5 symptoms of workplace burnout: How to spot the signs

What is burnout at work?

Simply put, workplace burnout is mental exhaustion caused by working in a stressful environment. If you feel burnt out at work, you’re not alone. A global study by McKinsey conducted in 2022 found that one in four employees surveyed across various demographics suffered from workplace burnout.  

Many factors lead to workplace burnout, such as heavy workloads, working long hours, having a poor work-life balance, and having little control in the workplace. These factors can cause chronic stress, leading to physical and emotional fatigue that negatively affects employees’ work and personal lives. 

But how can you identify if your employee is burnt out at work?

This article will list the most common symptoms of workplace burnout and will tell you what you can do to alleviate them. 

5 Symptoms of workplace burnout

5 symptoms of burnout in the workplace

1) Physical and mental exhaustion

A telltale sign of burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion. If you notice that your once spritely and passionate employee suddenly looks tired and overwhelmed, starts taking more sick days than average and has trouble focusing on their work, then have a friendly chat with them. 

When an employee is in this state, it’s very important to show compassion and make them feel safe to discuss what’s bothering them. Their burnout could be caused by a huge workload that can be delegated to others for a while.

People suffering from burnout also tend to develop physical health issues. To help them recover, you can devise a plan to lessen their workload and even politely suggest they visit their doctor to discuss their problems, such as insomnia and lack of appetite. You can even offer them some sick leave if you’re in the position to do so.

2) Withdrawal from work related-activities

Some people like socialising with their colleagues, and some like keeping their work and private life separate. However, if you see a previously happy and social employee continuously rejecting invites to after-work drinks, staying silent in meetings or even looking uncomfortable at small office events such as a 30-minute break to celebrate an employee’s birthday, they might be suffering from burnout. People suffering from burnout can enter a fight or flight state and often avoid social time to carry on working for fear of not getting enough done. 

If you see an employee typing away while the rest of the group is having fun and bonding, tell them it’s okay to step away from the computer and enjoy 30 minutes of fun to recharge their batteries.

3) Decreased productivity

Burnout makes workers less productive and less effective at their jobs. As a result, they’ll likely produce poorer work. They may find it difficult to finish projects on time or maintain organisation. Additionally, they can make more errors than normal, which could further damage their motivation and self-esteem.

If you see a productive employee’s battery running flat, ask them how you and your team can help them with their workload. They might feel guilty about asking for help, so remind them that everyone sometimes needs some help. 

4) A negative attitude

We all have bad days at work, but an employee suffering from burnout might go weeks or months feeling moody, irritated and frustrated. Unfortunately, studies show that negativity in the workplace can be contagious. 

An employee with a negative attitude caused by burnout is more likely to get into conflicts with their teammates, so it’s best to check in with an unhappy employee and find the root cause of the problem.

5) Low motivation 

Chronic and excessive stress leads to burnout, leading to low motivation. Employees suffering from low motivation are often easily overwhelmed, might neglect their physical health, lose the drive they once had and often procrastinate. 

Managers must be careful not to confuse low motivation with laziness or complacency. For a burnt-out employee, low motivation is a sign that their body and mind need rest. 

How to bounce back from workplace burnout

Most managers have heavy workloads, so it’s not uncommon for them not to notice that their employees are suffering from burnout. If you or one of your teammates is suffering from burnout, don’t be afraid to talk about it with your manager or the HR department.

Remember, burnout is considered a medical condition, so you should always discuss your feelings with your doctor just to be safe. You might also find these tips useful for starting your recovery.

Acknowledge that you’re burnt out.

There’s no shame in suffering from burnout. In the last two years, a whopping 88% of Britons reported feeling some level of burnout. In the U.S., many Americans reported feeling more burnt out now than they did at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.    

Ask for help

Asking for help is the best thing you can do for your mental health. Moreover, sharing your worries with HR or management will give them a better understanding of why the standard of your work has dropped and why you don’t look happy at work. If you don’t share what’s holding you back, management might think you don’t care about your job rather than see that you simply need a break.  

Take some time off

Removing yourself from a stressful situation for a few weeks will help you recharge and get back to work, fighting fit and ready to give it your all. Your doctor might even find it appropriate to sign you off work for a while so you can regain your confidence and energy.

The bottom line

There are many reasons people feel burnt out at work, ranging from issues in their personal life to feeling overworked or simply not finding any joy or meaning in their work anymore. 

If you feel that your burnout stems from feeling unhappy with your job, remember the old English proverb: A change is as good as a rest. If you feel you need a change, check out some of the open positions on our job board or try one of our free personality assessments and kickstart your career change now.


Isn’t it time that your company gets the tools to hire the best?

Get in touch with our sales to learn all about our solutions.


Would you like to have our content delivered to your feed? Follow us in your favorite channel!

Or subscribe to our newsletter
Find your Soft Skills
Let's Go!
Want to check out a sample report to see what Clevry can uncover?