How to stop office burnout in its tracks

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has unexpectedly resigned, saying she doesn’t have ‘enough in the tank to do [the job] justice’. And while most of us aren’t making decisions on the same level as Ardern, this type of office burnout is something lots of us will face. So what can employers do to avoid burnout before it becomes a problem?

According to recent research from Westfield Health, almost half (46%) of UK workers are close to burnout. While some of this might be due to a shift in working priorities post-COVID, it’s still a really worrying statistic.

What’s office burnout? 

A specific type of long-term workplace stress which leaves people in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Recognised by the World Health Organisation in 2019 as an official diagnosis, anyone can suffer from it – even highly engaged and top-performing employees. Unlike short-term workplace stress that’s usually associated with pressure, urgency and anxiety, burnout is linked to emotions including hopelessness, helplessness or indifference.

Burnout also influences employee engagement levels. It can alter the connection people feel with their job and the sense of satisfaction they get from achieving goals. It can also have a knock-on effect in teams and create a challenging workplace.

How to spot burnout

Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • noticeable negative changes in someone’s behaviour or attitude to work
  • irritability and cynicism, or a short temper
  • a lack of motivation, energy and interest, and trouble focusing
  • isolation from colleagues and team-mates
  • difficulty completing straightforward tasks, and making more mistakes.


Burnout can creep up slowly, and employees suffering from it might not even realise until it’s too late. So it’s vital that both managers and colleagues know what to look out for, and cultivate and maintain a culture that’s good for mental health. Here are our tips for keeping burnout at bay.

1. Have open conversations

Encourage employees and managers to have positive conversations if they notice a change in themselves or someone else. Ultimately, people are most at risk of burnout when they feel isolated or unsupported. So it’s vital that they feel able to ask for help.

You should also make sure your people know what’s expected of them. Don’t let anyone struggle with a workload that’s bigger than it should be.

2. Train people to spot the signs

Give managers formal training on how to spot the signs of burnout, and what to do if they think someone needs help (whether or not they ask for it).

3. Take action

There are lots of things you can do to help someone on the verge of burnout. It might be as easy as reorganising work demands for a certain period of time, changing working arrangements to be more flexible, or helping people work more sensible hours.

4. Have wellbeing services in place

Wellbeing services are a vital weapon in the fight against burnout. At Pure we have mental-health first aiders who we’ve trained to identify, understand and help those who might be experiencing burnout or other mental health issues.

Employee assistance programmes are another great tool. These are free, confidential services that help employees and their families deal with issues both at home and at work.

5. Check your culture

If lots of your employees are suffering from burnout, you might need to investigate if there’s a bigger problem at your workplace. Do you need to be more flexible or communicative? Is your culture making it hard for people to share their concerns? Have a look at this article to find out more about creating a positive workplace culture.

Want to understand how your employees are feeling?

If you’d like to find out how engaged your employees are with your business, and if there are any places you could improve, Best Employers Eastern Region could be for you. Find out more.

Our consultants are also experts on culture strategies – get in touch to see how we can help.

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Written by

Judith Pugh

Judith joined Pure in 2017 and is responsible for marketing the business, building our marketing strategy and delivering campaigns. Judith’s worked in marketing for more than 20 years across a range of industries – from health and fitness, horticulture, GIS software, education and now recruitment.

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