The HR guide to reducing employee burnout


Employees displaying consistent stress, a lack of motivation, or seeming visibly drained could be suffering from burnout.

Burnout is the term used for a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion driven by chronic workplace stress.

Burnout can also have a major effect on the way we work. It can impact on our sense of job satisfaction, ability to concentrate, and how effective we are.

Those who experience burnout often report depleted energy levels, changes in mood, and increased negativity or cynicism.

While this represents a great threat to employee wellbeing and business productivity, businesses and employees can reduce the risk of burnout by devising and implementing strategies to manage workplace stress.

In 2019, the World Health Organization officially defined burnout as a workplace phenomenon in recognition of the global impact the syndrome is having.

As we emerge from a challenging year and businesses start to look at returning to normal, it will be important to keep the possibility of burnout at the forefront of our minds.

In some cases, COVID restrictions meant practices were forced to reduce staffing levels on a day-to-day basis as part of their strategy to minimise the risk of community transmission of the virus.

This sometimes meant staff were stretched thin as they shouldered a heavier workload to make up for less people on the ground.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, some practices had to drastically reduce the number of patients they saw in 2020.

As we return to something resembling normal and patient numbers start to increase, staff may need some time to readjust to the faster pace of work.

Whatever the case may be for your practice, it is important for employers and employees alike to consider the impact of stress in the workplace to ensure no one suffers from burnout.

The most effective way to reduce or remove the risk of burnout is to successfully manage workplace stress. This can be done on an individual level and with the support of managers.

Strategies for employees

The best approach an employee can take is prevention. In order to manage feelings of stress at work, employees can:

  • schedule breaks throughout the year using their annual leave
  • take a proactive approach to reduce stress through mindfulness or meditation
  • make use of flexible working arrangements
  • seek the help of their manager to identify stress triggers and plan around them
  • know their limits and when to ask for help
  • offer support to colleagues who may be experiencing burnout.

Strategies for employers

While employees can take individual steps in managing their own stress levels, managers should actively take measures to limit the chance of burnout in the workplace.

To support your team, you should:

  • schedule regular check-ins with employees
  • collaborate with your employees to set reasonable goals and deadlines
  • ensure employees work sensible hours and take breaks
  • watch out for the warning signs of burnout (eg, poor attitude at work, low energy levels, or lack of focus)
  • make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing workplace stress
  • emphasise the importance of asking for and giving support.

>> The HR in Practice specialist workplace relations and work (occupational) health and safety advisory service is operated by Wentworth Advantage. APA Business Group Premium Principal members can contact the HR in Practice service by phone, email and online chat Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 5:30pm AEST, and can visit to access the full suite of online resources.

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Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is general comment and is not intended as advice on any particular matter, nor should it be relied on as a substitute for legal or professional advice.Wentworth Advantage Pty Ltd expressly disclaim all and any liability to any persons whatsoever in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by any such person in reliance whether in whole or in part upon any of the contents of this publication.


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