Ten Ways to Tell If Your Employees Are Overburdened and Burned Out

Ron McIntyre
5 min readNov 29, 2023

Employee burnout is a growing concern in today’s fast-paced work environment. Overburdened employees can suffer from decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and health issues. As a responsible employer, it’s crucial to recognize and understand the signs of burnout and take proactive measures to address it.

Investing in the well-being of your staff is one of the most significant challenges you face in business because much of the emphasis is on the bottom line. However, we must remember that there will be no bottom line if employees are not productive or customer-centric. Likewise, there is no growth if the products or services are not innovative and dynamic, requiring an adaptable workforce, and this often leads to increased pressure to deliver, hence burnout. Therefore, leadership must be aware and proactive in dealing with this issue.

This article will discuss ten ways to identify if your employees are overburdened and burned out.

1. Decreased Productivity:

One of the most apparent signs of burnout is a decline in productivity. If you notice that once-efficient employees are consistently missing deadlines, producing subpar work, or struggling to focus, it may be due to overburden. Ask questions of concern and avoid blame or negative responses unless there is clear evidence of failure to perform.

2. Increased Absenteeism:

Frequent absenteeism, including unplanned sick days or an unusually high number of vacation days, can indicate burnout. Employees may be using these as coping mechanisms to escape an overwhelming workload. At the same time, recognize the need for employees to reflect and rest, whether on vacation or time off. Encourage employees to take vacations, holidays, and nights disconnected from the organization to have a psychologically safe place to go when things inundate them. If you need them to cancel a vacation or day off, ensure they are compensated within a short time.

3. Chronic Fatigue:

Burnout often manifests physically as chronic fatigue. If your employees appear consistently tired, complain of sleep problems or exhibit signs of exhaustion, it’s a red flag. Some of this may be due to Idiopathic Hypersomnia, requiring a diagnosis from a physician. Others may be due to stress and pressure from deadlines at work. Seek empathic approaches to ensure they find a reasonable solution for everyone’s benefit.

4. Emotional Changes:

Pay attention to emotional shifts in your employees. Burnout can lead to irritability, mood swings, increased frustration, and even apathy towards work. Suppose you find too much complaining about the work, the company, the customers, or other workers. In that case, it is best to understand what triggers these attitudes and offer reasonable solutions or accommodations. If only one person is at the core, it may take a different approach, including counseling.

5. Reduced Engagement:

Overburdened employees may become disengaged from their work. They may lack enthusiasm, reduced interest in their tasks, and a diminished sense of purpose. We have discussed disengaged workers since the early 2000s, so this is nothing new. The reality is that most leadership teams don’t understand the underlying foundation of what is required for engagement. I am sorry that I can’t give you a simple, pat answer for ensuring engagement. It involves being present in the culture and ensuring it is dynamic, fresh, positive, and uplifting for everyone.

6. Decline in Quality of Work:

A noticeable drop in an employee’s work quality can indicate burnout. Mistakes, missed details, and incomplete projects may become more common. Ask questions to find out if there are changes to tools, processes, or designs that can be implemented to offset this. Please don’t assume that everything is excellent as it stands. Dig deep to understand, then take the necessary actions to correct.

7. Increased Complaints:

Employees experiencing burnout may start voicing complaints about their workload, lack of resources, or unreasonable expectations more frequently. This can be a cry for help. This ties together with point number four above. They may or may not be due to emotional changes. However, if there have been any changes in processes or tools, it may also be the cause, so it behooves every leader to understand the complaints rather than dismiss them. I am a great fan of periodically having brief meetings to determine what works and does not work within the operation.

8. Frequent Health Issues:

Burnout can take a toll on an individual’s physical health. You may notice an uptick in health complaints, such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, or even more severe conditions like hypertension. This is a very personal issue, so be careful when dealing with anyone in this realm. Ensure you ask from a compassionate perspective, not an accusatory approach. Also, remember that privacy is critical when you are discussing this topic.

9. Isolation and Withdrawal:

Burnout can lead to social withdrawal. If an employee who was once a team player begins isolating themselves or avoiding social interactions, this could be a sign of emotional exhaustion, frustration with processes or communications, or conflict within the team. Ask pertinent questions and allow the employee to be comfortable discussing the topic. Don’t seek to blame or condemn anyone in the process.

10. High Turnover Rates:

Lastly, pay attention to your organization’s turnover rates. If you notice a sudden increase in employees resigning, it may be due to burnout-driven dissatisfaction. The key is to understand your business model. If, for example, you rely on entry-level employees to provide services, then plan on the high turnover with support functions for those who want to expand and grow. Offering advice, training, or opportunities to transition positions is worth the time and effort.

In summary,

Observing and resolving the signs of burnout in your employees is the first step toward addressing this critical issue. Once identified, it’s crucial to take action promptly.

This may involve restructuring workloads, providing additional resources, offering stress management programs, or promoting a healthier work-life balance. A proactive approach benefits employees’ well-being and fosters a more productive and engaged workforce. These, in turn, provide for the growth and sustainability of the business.



Ron McIntyre

Ron McIntyre is a Leadership Anthropologist, Author, and Consultant, who, in semi-retirement, is looking to help people who really want to make a difference.