Preventing staff burnout – World Mental Health Day


Heavy workloads, constant interruptions, always-on mentality and unfavourable work-life balance are taking a toll on many employees globally, which in turn can affect companies’ productivity. Many organisations are experiencing the rise of workplace-induced stress, which – left unaddressed – can result in mental health issues for many across Australia.

In 2019, the World Health Organisation re-labelled Burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” to reflect that burnout is a work-based syndrome caused by chronic stress which leads to exhaustion, negativity towards a job, and a reduction of work performance. In a recent study, Heads Up found that one in five Australian employees have taken time off work due to feeling mentally unwell.


Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half Australia, says “Businesses are often in a position to take action on an organisational level to mitigate the drivers of stress that can contribute to burnout. In particular, implementing organisational changes such as managing employee morale, regulating workloads, or ensuring manageable working hours are enforced, as well as developing the appropriate support mechanisms for colleagues on an individual basis should all be high priority goals for every business.”


In light of World Mental Health Day, October 10, specialised recruiter Robert Half has prepared four tips for organisations to help manage burnout in the workplace:

1.     Train managers to identify and address the stress drivers and mental health needs of staff

The triggers that drive workplace stress and burnout differ from employee to employee, so creating a space for early identification and response are important to help ease or change the situation. Managers are well-positioned to identify and act on mental health worries amongst their team, yet many are not appropriately trained to identify and address emotional distress in the workplace.

Investing in education for managers around mental health can help them to be aware of what contributes to a positive working culture, as well as provide a tool kit of identification, communication, and remedial strategies to assist employees who may display symptoms of increased stress.

2.     Provide support channels for employees

Mental health is often a taboo subject in the workplace so it is important to openly address the issue. Set time aside to talk to employees. By talking about mental health, organisations may find that employees are more likely to come forward to share their experience with mental illness. It’s also important to educate them on the support services available to them to address such issues.

Many companies today are implementing formal employee assistance programs. Providing a confidential pathway via the provision of a third-party that provides confidential counselling and psychological services can meaningfully aide in the preventative and proactive interventions for individual employees and their immediate family members.

3.     Invest in wellbeing initiatives that aide work-life balance

Employees consistently cite work-life balance as one of the most valuable aspects of their organisation’s culture. Respecting the obligations and interests that occupy workers outside of the office, and helping employees take care of themselves onsite, can help prevent burnout at work.

From supplying free fruit to offering discounted gym memberships, time off for counselling, additional leave for mental health or ‘doona’ days, or creating a social club, there are lots of ways to promote wellbeing in the workplace. Ask employees which wellbeing initiatives would make the biggest difference to their mental health and work-life balance, and implement wherever possible.

4.     Recognise hard work

Feeling appreciated and well-compensated can make challenging workloads easier to manage and contribute to cultivating a positive work environment. Salary is a monetary indication of an employee’s value to a company, so providing a competitive remuneration with opportunities for incremental growth or bonuses is one of the clearest and often most valued recognitions of an employee’s work. That being said, simply applying more money to a negative work environment or excessive workloads is not a sustainable solution and should not be used as a substitute for creating a mentally healthy workforce.

Also, remember that frequently saying “thank you” can go a long way toward preventing burnout. Offering appreciation can be as simple as highlighting employee wins at a staff meeting or as involved as a nomination of your team for internal and external awards. If they do something well, take notice. If you implement ideas submitted by your employees, give them credit.