Why Burnout Happens and How Bosses Can Help

The healthcare industry is one of the most demanding industries to work in, but it also has a lot of rewards. Healthcare professionals see their patients at their worst and are often on call for emergencies. This can lead healthcare professionals to burnout, which will have negative impacts on themselves and those around them.

Burnout happens when employees feel overworked and stressed. This is common in many fields, especially in the healthcare industry. Bosses can help with curbing burnout symptoms for their employees by promoting a work-life balance along with proper rest. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how to deal with burnout as a healthcare boss. Keep reading as we take an introspective look at the causes of burnout and what you can do about it. 

What Is Burnout and Why Does It Happen?

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can occur in healthcare professions.

Burnout typically occurs when employees are overwhelmed by chronic stress or have been in demanding jobs for too long without taking time for rest. 

If left unchecked, it can lead to reduced productivity and lower quality care delivered by healthcare professionals who are no longer energized or passionate about their work. 

Employees who experience burnout can also begin to: 

  • Act unkind when interacting with others at work
  • Become disengaged from their work and lack a sense of accomplishment in what they do each day 
  • Become frustrated or angry more easily, potentially affecting those around them. This can take the form of something like taking out anger towards certain patients, onto other practitioners, colleagues, or staff members
  • Lose interest in healthcare-related topics that once interested them greatly
  • May lose the motivation for personal self-care like exercising and eating healthy. 
  • Overworking oneself without any regard for their health

The worst part about burnout is that it makes you want to give up. Burnout makes you want to stop caring about healthcare, but it is not as simple as that. There are many causes of burnout, which can impact healthcare workers in different ways. 

What Causes Burnout?

Burnout is caused by several things, and healthcare professionals are no exception to these causes.  Some healthcare workers experience burnout because they are not allowed the time to take care of themselves outside of work. At the same time, other workers struggle with low-level feelings that their profession does not matter or has been devalued in society. 

And sometimes burnout simply occurs when healthcare practitioners become too overwhelmed by all the forces at play in healthcare today, such as the following: 

  • Healthcare insurance prices that keep rising
  • Patients who refuse treatment
  • Staffing shortages which cause more stress on those still working
  • Trying to balance life as an employee with family responsibilities
  • Trying to make ends meet as a healthcare professional

These factors can lead healthcare professionals down the path of burnout, and managers need to know how they are contributing. 

Burnout causes are numerous, but there are some possible indicators. Look for causes alongside potential solutions in the following table:

Causes of BurnoutPotential Solutions
Lack of sleepThis may seem obvious, but it is worth noting that lack of enough rest and deep sleep can lead to a feeling of general fatigue during the day, as well as feelings of frustration and insecurity. 
While there are several causes for this (including too much caffeine or alcohol intake), one immediate solution would be trying: Limiting or eliminating alcohol intake not drinking caffeine in the afternoon only sleeping in your bed, do not do any work in the bedroom space removing distractions from the bedroom, setting a bedtime routine, shutting off screens two to three hours before bedtime, using a sleeping app or using a sound machine
Excessive worrying about work outside office hours, including working through lunchIt may seem easy to solve this by just not thinking about work, but that is not always possible.
Here are some other things you can try: Leave the office for lunch and shut off distractions so you can focus on eating mindfullyRemember that taking breaks and having lunch make you more productiveWrite down your worries in a journal and revisit them during your next workday if needed
Feeling dread when going into work due to the stressful or challenging tasks you experience thereWhen you become burned out, any task seems impossibly stressful. One way to combat this feeling is by creating to-do lists. 
Focus on one task at a time. And take breaks as needed before, during, and after completing the tasks. 
This can be especially challenging in healthcare when things can change from day to day, hour to hour even. So, if creating a to-do list does not help, try meditating for a moment between tasks. 
Avoiding social interaction with co-workers and friends out of fear of judgment for looking lazy or unproductiveThis is one of the worst things you can do when you are feeling burned out. Avoiding social interactions makes you feel isolated and can contribute to feelings of depression on top of burnout. 
It may be difficult, but try having an open conversation about how you are feeling with the workload. 
There are always going to be people who will act like everything is fine and they are dealing with the stress perfectly fine. Do not be fooled by this persona. Most of the time, people are not comfortable being completely honest about not doing their best work 100 per cent of the time. 
Try and find people who will match your honesty and can empathize with you. If that fails, see about talking to a therapist.
Feeling like you are constantly not meeting the expectations of your boss, co-workers, and/or clients can lead to disappointment or even depression.This can be an especially difficult feeling if you have always been a top achiever in your career. 
One solution to this is to start a gratitude list. Writing down what you’re grateful for at the end of each workday can help you find joy in what you are doing. 
This list can also help remind you of your successes throughout the day. 
Also, remember, if your boss has not said anything to you about your performance, take that as a good sign. Most managers will intervene early if they notice someone’s work has changed. 
Feeling overwhelmed with responsibility at work and homeThe balance between both spheres is something that many people are trying to find these days to eliminate burnout from their lives.
One simple way you may be able to reduce your responsibilities at work, and home is by asking for help. 
Is there someone else that could be doing the tasks that are giving you high stress?

