feeling guilty, or like they’re going to face repercussions for prioritising family over work. 

If your employees feel like work is inhabiting time with their family, and their family feel like they never see them anymore or get their undivided attention, then it’ll only cause feelings of frustration and resentment. 

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