Addressing Burnout as Employees Return to the Office  

Dr. Kristyn Gregory

| 3 min read

Dr. Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral...

A person walks next to another person in a wheelchair in an office
It is a scene that is happening with more frequency each week: Employees who for more than a year have been working remotely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are now returning to offices big and small across the state. Workers who learned to master Zoom meetings, video chats and more documents shared by email than likely anytime in their professional careers are now trying to get back into their 9-to-5 routine as they transition into a professional setting. While this may seem like an exciting or welcome change to some people, others may struggle with this switch to either a full-time return to the workplace or a hybrid schedule. As managers, it is important to be on the lookout for signs of burnout as employees return to the office.

How to identify employee burnout

While not a clinical medical diagnosis that’s handed down by a healthcare provider, work-related burnout is described as a feeling of stress and exhaustion. It’s linked to a person’s job that can have very real mental and physical side effects. Here are some of the health conditions that feelings of burnout can contribute to, according to the Mayo Clinic:
  • Insomnia
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Irritability
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Substance abuse
Here are some signs an employee might be battling burnout:
  • They seem to lack energy
  • They are not consistently productive on the job
  • They find it hard to concentrate
  • They become noticeably impatient with co-workers or clients
  • They seem to be overly cynical or critical of others
  • They complain of having headaches, stomach problems or insomnia

How employers can help

While employers cannot ask their workers probing health questions, they can take actions to try to lessen the workload on employees they suspect might be struggling with stress. Here are some options:
  • If an employee appears to have trouble finding a work-life balance, managers can offer to scale back on the workload temporarily.
  • Employers should watch their messaging to ensure they are not suggesting people work longer hours than the regular workday.

How to find help

If an individual feels that they’re experiencing burnout at work, it’s important to take action to protect their mental health. Here are some ways to help reduce stress at home: 
  • Try activities like yoga, meditation or tai chi to relax and reduce stress
  • Incorporate regular physical activity into daily routines
  • Establish a wind-down routine to prioritize sleep
At work, employees can try discussing their feelings of burnout with their supervisor to establish strategies or find solutions. Setting small, attainable goals while triaging work responsibilities can help to lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed. Ask for advice from coworkers, friends or family as well. Some employers may offer resources through an employee assistance program.  Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
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MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association