While the solution to burnout is multifaceted, we did not want you to be unprepared and have no starting point with your employees.  

The healthcare industry has inherent stresses on employees due to high workloads and deadlines, which may be part of the reason why so many healthcare professionals end up becoming burnt out within this field.

Burnout and Healthcare

You may be wondering, as a manager or employee, why the healthcare industry has such high rates of burnout? Well, there are many reasons for burnout being so high in healthcare. Did you know that more than half of all healthcare workers experience burnout at some point during their careers?

Some of the reasons for burnout rates being so high in healthcare include the following:

  • Demanding bosses
  • Heavy patient loads
  • Lack of staff resources
  • Lots of deadlines
  • Stressful workloads

The healthcare industry has inherent stresses on employees due to these things, and the balance between both spheres is something that many people are trying to find to eliminate burnout from their lives.

How Can Bosses Help?

There is so much stacked against our healthcare employees. So, it is our job as managers and bosses to help them in any way we can. This may include telling them to take a break or even be more flexible about their work hours.

It is our job as managers and bosses in healthcare to help our employees decrease burnout symptoms. 

Another way that may help with this issue would be implementing policies, such as flextime, which allows healthcare professionals to have flexible schedules so they can make up lost hours at home if needed on one day and work longer days another day. This can clearly present a challenge for scheduling but can be well worth the creative approach to the solution.

It takes time for the symptoms of burnout to lower a person’s productivity and happiness levels enough so that they are ready to leave their profession altogether. Therefore managers need to be proactive in preventing and recognizing the signs of burnouts before they start affecting an individual on a personal level.

Preventing Burnout in Healthcare Workers

Employees that are burnt out can be a pain point for healthcare managers. It is important to know how you are contributing to their burnout and the best ways to prevent or recognize burnouts before they happen. 

In the following list, we cover many things a healthcare boss can do to prevent burnout in their employees:

  • Call in an expert – Consider inviting an expert from the area of burnout prevention who could provide education and resources for employees about how they might be able to prevent themselves from experiencing this problem.
  • Change company policies as needed – Review company policies regularly, so employees feel more secure in reporting this type of behavior without fear of retaliation. 
  • Change the culture – You want to promote a culture of wellness within the workplace by encouraging healthcare training about mental health issues such as depression and substance abuse. You may want to consider offering a wellness program for healthcare employees which might include different group presentations on topics like stress management or time-management skills.
  • Get feedback – Have employees fill out evaluation forms at the end of each day/shift/month where they can submit questions anonymously. Require feedback from healthcare training on bullying, harassment, discrimination. Ensure that you are promoting an open dialogue with your workers so they feel comfortable speaking up if they experience any problems related to stress or anxiety.
  • Get the right training – Regularly train staff members with new content updates within healthcare industry standards. Encourage healthcare training about burnout prevention for all staff in your organization, including managers and higher-ups. 
  • Promote a work-life balance – Encourage healthcare professionals to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally as well. It is not only about improving physical well-being but also increasing emotional resilience to create a work environment that is supportive and understanding, especially during some very trying times.  
  • Share about burnout – Ensure that other healthcare professionals recognize signs of burnout among employees and managers. Discuss coping strategies for those who experience it. 
  • Talk to your employees – Get to know your employees and ask them what their ideal workweek would be and why. By and large, the best thing to do as a boss in healthcare is to promote open and honest conversations with your employees about job satisfaction and mental health.

