woman employee looking down into clasped hands.

Burnout is nothing new. The term was coined in the 1970s, and in 2019 the World Health Organization 2019 officially recognized it as an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

You certainly know about employee burnout and may already be on the lookout for signs like decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and disengagement, but what about the more subtle signs? In this post, we’ll look at what people managers and business leaders should be watching for and provide tips on addressing burnout when you see it.

Common signs of burnout

Burnout can express itself in a multitude of ways, so it pays to be aware of as many as possible. The following are some of the most common. Don’t forget to look in the mirror while you’re done reading them — if you’re feeling burnt out, you’ll have difficulty helping others on your team.


Be on the lookout for irritability and a short temper. Evident frustration, snapping at colleagues or angry outbursts are some of the earliest signs of burnout. Increased cynicism and pessimism are also warning signs. Employees who are burnt out may suffer from lower productivity and severely damaged employee morale, which can be challenging to recover from.


Physical symptoms can have many causes, of course, but they could be a sign of burnout, especially in conjunction with other symptoms. Headaches, insomnia and even digestive issues are common signs of burnout. Keep an eye on employees who are frequently absent or late, often complain of physical symptoms or seem unusually run-down.


Finally, marked differences in professional behavior can be a sign of burnout. Employees who start procrastinating, become easily distracted, or seem unusually stressed out or disengaged from work they previously enjoyed, may be exhibiting signs of burnout. Once people begin feeling disengaged, they are more likely to overlook important details, fail to follow through on tasks and make careless errors.

Other on-the-job signs of burnout are reduced creativity, innovation and motivation. Burned-out employees may struggle to generate new ideas or find creative solutions to problems. They may become stuck in a rut, relying on the same old strategies and processes instead of exploring new avenues for growth and innovation.

Managing burnout

Burnout is easier to remedy when detected early, but there are still ways to bounce back even after it has taken hold. Try some of the following tactics to help your employees and re-engage your team:

Keep an eye out

If you know your employees well enough, you’ll be able to see when “normal” procrastination turns into a more serious issue. Regular check-ins to take the temperature of your team give you a chance to detect issues early and give people a chance to let off steam.

Provide individualized support

There’s no one-size-fits-all remedy for burnout. However, empathy is key. Demonstrating empathy is an ideal place to start, and it will set the stage for an open dialogue. Work with your employee to find out what will help most, whether it means taking something off their plate, extending a deadline, providing backup or just lending a sympathetic ear.

Create a shared sense of purpose and growth

Feeling that they are an important part of the company’s growth can help employees feel more engaged and mitigate burnout. Help employees see how their current roles and projects are part of the organization’s larger mission, while also giving them a chance to learn new skills and take on different roles to gain experience.

How BPM can help

Burnout can indicate larger issues with overall company culture. BPM’s experienced team is committed to helping your employees succeed in work and in life by providing innovative, comprehensive services that help you navigate today’s business complexities. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Headshot of Jill Pappenheimer.

Related Insights