Sunburn to Burn-Out? How to Spot When Your Team Is Struggling

by Quan on October 19, 2021

Counting down to Christmas before the summer sunburn fades? Signs of burn-out in your team – and how to turn things around.

spotting-burnout

Original photo by Erlend Ekseth on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again. 

Those long, awkward months wedged between fading memories of summer holidays and impatient countdown for the Christmas break. A break that never lasts long enough anyway – two-or-so weeks whizzing past in a blur, before you’re back at your desk needing another holiday to recover from your holiday.  

And then you do it all again. Long, awkward months stretching forwards to the Easter break; the odd bank holiday weekend; your summer holidays. Rinse. Repeat. 

It doesn’t have to be like that. 

But the stats show it probably is, for many of your team. Maybe for most. Maybe for you too. 

Burn-out has been a crisis for years. Back in 2018, Gallup found that 67% of adults experience burn-out at work. And now, after the stress and upheaval of a global pandemic, that’s leapt to 74%. 

Too many of us crash from holiday to holiday, never truly feeling rested and barely holding burn-out at bay. 

Change starts with identifying the problem. Then you can pinpoint the right steps for recovery, helping individuals take control from a self-care perspective and on an organizational level through relevant, targeted, and effective team well-being support.  

Let’s talk about some warning signs people in your team might be burning out, and what you can do about it.

Warning signs for burn-out in your team 

Here’s what you might spot, if burn-out is creeping up on your team. 

  • Friction between team members. Some conflict can be beneficial, inspiring creativity and overcoming challenges, but there’s a tipping point where constructive becomes destructive; when ‘yes, and…’ becomes ‘no, but…’. If your team used to play well together but now seem to be struggling to get along, burn-out could be the reason.

  • Missed deadlines. Missed deadlines happen. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, or outside your team’s control. And we’re all human. But if you start to notice the frequency increasing, it could be a sign people on your team are struggling with stress, disengagement, or burn-out.

  • Sub-par work. It’s normal for work to occasionally miss the mark – especially if your team often work on new or challenging projects. But there’ll almost always be evidence of effort; of taking the wrong road on a crossroads; of a challenge that derailed progress. If you’re seeing sub-par work without good reason, burn-out could be your answer.

  • Bare minimum-itis. If someone on your team comes down with bare minimum-itis, it can be extremely hard to put your finger on what’s wrong. They do just enough. They arrive on time; attend mandatory meetings; are civil and polite; take exactly an hour’s lunch; and so on. But their heart isn’t in it. They never volunteer for extra responsibility; never go the extra mile. It’s burn-out talking.

  • Difficultness. The ideal team member is high performance and low maintenance. But when someone’s struggling with burn-out, the order is often reversed. Previously straightforward, likeable team members who try hard, value input, and learn fast become difficult. Complaining, inflexible, and short-tempered maybe. Or equally, self-conscious, insecure, extremely sensitive. Either way, it’s not ideal from a productivity or team morale perspective.

  • Poor work-life balance. Work-life balance doesn’t necessarily mean a perfect harmony of work and life 100% of the time; it can mean working more one week, then living more the next. But it should roughly balance out, eventually. If your team are consistently not taking PTO, working late and weekends, eating at their desks, that’s a major red flag they’re not engaging with the right self-care to avoid burn-out.

  • Discontent at home. Burn-out doesn’t always manifest at work, but that doesn’t mean burn-out isn’t happening. It might be someone absolutely loves what they do, finds their work super meaningful, loves being part of the team – but can’t switch off at home. Is a great employee but struggles with the role of partner; parent; friend. Those things mightn’t be your responsibility but they’ll become your burden, if burn-out continues.

  • Increased absenteeism. This is what happens if the previous signs on this list go untreated for too long. Employees mightn’t feel comfortable asking for help and it’s easy to miss the signs someone needs support – until that person starts to take more unplanned absences. The earlier you catch burn-out, the shorter the road to recovery.

  • High quit rates. Some turnover can be positive and is certainly expected. But the end game for burn-out that’s left unchecked is skyrocketing quit rates that become increasingly hard to reverse. Motivation and morale decline; team members pick up more slack; frustration and resentment build; soon your team culture has been terminally eroded. 

Let’s talk about how you can fix it. Or, more important, how you can support and empower your people to fix it for themselves. 

Empowering self-care for faster recovery from burn-out  

We’re not going to give you a list of actions to resolve burn-out, like increasing check-in frequency, creating team socialising opportunities, or petitioning upwards for yoga sessions.

Such things can be part of the solution but they’re jumping the gun. Burn-out is such a perennial issue because it has deep, complex roots. A million-and-one actions might help but it’s hard to pinpoint what’ll be most useful, to target support. Not least because mental health stigmas can stop people asking for help when they need it, so you’re often working from best guesses. 

The result is often a spray-and-pray approach to well-being that’s usually ineffective.   Such initiatives waste time you don’t have and worse, sap employees’ confidence in your ability to support them – making their asking for help next time less likely. 

To drive meaningful action on well-being you need to understand exactly how and where burn-out is manifesting, at an individual and team level. 

If you’re starting to notice any of the signs we’ve been talking about, be proactive about approaching team members and invite honest conversation. 

Your own willingness to be open and vulnerable is likely to open doors here. Vulnerability is one of the core tenets of connection – and a core tenet of successful leadership, actively driving better team performance outcomes. It’s also something people leaders tend to struggle with, with only 39% of respondents to a 12,000-person survey saying their manager was often or always open and 24% saying the same about vulnerability.

Having data to guide these conversations is also invaluable, steering the conversation away from platitudes and spurring meaningful discussion. 

That’s the principle behind our scientifically developed digital well-being platform. We know most managers don’t have enough hours in the day to offer the high-touch support you’d like, especially when burn-out is gearing into overdrive. 

Quan’s platform gives team members individual self-care plans based on granular scientific self-assessment data, so they can take ownership over their own recovery irrespective of whether they’re ready to ask for help. It also empowers you with the team-level insights you need to have open conversations about well-being with your team and together prioritize action where it’s needed. 

Quan helps you effortlessly prioritize your team’s well-being, without being heavy handed or demanding endless hours you don’t have. Book a short demo to see for yourself.

Topics: Burnout, Leadership