Global employment guides

How to Recognize the Signs of Employee Burnout

Published on:
December 20, 2022
Written by:
Lucas Botzen

With the shift from the traditional office setup to a work-from-home setting, employees are now more likely to experience burnout. While others may think that working from home is just about employees working on cozy clothes, without the pressure of running late to work or the hassle of commuting, with more time to run other errands, for some employees, the work-from-home setup is an absolute nightmare. For them, this setup makes it hard, even impossible, to set a clear boundary between work and life, therefore prompting more and more problems for the employee.

Table of contents

In an article published by the Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC) (2020), it is revealed that more than two-thirds (69%) of employees are showing burnout symptoms, which adversely affects the overall productivity and performance of their companies. At this point, it is true that it is almost inevitable for anyone to feel exhausted after doing a certain task, albeit a simple one. 

Before we delve deeper into the other aspects, let us first define “burnout”. According to, burnout is “the state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion imposed by too much and prolonged stress. It commonly occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet work and life demands”.

Here are common signs you need to watch for to avoid employee burnout:

Feeling Drained Emotionally, Mentally, and Physically

Burnout is not just about being tired. In fact, this is a misconception that often leads employees to overwork and ultimately disregard their mental health. Burnout also causes repetitive signs of physical and mental conditions such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, cognitive declines, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and in some cases, death if professional help is not sought.

If you do not feel any form of exhaustion when you wake up in the morning and still feel the motivation to accomplish a task, then nothing is wrong. This is a manifestation that you are doing well relative to the present circumstances. . Whereas if you feel drained, exhausted, anxious, depressed almost every morning while also struggling to sleep at night, this may be a sign for you to try to look after yourself more. 

Employees experiencing exhaustion are unmotivated and unable to focus on their tasks. In a more scientific explanation, the chronic stress that leads to burnout affects the functioning of the brain. This can result in the inability to learn, think, reason, and focus. Additionally, Ashley Stahl, a contributor/writer at Forbes, believed that working under a state of stress puts our brains into “survival mode,” which could impair ambition and responsibility. 

What do you need to do? Engage in creative activities.

Aside from reminding yourself about how passionate you are in doing your job every day, engaging in creative activities and practices should also help you recover from burnout. For instance, you can try to take a break and explore the wonders of digital photography, dance therapy, bibliotherapy, horticulture, and gardening, and a plethora of other hobbies. 

Inability to Detach Yourself From Work 

Burnout can happen for a number of reasons. The list starts with factors like work-life imbalance, unrealistic work expectations, emotionally and physically draining tasks, too many job responsibilities, an unhealthy and toxic working environment, and many other reasons. A study says that 75 percent of people whether students or professionals experience burnout. Similarly, the isolation brought about by the remote working setup has caused 40 percent of workers to experience burnout amid the pandemic, according to a review by Well Right. 

When you find yourself avoiding people, this could mean you are already experiencing employee burnout. At work, some early warnings include frequent absences in company meetings, saying no to new projects, or even having no energy to reply to phone calls and emails. Noticing these instances is crucial as your performance at work may potentially be affected. 

You may not notice it but the work-from-home setup actually increases your working hours, which can ultimately exacerbate your struggles in personal, social, and work settings. Ashforth et al. (2000) argued in their paper “All in A Day’s Work: Boundaries and Micro Role Transitions” that experiencing physical and social change indicators results in an established boundary between your personal and professional life. This is why as an employee, you need to ensure that your work life is not crossing the line to your personal life. Maintaining this balance is very vital to your mental health. 

What do you need to do? Work as if you are in an office. 

Working from home provides you the freedom to accomplish your tasks at your own pace. However, there is a high tendency for you to overwork in such a flexible setup. Setting working hours and wearing your company uniforms are some of the many ways you can work as if you are at your office. In this way, you would know when to stop working and when to spend quality time with yourself or your family. 

Isolation or Becoming Distant to Others

Interestingly, employee burnout does not take place and develop overnight. It is an amalgamation of concepts like stress, anxiety, depression, and others. It also treads warily, which makes it fortunate for employees in particular as this allows them to look for the signs and address the warnings before the condition worsens.

It is a fact that introverted employees are more comfortable working on their own, while extroverted ones have the energy to work with others. Nevertheless, whether you are introverted or extroverted, you may feel isolated and distant from other people for some reason. Prolonged isolation is not normal and can be considered a sign of employee burnout. It has also become more difficult and challenging for you to determine if you are consciously or unconsciously isolating yourself from others since no one will notice it. 

The Director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Steve Cole, mentioned that having no sense of community and connection with others changes one’s perception of the world, which leads one to develop trust issues and feel threatened most of the time as active defense mechanisms. Additionally, Tulane explained in their blog site that mental and physical health are interrelated. An isolated person can experience some adverse health consequences; namely, sleeplessness,  weakened immune function, among others. Most importantly, loneliness can result in anxiety, high suicide rates, and depression. 

What do you need to do? Reach out to others when you need help. 

It only takes seconds to message anyone you trust and ask for help from them. If you feel burnt out, do not attempt to isolate yourself. It is now more than ever more important to stay connected with your colleagues, friends, and family members wherever you are and ensure that you have a solid emotional support system that will be there when you need them.

Irritation and Higher Sensitivity 

Receiving feedback from your boss, team leaders, and colleagues is part of being an employee. It helps you understand better and do your job better. However, when you become irritated often and start taking criticisms and feedback more personally, this may be a sign that you are already burnt out. Being more sensitive at work is often correlated to an increase in defensiveness, waves of anger, and other signs of stress.

What do you need to do? Remember that It is not always about you. 

When you become overly sensitive, you tend to take everything personally. Avoid assuming that perceived slights and criticisms are all about you. Criticisms are always inherent in any workplace, and can even be a source of inspiration. People also often say bad things out of anger or stress. Keep in mind that what they say does not necessarily define who you are. 

Loss of Appetite and Insomnia

According to Psychology Today, in the early stages of burnout, one will feel hungry more often or will skip their meals as a sign of a loss in appetite. If this is not addressed, complications such as a complete loss of appetite and unhealthy weight loss are probable in the later stages of burnout. 

Similarly, insomnia is also a sign of employee burnout. It may take place only one or a few nights every week. It may be difficult for you to fall asleep even though you feel tired. In some cases, you will fall asleep easily but this is often interrupted in the middle of the night. 

What do you need to do? Recognize early warning signs of burnout. 

Most employees tend to disregard the early warning signs of burnout because they could be more focused on earning or taking advantage of promotion opportunities. Do not allow yourself to go beyond this breaking point. As mentioned above, insomnia and loss of appetite happen mostly during the early stages. Hence, you can prevent it by not trying to push yourself through exhaustion. 

A career is just one part of life. Do not let it dominate your whole personal life. There will always be things that are beyond our control, and not worrying too much about them is one of the many solutions to maintain our well-being.

Get in touch to know more

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Download our global hiring guide for free
Ready to get started?
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Insights from the Blog

Hire anyone, anywhere
Ready to get started?