Burnout Isn’t Always Noticeable: 3 Ways to Check In on the Least Likely Suspects

by Susan Mullin

Burnout eventually gets to everyone.

Early burnout symptoms are easy to spot, from lack of responsiveness to slow deliverability on deadlines, etc. But what about the employees who are on top of it all and respond to your emails on time? What about the team members who are getting all their tasks done without a hitch? Behind every “done deal,” and “completed campaign” can be an employee on the brink of exhaustion. We should never write off high-performance employees as “okay,” solely because their work output doesn’t indicate a struggle. In fact, the employees who are getting the most done could also be the ones struggling the most!

burnout matches

Remote work makes it increasingly difficult to identify symptoms of depression, anxiety and burnout in your employees and co-workers. It might be difficult to gauge through Zoom so here are a few ways you can gain deeper insight into your worker’s true mental state.

Ask what tasks are difficult to do right now

During a 1:1, ask them if there’s any particular task that they are having trouble with right now. Perhaps they are running into a wall when it comes to creative tasks and don’t feel like they have the mental energy to complete them. Depressive episodes have a way of dimming the creative spark in people. Maybe more computational tasks are causing them to feel burnt out from all the repetitiveness. If there’s a certain genre of tasks that they communicate to be challenging, you can try and tag-team those accordingly and allow them to have more time with tasks that don’t feel mentally draining.

Open up the conversation by being vulnerable yourself

Employees can sometimes hesitate to reveal that they are struggling to their boss because it may make them seem “less appealing” as a team player. After all, we’re taught that “everyone is replaceable.” Why would we want to reveal our weaknesses? If we come forward saying that we struggle with anxiety, we might feel like our superiors will see it as a potential problem with our future work.

Humanize yourself as their boss and share a struggle of your own. It doesn’t have to be too big of a disclosure. You could say something like “you know, the daylight savings are making it very hard for me to feel productive in the afternoon. It’s making me feel quite low emotionally. Do you feel this way as well?” or “I think everyone has been feeling anxious with the big proposal coming up next month. Are you also experiencing this?”. Showing them that you and others on the team are all going through something together can make them feel like they’re allowed to express their struggles as well.

Ask them if they think that their work is valued/recognized and if their level of work output is sustainable

In large organizations, in particular, certain departments can sometimes lack recognition and support. This is especially true for high-performing teams that are understaffed – often no one checks on them because they have such great performance. If a certain role or team is of critical value to a company, managers should ensure they are taken care of and feel like they can sustain the output level. Often the reason that some teams are immensely successful can be due to overwork and overcompensation for a lack of resources and support.

One approach would be to first acknowledge their excellent output and then ask how they are getting it done. Something like “Your on-time delivery of this project is impeccable! Are you able to get all your tasks done during work hours or are you finding that you work overtime to finish?” You could also get an idea of how overworked a team is by asking how they re-distribute their work when one of the members is out. If an employee can’t take a PTO day without multiple teammates having to bend their backs to take on their responsibilities, there’s definitely a problem.

Mental health is a massively important topic in the workplace. We should strive to be proactive and not reactive, as the reactive measures are often “too late.” Proactive efforts can prevent burnout, increase productivity and catch the workers who are in danger of burnout who don’t have any “tells” in the first place.

Looking for experienced marketing recruiters to meet your search, staffing and job search needs? We’re here to help!

  • Contact us about your marketing search & staffing needs
  • Search marketing, communications, and creative jobs
TorchLight flame logo

Posted in , Hiring Managers