One of the most common dangers to an employee’s mental health is becoming burnt out. Burnout is particularly dangerous because anyone can succumb to it in a relatively short amount of time.

Burnout is a type of physical and mental fatigue that occurs when an employee overexerts themselves for a prolonged period, without adequate rest. Without taking proper breaks, it’s difficult for a person to consistently approach their work with enthusiasm and motivation. When an employee can step away from their work for sufficient amounts of time, they’re able to return to it refreshed and with a renewed sense of purpose.

Burnout can present itself in a number of ways, such as increased irritability, decreased productivity, less engagement with work, and, ultimately, being absent from work.

Though it can happen for a variety of reasons, let’s take a look at the main reasons for employee burnout and how you can potentially deal with it.

A poor work/life balance

The most common reason for an employee becoming burnt out is a poor work/life balance. This is the result of spending too much time working, or thinking about work, and not taking enough time away from it.

The main cause of this imbalance is when employees neglect to take time off when they need it most. Worse still, some employees may fail to use all of their annual leave allowance for given year, letting it roll over into the following year. However, a poor work/life balance can be exacerbated by habits like working at their desk through their lunch break and frequently staying way past their official finishing time.

The first reason for an uneven work/life is an employee consistently having too high a workload. Now, on one hand, this could be down to your company. In some cases, it can’t being be helped, due to you being short-staffed, while in others it may be a matter of distributing work more evenly among staff.

On the other hand, an employee could be responsible for their taxing workload by willingly taking on too much. This is especially likely if they’re the type of person to put themselves forward for everything – or can’t say no when one of their colleagues asks for help.

The most effective way to deal with this kind of burnout is to keep an eye on how much holiday each of your employees has taken. You can do this by periodically looking at your annual leave calendar, to see who’s got some time off booked, coupled with keeping track of how much holiday each employee has outstanding. Better still, make use of leave management software that gives you this information at a glance, so you can instantly see which of your staff may be on the verge of burning out. Armed with this info, you can then recommend, or even prescribe, that an employee take some time off.

Poor company culture

Similarly, on a related note, while a poor work/life balance could be self-inflicted, it could also be caused by your company culture. If your company is one in which working long hours is seen as a badge of honour, some employees may be reluctant to go home on time. Worse still, if frequently taking time off isn’t looked upon favourably, then some staff may be loath to make proper use of their holiday allowance and could suffer from burnout as a result. This could especially be the case if someone is new to the company and wants to prove themselves or there’s pressure to hit consistently hit certain targets.

In such a scenario, the desired change needs to come from the top down. Management not only needs to encourage their staff to take time off but lead by example in using their annual leave as well. When staff see their team leader leaving at a reasonable time and taking regular breaks from the office, they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

Personal issues

Another reason an employee could come to suffer from burnt out is having a lot going on in their personal lives. This could stem from a large variety of things, but some common examples include relationship problems, events centred around children, personal health issues, and medical problems involving family members – to name but a few.

In such cases, an employee’s home isn’t quite the sanctuary they need to escape to after a day of work and that they can return from refreshed the next day. In fact, it’s possible that an employee might spend more time at work to escape what’s going on at home.

Dealing with burnout stemming from personal problems can be tricky, as they’re under no obligation to discuss it with anyone. The best you, or HR personnel, can do is to ask how they are feeling, if you sense something is wrong, and make it clear you’re there to support them. This could include suggesting, or even mandating, that they take a few days off to rest and recuperate – even without knowing the full details of their situation.