Is Your Team Stressed-Out or Burned-Out? There's a Big Difference. Current trends predict burnout will become increasingly more prevalent in the coming years.

By Elizabeth Pearson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

How to tell if your team is stressed or burning out? There's a big difference.

Employee burnout is an issue for companies all over the world, and current trends predict it will become increasingly more prevalent in the coming years. Job stress, on the other hand, is something much more commonplace and has likely been experienced by everyone at some point in their career.

Burnout is not the same as stress. Stress can build into burnout when your team experiences chronic exhaustion, cynicism, and decreasing productivity. Don't think your team is stressed? Think again. According to the American Institute of Stress:

  • 33% of people report feeling extreme stress
  • 77% of people experience stress that affects their physical health
  • 73% of people's mental health is impacted by stress
  • 48% of people's sleep patterns are disrupted by stress

Now that we know what stress is, let's explore the differences between stress and burnout. The World Health Organization has included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as "A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."

In a nutshell, burnout is always linked to your job, stress isn't.

Gallup recently surveyed more than 7,500 full-time employees about burnout and found:

  • 23% felt burned out more often than not
  • 44% felt burned out sometimes

Therefore, nearly two-thirds of full-time workers are dealing with burnout at some point while working for you.

But how can you identify if your team is simply stressed or teetering on burning out?

Related: Team Burnout Is Real and You Might be the Cause

Here's how to identify if it's stress or if they're heading towards burnout.

Look for warning signs

Is your team showing symptoms of burnout? Find out by asking them these questions, provided by the Mayo Clinic — during your 1:1 calls or meetings:

  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your role at the company?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?

If they answer "yes" to any of these questions, here are some tips to combatting their feelings of burnout.

  1. Be Flexible - Work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Try to set goals for what must get done and what can wait.
  2. Carve out working hours dedicated to mindfulness and exercise
  3. Promote Sleep - Refuse to read emails sent outside of a specific timeframe (i.e., 7:00 am -7:00 pm)
  4. Build them a support team - Assign them work "buddies" to hold each other accountable to established self-care routines

Related: To Prevent Workplace Burnout, Ask These 3 Questions

Address the causes of burnout

Burnout is caused by an imbalance between job demands and job resources, which is complex—so solely focusing on one of the big symptoms of it without addressing the larger factors driving it would be a huge mistake.

Factors may include:

  • Lack of freedom and autonomy

Team members need to have some choice as to how and when they perform the tasks related to their work objectives

  • Heavy workload and high-pressure deadlines or goals

Employees need resources allocated to make expectations achievable

  • Lack of leader/colleague support

Employees must feel included, supported, and that they are part of the team

  • Unfairness

Favoritism can have no place in your company culture. Everyone must be evaluated on the results they produce and the value they add, rather than what they look like or political views

  • Values disconnect

Does your company walk the walk or do your stated values not match the workplace environment you've created?

  • Lack of recognition

Make giving constructive feedback, acknowledgment, and gratitude an everyday occurrence.

The pandemic has increased the demands on your team, both in their personal lives and at work. It's time to reframe the dialogue around burnout—calling out that it's not an individual issue that can be fixed with quick self-help strategies. It's a systemic issue that everyone, especially leadership, is responsible for reducing. We can do that by implementing meaningful strategies that address the core causes—which starts at work.

Related: How to Deal With Employee Burnout

Wavy Line
Elizabeth Pearson

Founder- Elizabeth Pearson Executive Coaching

When Elizabeth Pearson's 15-year career in corporate sales left her unfulfilled and depleted, she decided to bet on herself and start a business. Now, as an executive career coach, she spends her days helping powerhouse women get "unstuck" and rise both spiritually and professionally.

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