Fighting Burnout With Employee Communication Strategies

Fighting Burnout With Employee Communication Strategies

Fighting Burnout With Employee Communication Strategies

Last updated on March 21, 2024 at 07:30 am

Employee burnout is a growing issue in the workplace. After the last few years, with a pandemic, war in Ukraine, rising inflation, and economic uncertainty, it’s only natural that we’re all feeling a little stressed—or a lot. 

These levels of burnout should worry you. The wellbeing of your teams has a direct impact on your business. And nothing we’re doing really seems to be moving the needle. Employees are quiet quitting, more disengaged than ever, and workplace satisfaction is really low. But fighting burnout isn’t insurmountable. In fact, I think better employee communication is the secret to better mental wellness at work.

one healthcare professional comforting a burned out employee

What is Employee Burnout?

To be able to prevent burnout, first, we have to understand it. The WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

They explain that there are three dimensions to burnout:

  1. Exhaustion or depleted energy levels
  2. Negativity or cynicism towards one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

And the American Psychological Association has found that in 2021, 79% of employees have experienced work-related stress with 3 in 5 reporting the negative impacts of that stress.

The other thing to consider is that burnout is triggered by workplace stress. So, while there are very real and very stressful things going on in the world that are impacting our mental health, burnout is a work problem. It’s our inability to properly support the mental health of our workforce. And it’s catching up with us. 

The Great Resignation was really a movement where workers said enough is enough. Employees are taking their mental health and wellbeing seriously and aren’t afraid to quit toxic bosses and culture. That means companies that don’t understand employee burnout and how to fix it are going to be left behind.

What Are the Signs of Employee Burnout?

So, how do you recognize when an employee is burnt out? There are many signs to look out for:

  • Exhaustion
  • Lower productivity
  • Disengagement
  • Physical symptoms (e.g. feeling unwell often)
  • Lower motivation
  • Sensitivity to feedback

While it’s important to respect your employees’ privacy, people managers should be on the lookout for signs of heightened stress. It’s important for employers to intervene before an employee quits or begins suffering from the physical and long-term mental impacts of prolonged burnout.

What Are the Main Causes of Employee Burnout?

We know that employee burnout is a symptom of workplace stress, but what’s causing this rising trend? It’s not like work stress is a new concept. So, what’s going on here?

There are 5 main offenders leading to more burnout now than in the past:

    1. Unsustainable workloads. As companies lay off staff, employees are asked to take on more. All this comes without increases in pay or even training. Without training, employees may feel overwhelmed by their new workload and experience low self-efficacy. And without increases in pay, the added responsibility feels unfair. And how we perceive challenges can change how easy it is to manage them. 
    2. Lack of autonomy. This is when employees feel like they always have to ask permission, can’t run with their own ideas, and don’t have a valued voice. This takes a huge toll over time and hurts self-esteem.
    3. Poor employee communication. When a company or leaders don’t communicate properly, it hurts transparency and trust. As a result, employees are left wondering where they stand and if their company is stable. And as you can imagine, always wondering about the stability of your job and income is a huge stressor.
    4. Improper management. Managers have the biggest impact on an employee’s experience. Managers who micromanage, don’t create psychological safety, and don’t communicate well, leads to employees feeling exhausted, uncertain, and unhappy.
    5. Lack of appreciation. It can feel defeating when you work hard and don’t feel seen or appreciated. We’ve all experienced that at work where someone else gets credit for our work or something we’re proud of gets completely passed over. And unfortunately, 60% don’t think their employer is good at showing appreciation (Blueboard).

5 Ways to Fight Burnout With Communication

So, how can we fight back and put the mental health and wellbeing of our employees first? These 5 internal communication strategies are key.

1. Share Enough Employee Communication

We surveyed deskless employees about the state of frontline worker comms and one of the most interesting trends was the difference between managers and non-managers on satisfaction with the amount of communication. Managers were far more satisfied. 

