June, 2020

Employee burnout: How can organisations recognise the signs and what can be done to address it?

Luke Farrugia - Head of Marketing


As the ‘always-on’ culture becomes synonymous with the new post-COVID-19 landscape, employees, more than ever before, are feeling the need to prove their worth within the workplace, by going above and beyond their usual working hours.

This culture, in turn, is having a detrimental effect on the mental health and well-being of staff.

Recently, research from the Mental Health Foundation and LinkedIn found 80 per cent of HR managers believe the rapid increase in home working is actually creating a rise in what is known as ‘e-presenteeism’ – a condition where employees feel they should be available online and responding to work related requests as much as humanly possible. Put simply, employees struggle to know when to switch off.

So, why is this such an important issue? And how can organisations avoid this?

The impact of remote working on employees

Despite lock-down measures beginning to ease and people gradually returning to the office, many organisations are continuing to work from home. While staying away from the office has helped contain the spread of Coronavirus, there are notable repercussions towards employee mental health and well-being.

Organisations working remotely are now communicating in real-time through online collaboration tools. This is impacting individuals’ ability to maintain a healthy work/ life balance, as they feel the need to prove their worth by working extra hours as a means to build job security.

In fact, a recent article by People Management revealed more than half (54 per cent) of HR leaders believe mental health issues such as ‘stress, burnout, isolation and loneliness’ had increased among their workforce since the Coronavirus crisis.

An unhealthy workforce is an unproductive workforce

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic and remote working has added a variety of complications to people’s daily routines and many staff are feeling under pressure to perform. The findings reveal office workers appear to be clocking up an estimated 28 hours of unpaid overtime each month, which is the same as an extra four days of work.

From an employer’s perspective these statistics are particularly concerning. Overworked staff can experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety, impacting performance and hindering collaboration with co-workers. In turn, this then has a wider impact on overall business objectives.

Mental health issues and stress can be difficult to recognise, especially in large organisations amongst multiple remote working teams and departments, however it is vital team leaders recognise the early warning signs and take immediate action. Management should not be waiting for staff to approach them, as they may not be honest about how they are feeling. So, what can an organisation do?

Adopt a data-driven approach

Fortunately, data and analytics technologies can be used to help identify individuals or departments that are at the highest risk of ‘burnout’. By analysing internal datasets from a wide variety of sources it is possible to clearly identify, track and flag potential areas of concern so management can respond accordingly. This can be collected from employees, human resources, infrastructure, communications and IT to gain visibility and insights on staff interactions, attitudes and satisfaction levels.

For example, in-house instant messaging data (such as Teams), employee time-sheets, work calendars and email communication patterns are valuable sources of information that provide a clearer picture of how staff are interacting and working.

Once this has been established, the data can be used to adapt management and training processes, helping ensure all staff are content, engaged and as stress-free as possible. This will encourage a healthier work-life balance. Doing this will create a positive and more cooperative workplace culture, which can help to drive business growth and long-term success.

Organisations adopting the latest data and analytics solutions will be best positioned to identify whether their employees are spending longer online than they were previously, or if they are working irregular patterns outside of their usual hours. By automating the data collection and analysis process, managers will be provided with a true representation of each employees’ activities and workloads versus outputs and time spent working online.

Businesses must be prepared

Ultimately, overworked and stressed staff will have a negative impact on any organisation or business, particularly at this difficult time. While some offices have started to reopen, the government advice remains that businesses should continue to remote work if possible.

It is important every employer takes advantage of the data they have at their disposal to improve the health and well-being of their staff. If they can use these insights to reduce e-presenteeism, it will help ensure each of their employees remains as healthy, engaged and productive as possible.

Topic: People Analytics