How to Prevent High Performer Burnout and Keep Your Workforce Engaged

high performer burnoutHave you checked on your top performers lately? It turns out, your most engaged employees are at high risk of burnout and turnover.

According to a study by the University of Cambridge, companies “risk losing some of their most motivated and hard-working employees due to high stress and burnout—a symptom of the “darker side” of workplace engagement.”

Employee burnout is marked by physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with self-doubts about their competence and the value of their work.


There are 8 common causes of employee stress. Free ebook download: Learn how you can help >>>


In this article, we’ll discuss how managers can recognize and take steps to prevent burnout:

  • Learn the signs
  • Assign fair workloads
  • Train your employees
  • Create a feedback culture
  • Prioritize work-life balance

Use the following tips to prevent employee burnout and take care of your greatest asset—your people.


1. Learn employee burnout signs.


Do you know what burnout looks like? Half the battle is knowing what to look for so you can intervene early and mitigate the risks.

Be on the lookout for signs of burnout on your team:

  • Exhaustion or difficulty sleeping
  • Lower productivity
  • Mistakes and forgetfulness (e.g., sloppy work or missing meetings)
  • Higher rates of illness (more sick days)
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Cynicism
  • Absenteeism, lateness, or plans to leave the company

These indicators are especially significant because they are so out of character for your top performers. Pay attention to these signs so you can reach out to your employees early and address the root issues.

Pro Tip: Teach your team members the warning signs of burnout too. You won’t always be able recognize burnout until it’s too late. Encourage employees to reach out to you when they are struggling so you can address the issues together.


2. Assign fair workloads.


Organizations have a tendency to assign heavier workloads and responsibilities to their best performers. And it makes sense—top workers have proven capable and reliable, so extra work or more important responsibilities can be trusted with them. But this tendency can lead to overloading and overworking your best people.

Pay attention to how you are delegating and balancing workloads across the team. For larger teams or cross-functional and remote teams, it can be difficult for leaders to have clear insight into the work people are doing day-to-day. That is why regular team check-ins, one-on-ones, feedback systems, and project management tools are so important.

Make sure your team is properly staffed to accommodate the amount of work required. Clarify performance goals regularly and revise as needed to meet business requirements.

When managers keep a pulse on the amount of work distributed among teams and check-in regularly with their employees, they are better able to keep workloads balanced and fair for everyone.


3. Provide proper training.


If employees aren’t clear on how to do their job, they will quickly become frustrated and stressed. Give your employees the training and tools they need to succeed.

Review your onboarding process and work processes to make sure the way you do things now is effective and efficient. Get feedback from employees to identify gaps in training or opportunities to improve current workflows.

Evaluate your employees’ roles to ensure their responsibilities and job expectations align with the job description and employee’s skills. Make sure your team understands the processes, standards, and technology to get the job done and make ongoing training and development a priority.


4. Create a feedback culture.


Feedback is one of your most powerful tools as a manager. Feedback from your employees allows you to hear directly from your team what is working well and what isn’t so you can get insight into the issues or employees that need attention.

Burnout thrives in isolation, so make sure you are connecting with your employees regularly for team meetings and one-on-ones. Check-in meetings let you touch base with your employees to:

  • Set goals
  • Clarify expectations
  • Improve collaboration

One-on-ones give you an added layer of insight into each team member’s performance, workload, and general wellbeing so you can identify signs of burnout early and address concerns before they become a problem.

When you build a feedback culture, employees will feel more comfortable communicating with you when things aren’t going well. Plus when people feel heard and listened to, they are more likely to be engaged at work.

Pro Tip: Use employee engagement surveys to identify who may be most at risk for burnout so you can develop an action plan to intervene and support your employees.


5. Prioritize and enforce work-life balance.


One of the best ways to reduce stress and combat burnout among your workforce is to promote a healthy work-life balance.

Here’s a few ways you can support work-life balance in your office:

  • Value vacations.
    Vacations are an important break from the daily grind and help people de-stress. Make sure your employees have PTO and are actually using it. Limit how many PTO days roll over so your team is incentivized to use up their time off.
  • Encourage mental health days.
    Encourage paid mental health days too. If you notice an employee is particularly stressed or tired, give them permission to take a day to recharge.
  • Offer flexible schedules and remote work options.
    Incorporate remote work options and flexible scheduling if your business allows for it. This will give employees more autonomy over how they do their work so they can work in a way that meets their needs without added stress around their calendars.
  • Set clear boundaries.
    In today’s “always on” world, it’s easy for employees to over-work themselves. Protect your employees by setting clear boundaries around work hours and expectations and model that behavior yourself.  For example, if you want employees to unplug after work, make sure you aren’t answering emails at 10 p.m. This gives your team permission to disconnect until they’re on the clock again so they can have a healthier balance between work and home.

High employee engagement is a great goal, but it can come with side effects like burnout if managers aren’t careful. As Dr. Jochen Menges, co-author of the Cambridge study explains,


“Engagement is very beneficial to workers and organizations when burnout symptoms are low, but engagement coupled with high burnout symptoms can lead to undesired outcomes including increased intentions to leave an organization. So managers need to look carefully at high levels of engagement and help those employees who may be headed for burnout, or they risk higher turnover levels and other undesirable outcomes.”


Pay attention to your people, especially your high performers, for signs of burnout, and use these tips to keep your team happy and healthy. For additional tips on identifying and managing employee burnout and stress in the workplace, download our ebook.

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Published August 20, 2020 | Written By Jocelyn Stange