Burnout was the buzzword of last year but unfortunately, it’s showing no signs of disappearing.

With an estimated 70 million sick days taken each year, mental health is the leading cause of absence from work. We’re stuck in a generation of “yes, I can’s”, with those who dare to say “actually I can’t” portrayed as weak.

So, how can employers ensure they’re running a productive workforce, but not asking too much of their employees at the same time? Here are my top tips for avoiding burnout…

Spotting the signs

Burnout is most common in high performers and is often called ‘over achiever syndrome’ so those in high pressure, competitive jobs tend to be more susceptible. And the scary thing is, these people will usually continue to work despite how exhausted they feel.

Burnout isn’t just being stressed at the prospect of a deadline or feeling tired in the mornings; those suffering from burnout often experience physical and emotional exhaustion, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. If a colleague is acting erratic, forgetting things easily, irritable, frustrated and unproductive all of a sudden, they could be suffering from burnout. So, if you’re witnessing a team member that is usually extremely outgoing and contributes in meetings that has suddenly become quiet and withdrawn, or someone who usually delivers brilliant work and now can’t even seem to fulfil smaller tasks, employers and managers should be aware of what to look out for and speak to employees straight away. Executive coaching is a great way to help leaders to create a culture where employee wellbeing can flourish, reducing the risk of burnout.

Encourage breaks

Did you know that 50% of British holiday makers check their work phones whilst on holiday? It’s no secret that young people are finding it harder and harder to unplug. Staff should be made aware that they don’t have to check emails whilst they are away, and senior staff members should lead by example where possible. High achievers can find it difficult to let go, but this is essential for them in order to come back from a break revitalised. It’s also important to ensure staff don’t feel like they are too busy to take their allocated days off, as they are worried about how much work they will come back to. Leaders should build teams that still function when key team members are away.

Working flexibly

The idea that working longer hours leads to better progression is still apparent in many roles, particularly in bigger cities, which is contributing to burnout culture. Success should not be measured by the number of hours worked, it should be based on results. Work smarter to avoid this issue: use the main strengths of each team member and allocate work accordingly to allow your business to make the best use of time, avoid burnout and ensure the company remains productive.

Even better, flexible working can prove hugely beneficial if you work in a sector that allows it. Letting employees balance their professional and personal lives by attending classes that are inside of work hours, or picking their children up from school, can make a real difference to employee wellbeing.

Improve your leadership

Improving your general leadership skills will help you spot the signs of burnout more easily. Good leaders have the ability to coach employees through difficult situations and create positive, motivated teams who, in turn, have less chance of burning out. Getting help from mentors can be invaluable, but for leaders who don’t have access to these people, appointing a leadership coach is often the next step. After all, leaders need support too – whether it’s someone who will provide coaching to quickly enable a leader to guide their team, or someone who is there month after month to help a leader slowly evolve into their position. Great leaders create great leaders, so entrepreneurs should prioritise developing their leadership skills continuously.

Ensure your organisation is transparent

Employees feeling overlooked or blind within an organisation can cause burnout. Businesses that are transparent and open about their expectations from an employee, and equally let employees know what they can expect from them as an employer, are those with less stressed staff. Employees should feel comfortable talking to their managers when they need help and be encouraged to share their problems so they don’t stew. Those leaders that foster great working relationships will be much less likely to have burnt out employees.

Final thoughts

Creating a successful business is about more than just hiring top performers. Employees at all levels should be provided with a working environment that allows them to thrive and avoid burnout. Hiring top talent is no good if a highly stressful working environment means your staff turnover is high. By considering the points highlighted in this article, businesses and managers can ensure they have the best possible chance of avoiding burnout.