How To Avoid Burnout At Work [5 Triggers]

How To Avoid Burnout At Work

Demands at work have been piling on in recent years. Including the demand on employees to continue to do more with less. And those demands come with a lot of potential burnout at work. Burnout at work is a series problem for most organizations. Burnout can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even physical and mental health issues.

It’s incumbent on every leader to be aware of and attempt to avoid burnout on their teams. But burnout isn’t always caused by asking too much of employees. Being overcapacity can be one element that triggers a burned-out team. But there are other triggers leaders need to be aware of.

In this article, we will explore the five triggers of burnout at work and discuss how leaders can mitigate them to create a more engaged and productive team.

Trigger 1: Lack of Margin

The first trigger of burnout at work is a lack of margin. As said above, often burnout happens because people are just at capacity. In many organizations, the reward for good work is more work. This can lead to employees constantly feeling overloaded with assignments and overwhelmed. To mitigate this, leaders can redistribute tasks more equitably and avoid rewarding good work with additional responsibilities. And they can identify priorities more clearly so teammates know what tasks matter most and which can afford to wait until later. In addition, regular individual check-ins and teamwide huddles can also help identify areas where margin can be borrowed from other team members, ensuring that everyone has a manageable workload.

Trigger 2: Lack of Control

The second trigger of burnout at work is a lack of control. Employees who feel they lack autonomy over their work are dramatically more likely to burnout than employees who can control certain elements of their job. In addition, employees who feel left out of the decision-making process and lack the necessary resources to do their job can quickly become burnt out. Leaders can address this trigger by providing employees with more autonomy in when, where, or how they work. This could involve flexible work hours, remote work options, or giving employees a say in the decision-making process. By empowering employees and giving them a sense of control over their work, leaders can help prevent burnout and increase job satisfaction.

Section 3: Lack of Clarity

The third trigger of burnout at work is a lack of clarity. Leaving employees without clear expectations or without a firm belief that increased effort will increase performance is leaving employees open to burnout. Vague job descriptions and frequent changes in roles and tasks can leave employees feeling uncertain and overwhelmed. This trigger can often sneak up on employees and their leaders because the demands of a job change over time, and gradually move people away from the role they were initially hired for. Without frequent updating of expectations and clear feedback, the job becomes ambiguous. Leaders can help avoid this through regular check-ins, clear project definitions, and resources to help employees achieve their tasks. Clear communication and setting realistic goals can go a long way in reducing burnout caused by a lack of clarity.

Section 4: Lack of Civility

The fourth trigger of burnout at work is a lack of civility. Working in a toxic team or organization can be extremely detrimental to one’s mental well-being and job satisfaction. Whether it’s a single individual or a bad boss, negative experiences in the workplace can quickly lead to burnout. This can happen even in overall positive company cultures, because one toxic boss or dysfunctional team can have an outsized effect on the team and its potential for burnout. Leaders can address this trigger by modeling respectful behavior and reinforcing expectations of respect and cohesion. Creating a positive and inclusive work culture where everyone feels valued and supported can help prevent burnout and foster a more harmonious work environment.

Section 5: Lack of Social Support

The fifth trigger of burnout at work is a lack of social support. Humans are social creatures—and work often meets a small or large part of our social needs. Feeling isolated and lonely at work can significantly contribute to burnout. Without social connections and friendships, employees may struggle to find motivation and support in their roles. Leaders can create opportunities for social support and friendships within the team by organizing team-building activities, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a sense of community. You can’t force people to be friends, but you can create the environment where friendships develop. And having friends at work can not only drive productivity but also decrease stress and enhance overall job satisfaction.

By addressing these triggers of burnout, leaders can create a work environment that promotes employee well-being, engagement, and productivity. Redistributing tasks, providing autonomy, ensuring clarity, promoting civility, and fostering social support are all essential steps in preventing burnout and creating a more positive and fulfilling work experience. And a positive work experience helps everyone do their best work ever.


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About the author

David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.

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