Tina Chander: How to use flexible working to combat employee burnout

Burnout – a state of complete exhaustion, physically, mentally and emotionally – is a matter that must be taken seriously. The World Health Organization officially recognises burnout as an issue for employees. Employee burnout is a workplace issue which employers have responsibility to resolve, not an issue for employees to address individually.

There are a variety of reasons employees may feel burnout, including a heavy workload, a lack of support and long working hours, which can leave employees feeling emotionally drained, unable to meet deadlines and generally overwhelmed.

In the always-switched-on culture we are now living in, and with home working becoming more prominent, employers need to be mindful of employees still engaging in correspondence both internally and externally outside their working hours. While this may be necessary in certain circumstances, employers need to be cautious of the additional stress this may cause employees, potentially leading to them experiencing burnout due to an inability to properly take time away from work.

An organisation should, as a starting point to combat burnout arising in the workplace, take a holistic approach and look at its culture and working practices to analyse the pressure it is putting on its employees. Armed with this information, employers can look to improve the working environment, if and where necessary, by reviewing any measures that may be a contributing factor to employee burnout.

An invaluable tool for employers in this regard is a flexible working policy, which can be used to assist employees reach a more suitable work-life balance. Of course, this should be used in conjunction with employers directly addressing any workplace problems areas.

A flexible working policy needs to be open and adaptable to be truly successful in helping employees avoid burnout. Such a policy should be regularly reviewed to ensure the policy is fit for purpose and to establish whether further measures should be taken to circumvent employee burnout.

Tina Chander is head of employment law at law firm Wright Hassall