4 steps to helping your team with burnout


Many people suffer burnout each year – it’s not uncommon by any stretch of the imagination. This year in particular, many organisations are discovering their employees are suffering from burnout after a year of immense personal, financial, social, and emotional stress without much relief in the form of holidays or time to refocus. 

The key for leaders is recognising this burnout and taking steps to alleviate stress where possible. So, what exactly is burnout? 

According to Swinburne University of Technology’s guide to their students, burnout can look like: 

  • “Feeling exhausted or drained and unable to do basic tasks, like get out of bed.
  • Insomnia. Unable to fall or stay asleep for more than just a few nights.
  • Forgetfulness or inability to concentrate and focus.
  • Feeling empty or emotionally detached.
  • Losing drive and motivation in parts of your life, like in relationships or work / study.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Physical illness and symptoms, like dizziness, chest pain, headaches or gastrointestinal pain. 
  • Feeling angry or irritated all the time.”

Ultimately, burnout results in unhappy, unfulfilled employees with low productivity – it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. Crucially, burnout isn’t something that appears overnight. It’s something that builds up slowly over time and everyone has different limits, so leaders need to be on the lookout for these signs all the time, rather than simply assuming everyone has the same limits.

That’s where these steps come in, helping you to help your team in practical ways as they navigate stressful times: 

Introduce group self-care 

Lots of organisations do this already with group yoga sessions, weekly lunches or other activities. It’s important to remember that this should not be an exercise simply to tick a box and it doesn’t always have to be extravagant. You need to listen to your team – perhaps they’d prefer the freedom to take short breaks every two hours or maybe they’d like to go on a half hour walk all together every Friday afternoon. There are lots of ideas out there, but no matter what you go for, make sure it’s really what your team will benefit from, otherwise it’s just more effort, for less result. 

Speak up for your team 

More often than not, you are your team’s voice when it comes to speaking with higher management. Make sure you understand your team’s feelings and advocate for them when it counts. If deadlines have been getting unattainably tighter, or the work flowing in is increasingly overwhelming, say something. Your team is relying on you to speak up for them. 

Create clear pathways for help

Does your team know who they can talk to if they are feeling the effects of burnout? Do they feel comfortable saying something? As a leader, you can examine the chains of communication and make alterations if needed. Even better, you can make sure your team knows exactly who they can speak with – whether that’s you, HR, or another person you have positioned to help. 

Don’t let onboarding be the only time you talk about it, refreshers and reminders are also important. A circulated email or even a poster, if appropriate, can be great conversation starters for team members. They make it easier for a team member to say, “I was thinking about the email that went around last week, and I think I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.” 

Lead by example 

Take your annual leave, leave work on time, set boundaries, take breaks! All of these things let your team know that you take your own wellbeing seriously. If you don’t do these things, not only will your team feel uncomfortable doing it themselves, they can often feel guilty about it if they do. When you lead by example, your team can feel comfortable with the idea of looking after themselves too, and they’ll be on the lookout for the signs of their own burnout. 

Are you ready to tackle burnout head on? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.