We hear the term ‘burnout’ a lot in the news and on social media. But what is burnout? How can we recognise if an employee has hit burnout? And as employers, what can you do to support an employee who is facing burnout?

There are many ways that Avon LMC can assist our member Practices when dealing with an employee who is facing burnout. We have a team of HR professionals who are all CIPD qualified. Each one could provide you with guidance and support on what strategies you can adopt to manage an employee facing burnout. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0117 970 2755 on this topic or any other concerns you may have relating to your employees.

We have an Occupational Health scheme, which Practices can access. This provides support such a counselling for employees facing burnout. If this is something you would like more information on, please contact Pauline at pauline@almc.co.uk.

Practices and their employees can access GP Safe House. This offers practical guidance on burnout, what the signs are and how to manage it. Users can also have access to a therapist via the COPE scheme. The service is 100% confidential. For more information on this or to gain access to GP Safe House, please contact Cathy at catherine@almc.co.uk

So what is burnout?

The dictionary definition of burnout is, ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress’. Burnout can present in many different forms.

What are the signs?

Emotional or physical exhaustion – this can present as fatigue, physical pains such as chest pains. Employees may have a loss of appetite or be experiencing anxiety or depression.

Cynicism and detachment – employees may start to detach themselves from their work. They may start calling in sick more frequently or coming in late. You may notice them become more isolated from their team and develop a general pessimistic view on themselves and what they do.

Ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment – employees may start to feel apathetic about their work. They may start to feel that everything is going wrong and that there is just no point in trying anymore.

Burnout is unfortunately becoming ever more common in the workplace, especially as we now find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. Working in General Practice has never been so pressurised and stressful. Prior to the pandemic, General Practice was already under huge strain. With ever growing workload issues and a national recruitment crisis. These issues are creating a culture of burnout in General Practice.

What are the causes?

There are a number of causes of burnout and this list is not exhaustive:

  • Excessive workload – feeling overwhelmed and pressured by how much there is to undertake can cause serious stress, and in time, burnout.
  • Unclear expectations – when employees don’t know what is expected of them or what they are responsible for. This may be ever more prevalent today with issues in recruiting, increased workload and an increase in absences due to corona virus. Employers expect the team to pitch in, but they also have to be clear on what is required of their staff.
  • Lack of support from managers – if employees don’t feel supported by their managers, or that they can’t turn to them at a time when they face issues in their role. They may be worried that they will be punished in some way if they face a crisis.
  • Lack of control – when employees feel that they don’t have any control over their work, what they do, when, and how they do it.

How can employers support someone facing Burnout?

When you have an employee who is facing burnout it is important to work together, to find a way forward:

  • Build a plan together – ask the employee how you can help them through this, ask the employee what steps they will be taking themselves to rectify the situation and finally what can be done in the future to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
  • their job expectations – one of the biggest impacts of burnout is that the individual loses all confidence in their abilities. Work with them to decide what are reasonable expectations in order to help them recover. This may involve reducing responsibilities to help reduce the stress they are exposed to. However it is important to stress that these alterations are to help the recovery, they aren’t necessarily permanent alterations.
  • As an employer you may need to provide ongoing support for this individual. With burnout comes stigma. People feel ashamed that they have been unable to cope. It is important that there is somewhere to turn for individuals, someone they can talk to. That person could be their direct line manager, or you could discuss with them about establishing a buddy system with one of their peers. This could be someone in Practice or an individual external to the Practice.

It is important to stress that each individual case is different and getting some advice and guidance on how to manage an individual who is facing burnout is really important. As covered in the introduction, Avon LMC have a team of individuals qualified to advise and guide Practices on how to effectively support and manage individuals who are facing burnout. Please call us on 0117 970 2755 if you was some support.

Written by Amy Gapare, Director of Business Services