Sometimes it is policy changes that must happen for employees to feel comfortable with sharing more personal information in the workplace. Talk with your staff to see if there is anything you can do as a manager that would make their jobs less stressful or help them cope better. 

Also, if your employees are not so comfortable talking with you outright, consider setting up an anonymous suggestion box. 

How Managers Can Help Prevent or Recognize Burnout

Even though healthcare organizations may have their burnout prevention programs, there is also a great need for managers to be aware of how they can help prevent or recognize burnout.

As the manager and leader in your organization, make sure you are providing adequate resources and assistance with the following:

  • Workload delegation
  • Time management skills
  • Brainstorming of creative ideas 
  • Providing ample work breaks

These things will keep employees happy, which are key components to staff retention in healthcare settings where turnover rates continue to rise due to high demands on healthcare professionals by both patients and industry standards. 

How Can Bosses Help Their Employees Avoid Burnout?

Bosses can help prevent or reduce burnout by providing a supportive work environment that encourages employees to take care of themselves in the following ways:

  • Flexible hours – They should offer flexible hours, so people have more control over their schedules. This gives your employees more autonomy in the workplace. 
  • Telecommuting – Allow employees to work from home occasionally as available. Allowing employees to telecommute, especially when they are in the middle of a demanding project, can improve their productivity.
  • Wellness at work – Offer onsite wellness programs like massage therapy or yoga classes as well as access to healthy food choices in the office break room.

While not every boss will be able to implement each of these burnout prevention steps, even just one can have a lasting impact on your employees. 

Ways To Avoid Burnout in the Healthcare Industry 

There are five major ways to avoid burnout in the healthcare industry. It all starts with healthcare bosses and managers taking the time to learn about burnout, understand how it manifests in their organization, and proactively prevent it from happening.

An employee can avoid burnout by doing the following five things:   

  • Define your purpose 
  • Take care of your body 
  • Find a good work-life balance 
  • Learn to say no without guilt or pressure 
  • Set boundaries on the time you put in at work and then enforce them

Burnout will intensify other stressors and make working any amount of time very difficult. As an employer, it is your job to make sure the duties of your team are distributed equally. If you notice an employee heading for burnout, take some time to talk with them. 

The Stages of Burnout in Healthcare

There are stages to burnout, which is understood because burnout manifests as stress gets worse and your employees stop looking after themselves. 

The stages of burnout can be summarized as follows:

  • You are overly ambitious and motivated
  • You continue to work harder while neglecting your needs
  • You begin to withdraw from social encounters at work and outside of work
  • You become angrier and more emotional than normal
  • You begin to feel detached, empty, and anxious
  • You fall into depression
  • Mental and/or physical breakdown results

Although these are the stages of burnout, let’s discuss the warning signs that can be identified before going completely down that path.

Signs Of Burnout & How It Impacts the Employee

There are many signs that you may be experiencing burnout. Most often, it happens in the healthcare industry, especially during very trying times, like the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Burnout can happen to any employee at any time, though. And there are some sure signs of burnout that you and your boss can look out for, including the following:

  • Absenteeism due to illness or injury
  • Decreased motivation for work projects and tasks that used to be fulfilling
  • Decreased productivity
  • Diminished interest in doing anything at all
  • Increased absenteeism 

Burnout can also lead to the following adverse effects: 

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased drug use (medicinal as well as recreational)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Weight gain

Burnout has detrimental impacts on both the individual who is directly affected by burnout and also their family members and those around them. 

You may find your co-workers start avoiding you when they know you are feeling burned out because of how emotionally unstable or unpredictable you may become. 

This can intensify the feelings you are having and lead you to isolate yourself. The healthcare industry is already seeing a high rate of burnout, which only furthers the problem. 

