Preventing Burnout: How to Support Happy Employees


Nicole Nicksic, PhD, MPH
Research Lead

As the pandemic changed our personal and work routines, workplaces are bound to see long-term changes as we start to see more of how life was pre-pandemic. The pandemic may have brought on higher rates of productivity for some corporations, yet at the high price of employee well-being. This level of productivity will likely be temporary, as employees may have been working longer hours, needing and postponing medical and mental health treatment, and finding themselves having burnout.

Burnout, defined as excessive stress caused by the workplace that can lead to exhaustion, mental distancing, and poor performance, and was just officially classified as a syndrome by the World Health Organization in 2019. Employees with burnout can lack motivation or pleasure in their work and cannot deter from feelings of stress and negativity. Annually, stress on the job costs $500 billion in US economy losses in addition to 550 million lost workdays.

As many employees continue to telework or return to the office for the first time, there are several factors - outside of only cutting back long working hours - employers can consider to prevent employee burnout:

Job Description

Defining an employee’s requirements encourages employees to succeed and feel confident in their work. Unclear or continuously changing expectations can increase burnout risk.

Job Control

A sense of autonomy can create excitement during work. Even if an employee is not able to make many creative decisions on their own, there are other ways to give employees a sense of control. For example, allowing employees to telework even long before the pandemic began provides employees with some control over their work, which increased happiness with their jobs and satisfaction in their personal lives.


When communication is lacking, any of these factors can be problematic. Make sure employees can discuss any problems with a trusted manager or human resource associates. Managers should also show compassion towards their employees, encourage social connections in the workplace, and be willing to help and talk to employees who come to them.


Employees should be recognized for their accomplishments, whether through public praise at a team meeting or sending a personal message or email after an employee gives a presentation or finishes a report, for example. Recognizing an employee’s hard work instead of immediately providing criticism, for example, can really boost morale.

Poor Leadership

Leadership is key in all factors that influence employee well-being and burnout. The top reason why employees leave is due to a poor manager. Leadership can make changes that allow employees to feel supported and secure in their positions.

Employee burnout affects the organization as a whole and can diminish employee morale while increasing turnover. Considering making necessary changes to these factors can hopefully support employees as workplace changes occur and prevent a decrease in employee health or productivity.