How to Recognize Burnout in Your Employees

Going remote has blurred the lines between work and relaxation: Here's how to spot and combat employee burnout.
How to Recognize Burnout in Your Employees
Image credit: filadendron | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer
CEO of Talend
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

2020 has been an unprecedented year in terms of work stress. Supporting employees to put on their “work face” amidst high levels of unpredictability can be an immense task for company leaders. Between the global health crisis, natural disasters, and social unrest, many employees express real uncertainty about the future. I believe it is essential for executives to be intentional about mental health and remain consistently proactive about addressing anxieties and making decisions from a position of unknowns. 

Related: 4 Tips on Getting Ahead of Employee Burnout

I was new to Talend when the global health crisis hit. I had to straddle the line between having a lot of faith and being a realist about what can and should be. When things come at you quickly, you have to think on your feet and pick a lane. Should your company hold on for dear life or use this time to transform and come out stronger? I made decisions quickly and went to our board with an action plan. We had to implement effective change in a timely manner because we needed to give our employees and shareholders a sense of stability. We narrowed our focus a little but kept progressing forward. 

Recognizing signs of work stress

In the early days of the pandemic, I witnessed a shift as employees were becoming more focused on the ongoing health crisis and its effect on their individual circumstances. The lack of answers made everyone feel like they were in an unstable position, and it caused stress. I set out to make sure Talend’s employees knew that, to a large degree, we were all feeling this way and that in a difficult situation like this, a self-focus was the normal, healthy response.

Related: When Hustling Is Harmful: How to Save Your Employees From Burnout

Shortly after the global health crisis escalated, Talend went remote. Many of our employees were used to working from the office, and we’ve worked to stay connected via email and instant messaging. I am always on the lookout for signs of employee stress, such as less participation in meetings, slower times to respond, and direct feedback from employees who sometimes express that they are feeling low. When this happens, I know it’s time to switch focus back to mental health or brainstorm ways to get employees amped about work again. 

Managing employee burnout

My sense of urgency in curbing employee burnout remains high, as I strive to strengthen each individual employee experience along with the interconnected landscape that ensures our success as an organization. I am reminded of a quote by consultant David Zinger: “Create caring and robust connections between every employee and their work, customers, leaders, managers, and the organization to achieve results that matter to everyone in this sentence.”

When everyone is working from home, the lines between personal and professional are unnaturally blurred. So, when you do see that your employees are completely overwhelmed, encourage them to adopt coping strategies. 

We have implemented the following at Talend: 

Encourage employees to work on something they’re passionate about. This has been making a huge difference in terms of eagerness to do a good job. One of the passion projects is applying our data integrity software to help those on the front lines fighting the global health crisis. Staff found this project particularly rewarding.

Adopt a company-wide mental health day every now and then. PTO is important, but it can make employees feel like they’re leaving their teams to fend for themselves. When the entire team is offline, it’s easier to relax. Taking regular breaks during the day helps avoid burnout. 

Set limits on how much work encroaches on evenings and weekends. Employees need time to rest and rejuvenate and disconnect from work. Suggest employees go for a walk or get some exercise during the workday. 

Putting an emphasis on transparent and consistent communication includes a two-way discussion with employees about what challenges they’re facing while working remotely, as well as how they’re feeling physically and mentally during this time. For example, we brought in experts from Healthy Minds Innovations to provide practical advice and guidance for remaining calm and maintaining resilience through the pandemic and beyond. 

Related: Successful Business Leaders Focus on Preventing Employee Burnout

People often avoid discussions about mental health issues, and it’s still considered taboo. From day one of being the CEO at Talend, I wanted to instill that talking about mental health concerns are normal. I’ve been dedicated to making sure people bring their whole selves to work and are very intentional with their emotional health.

Helping employees stay motivated about their work

Like many companies, we are seeing an increase in productivity overall due to lockdowns and restricted movement. If anything, we have to be careful and put in safeguards to avoid employees overworking. 

Don’t forget that positivity also goes a long way. Whenever work is frenzied and frantic, I try my best to make a concerted effort to promote positivity for myself and others. I focus on regularly acknowledging, recognizing, and thanking people for their efforts. I let them know I noticed them and their work, and I appreciate it. Another crucial survival aspect is the ongoing cultivation of a feeling of community and social support. When your team hits a milestone or when a particular crunch time is over, celebrate. Acknowledge accomplishments whenever possible — both yours and the teams. 

We are a data-driven company, so after the Healthy Minds seminars, we polled our employees to gauge the effectiveness of the experts and lessons we had brought in. The pulse survey results showed that 90 percent of employees felt the programs were helping them feel well supported by management and connected to the business. We are all making strides, but the parameters are now different, so innovative motivational techniques and self-care are crucial to the success of every employee and the companies which support them. 

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