What To Do When You are Feeling Burned Out at Work

Any time you begin feeling burned out, it is important to take a break or incorporate more breaks into your workday. By reducing the stress of your workload by taking some short moments to yourself, you can drastically improve your mood and productivity. 

The following is a list of other things you and your employees can do when you begin to feel burned out:

  • Self-compassion – Practice self-compassion by being kind to oneself, rather than putting themselves down for feeling burnt out. It is okay to feel tired or stressed sometimes – it does not mean that healthcare professionals do not have what it takes to be successful in the field! 
  • Take a break – Step outside once a day (or as often as possible) and take some time for yourself. This is a great way to clear your head from any thoughts about work so that when you come back inside, you can focus on finishing tasks with fresh energy!
  • Look after yourself first – Take care of yourself by making sure you are eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep each night.
  • Take the weekend off – This can be a big help for people who work in high-pressure jobs that do not have much room to take time off during the weekdays. 
  • Talk to your boss – Ask your boss if they are willing to look at how you are doing and what you may need more of or less of so that it is easier for you to manage on your own without as many interruptions from them! 

The most important thing healthcare leaders can do is make burnout prevention one of their top priorities. By checking in with your employees regularly and getting their honest feelings, you can help guide them to the resources they need and assist in helping prevent them from experiencing burnout. 

It is not easy to recover from burnout, which is why so many industries need to work to prevent it from happening. 

If you have passed the point where prevention methods will help, then these are the steps you can have your employee can follow when you discuss burnout is in the early stages:

  • Have a candid conversation about the problem with your employee
  • Set boundaries and learn how to say no when appropriate. Your employee should be able to come to you for help but remember to set boundaries while being flexible. It takes compassion and empathy not only from your employee but also from you!
  • Talk about the possibilities of changing or rearranging responsibilities for a while. This may be difficult if you are in a small private practice with only a small number of employees, but it is worth trying! Sometimes changing what we have to do can make a big difference.

Additionally, you must also make recovering from burnout a top priority. But many of the techniques you put into place to prevent it can be used to help an employee recover from burnout. 

Tips For Preventing Stress & Anxiety from Burnout

Employees should also do what they can to avoid burning out at work by taking some simple steps such as getting plenty of rest before going into work, eating healthfully, exercising regularly, and setting boundaries with co-workers who might be draining their energy. The same goes for managers and bosses. 

The following list is things you can do to help combat burnout in your own life:

  • Ask colleagues about their feelings without feeling too concerned about how the conversation may turn out
  • Ask for input from friends about how they are doing without worrying too much about what their response will reveal. You might discover things that could help you avoid feeling burned out at work.
  • Do not answer texts during dinner or other important family moments
  • Do not overload on responsibilities outside of work like this too can lead to higher stress levels and exhaustion
  • Focus on what makes you happy at work
  • Get plenty of sleep each night
  • Keep yourself busy with hobbies or activities that make you happy
  • Make sure there are clear and achievable goals in your work
  • Make time each day to check in with yourself
  • Schedule activities during the week after work
  • Schedule some time during the day or week for personal projects 
  • Take at least one day off a week from social media and any other electronics 
  • Try not to pile on more responsibilities as they arise or before finishing others 
  • Try to take vacations periodically, even if it is just for a weekend. It can be refreshing and give you time to socialize with family and friends.

Burnout can be very hard to overcome. But by using these tips, hopefully, you can combat burnout and even try to prevent burnout from happening in the future.

In Summary: Burnout is Real, and Bosses Can Help

Burnout is a real and dangerous thing that can impact individuals, families, and organizations. The warning signs are not always clear, and the effects of burnout on an individual vary depending upon what led up to it. 

Managers should look out for changes in an individual’s behaviour and mood, working hours, physical appearance, and relationships with co-workers or patients. Managers need to be aware of the warning signs to prevent burnout from happening. And for you to know how to best help their employees recover and avoid future cases of burnout.

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. HealthWorkerBurnout.com disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article. 

Copyright Notice

These works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world. We grant to you a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, revocable licence to view these works, to copy and store these works and to print pages of these works for your own personal and non-commercial use. You may not reproduce in any format any part of the works without our prior written consent.  

Copyright © 2022 HealthWorkerBurnout.com