This was backed up by an open-answer question where we asked everyone to share the one thing they think could be improved about employee comms at their company. The most frequent answer was: more communication.

Some of these responses include:

“More clear and direct communication. They expect us to do all these things. But they never explain to us what to do. And we never get a thank you.”

“That he would just be honest with me and other employees about the state of our business, our industry. Honesty would be nice.” 

“Just be honest. We know not all the answers are known, but we still want to be kept in the loop.”

It’s clear that there are gaps in employee comms that need to be addressed. Using an employee comms audit will help you find any gaps in your channels or messaging. Are there any groups that are left out of your main channels? Are you sending enough direct messages to frontline workers? Can you reach deskless employees directly? 

Once you get a clear sense, make sure that you are communicating enough. And use surveys to make sure you are including the topics that matter to your teams.

wooden blocks with emotion faces on them. Fingers holding the happy smiley face.

2. Check In With Employees Regularly

The amazing thing about all the technology we have available to us is that you can more easily survey your employees. As long as you act on the results, consistently getting a finger on the pulse on how your employees are doing will help you understand where resources and adjustments are needed.

Pro Tip: Break your results down by demographic data (e.g. location, role, department, employment type) so you can spot trends. That way you could see, for example, that more line workers at your Ohio facility said they felt overwhelmed compared to other locations. You can then dig deeper into the results to find out why.

3. Lead With Compassion

This goes for your CEO, senior leaders, and frontline managers. People in positions of power need guidelines for how they can lead with empathy. This might require changing HR policies to be more human and investing more in manager training.

Not sure it’s worth the investment? Just remember managers account for 70% of employee engagement. That makes people managers the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to fixing employee burnout. If you do nothing else, you have to train your managers to be better communicators, leaders, and champions of employee wellbeing.

illustration of employee burnout, employee hunched over knees with icons representing fatigue and sadness around her.

4. Talk About Mental Health

We need to stop tip-toeing around mental health. Mental health is not just about people with anxiety disorders, depression, or anything diagnosed by a psychologist/psychiatrist. Mental health refers to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. And like physical well-being, it should be taken seriously. 

But 80% of those who are struggling with their mental health don’t feel comfortable seeking help or talking about it. So, it’s up to internal comms and HR professionals to normalize having these conversations and make resources readily accessible.

This can be as simple as:

  • Starting a Wellness Wednesday series where you talk about all forms of wellness.
  • Sharing articles and resources.
  • Creating hotlines for employees to call if they need support. 

Or you can invest in bigger changes, like including mental health support in your benefits offerings. 

But the easiest place to start making meaningful change in this regard today is to simply start talking about it. Acknowledging any important issue is the first step to employees feeling like they can speak up.

5. Recognize Your Employees

This comes in two parts. The first is to celebrate employee wins frequently and fairly. It’s important for managers and executive leaders to recognize a variety of people in a variety of ways. Too often, so-called “superstars” or “star performers” get all the public praise. But this ignores the little wins and small improvements that your employees are making every day. Even if you think you recognize your employees well, audit your employee recognition program and make sure you’re doing everything you can to make your employees feel valued.

The second part of this is to go beyond praise and invest in educating and developing your workforce. This includes:

  • Letting them know what great benefits are available
  • Providing virtual and in-person development opportunities
  • Make sure they know that you care about their future with the company

Nothing revives an employee more than feeling valued and like their development is a priority.


Fight Burnout With the Right Comms Channels

No matter how you choose to fight burnout at your company, you’re going to need the right tools. If you currently don’t have a way to reach your deskless and remote employees, it might be time to invest in a mobile-first communication solution.

Ready to learn more? Let’s talk.



About the Author

Sydney Lauro is the Demand Generation Manager for theEMPLOYEEapp. Prior to joining the team at theEMPLOYEEapp, Sydney worked in internal communications for Chipotle. She users her internal comms expertise and passion for improving communication and the employee experience to create content and share best practices to help other communications professionals.


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