How to tell if your employees are facing burnout and 10 tips to prevent it

  • October 13, 2021

How real is burnout in the finance sector?

In 2019, ‘burnout’ was officially recognised as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organisation. The charity Mental Health UK defines it as “a state of physical and emotional exhaustion which can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.”

Research from healthcare provider Benenden Health found that over 60 percent of managers in the finance sector have experienced burnout at work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and 25 percent have even considered quitting. This is supported by Google search data showing that the number of searches for ‘signs of burnout’ has increased by an average of 41% year-on-year since 2017. A recent Deloitte report even calculated that poor mental health is costing UK employers up to £45bn a year.

Recognised as it may be, few organisations are equipped to appropriately manage burnout when it arises, meaning the finance sector is facing something of a mental wellbeing crisis that’s set to have a significant knock-on effect on culture, retention and overall performance.

What is driving burnout in the finance department?

For the past few months, budgets have been tight and teams reduced due to sickness, self-isolation and factors like the ‘pingdemic’ (where the NHS Covid-19 app was asking people to isolate after coming into contact with those who’ve tested positive). This meant people were finding themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads. A study by Stanford University found that people who’d switched to remote working were putting 35 percent of the time saved from commuting towards longer hours at work. As finance is very much a deadline-driven function, it’s easy to see how employees can slip into unhealthy patterns.  

Exposure to prolonged periods of working in isolation causes our levels of resilience to fall. Not only does this decline in mental wellbeing impact the individual, but it risks leaving organisations open to costly errors and slippages.

What are the warning signs that your employees are facing burnout?

Burnout usually manifests (on an individual or group level) as reduced productivity, an increase in general negativity and in the number of sick days taken. At a higher level it will also be reflected in increased staff turnover.

What are the impacts of burnout on organisations?

Companies who do not address these challenges are at risk of losing good people and may struggle to attract fresh talent. This year, for example, a group of Goldman Sachs analysts publicly stated that they were unlikely to stay at the bank or recommend it to others if working conditions did not improve. Talented people with in-demand skills have plenty of options at their disposal in today’s candidate-driven market.

How can you prevent staff burnout in your finance department?

Here are 10 ways you can protect your employees from burnout:

  1. Lead by example: The leadership team needs role models who normalise prioritising their own mental wellbeing. Being candid about the reasons for being unavailable at a given time when they may need to regroup or recharge, creates a safe space for employees to follow suit. 
  2. Maintain close relationships with your employees: Communication can help prevent those initial feelings of pressure, anxiety or demotivation from becoming mental health problems such as burnout. The sooner a manager is aware of a problem through regular 1-2-1s, the sooner they can act.
  3. Consider mental health first aid training: Having dedicated mental health ‘first aiders’ within your organisation can help to equip managers with the tools to spot the signs or triggers of burnout and put preventative measures in place.
  4. Ringfence recovery time: Consider introducing policies such as turning off email servers outside of working hours, or agreeing not to book meetings between 12pm and 2pm to help safeguard valuable recovery time.
  5. Promote the use of annual leave: Encourage employees to take all their annual leave allowance each year and have regular time off. A refreshed workforce fosters a healthier work environment.  
  6. Encourage regular exercise: Even a brisk 10-minute walk can have a real impact on mood and motivation. Getting away from your desk to exercise in the fresh air has a direct link to increased productivity.
  7. Encourage quitting unhealthy habits: Poor diet, smoking and excessive drinking all have a major impact on stress levels. In fact, a recent study found that quitting smoking made immediate positive improvements to mental health after four weeks.
  8. Promote time away from desks: A five-minute desk break every hour can reduce the risk of injury, refocus the mind and break the monotony of both home and office working.
  9. Promote mental health days: Fostering a workplace culture where people don’t feel guilty for occasionally asking for a mental health day will help alleviate longer-term stress and ensure employees feel supported.
  10. Set up routine catch-ups with the team: With a large number of employees now working from home, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open to maintain the social element of being at work. This reduces the feeling of isolation and has a positive impact on well-being.

In building a happy, healthy and productive workforce, consider the ways that your operations will need to change as restrictions ease, ensuring that employee wellbeing is at the forefront of these conversations.

How can Morgan Law help you with your recruitment and retention strategy?

With an ever-changing climate in finance right now, leaders need to find the right recruiting partner to navigate potential staff shortages.

At Morgan Law our experienced consultants understand the complexity of the finance function and the need for multi-skilled candidates. Specialists in their field, they are committed to delivering high levels of service, and acting with honesty and integrity throughout the process.

Get in touch with one of our finance specialists to find out how we could help you.