As employers aim to increase the productivity of their workforce following what is often a slower summer period, they may unintentionally run into employee burnout. Employee burnout is often associated with physical and emotional exhaustion that typically results from long durations of work-related stress and high job demands. It can manifest as physical symptoms, such as fatigue, and as emotional symptoms, such as a sense of ineffectiveness at work.

Employee burnout can occur in virtually any industry, but some industries are more typically prone to higher levels of burnout due to job requirements or other factors. Some industries that are often associated with increased risk of burnout include: Education; Healthcare; Professional Services; Financial Services; Emergency Services; and Manufacturing and Production.

Avoiding employee burnout is becoming top of mind for many employers as there is an increasing focus on mental health and the well-being of the workforce.

Employers can take steps to promote mental health and alleviate burnout by, for example, balancing workloads, which may include, reducing daily or weekly hour requirements, providing occasional days off (in addition to current vacation or time off entitlements), allocating work equitably amongst employees, and gathering employee feedback more frequently.

However, when aiming to balance workloads, employers should be cautious when implementing any changes to workloads and should aim to do so without discriminating against any portion of its workforce. For example, employers may want to avoid reducing one employee’s hour requirements while not doing the same for other similarly situated employees, except where merited (e.g., in the event of a disability).

Accordingly, any such changes should be clearly set out in writing to the employees detailing the specific changes to their workloads and the period of time for which the changes are to apply. This way employers can mitigate against employee complaints (or worse) relating to favoritism in the workplace and employee misconceptions relating to the effected changes, among others. A clearly drafted policy or a written notice to the employees can be a very useful tool in this respect.

Given summer has come to an end, employers should consider how to ensure that their workforce remains productive but also available to work during an often critical stretch of the year.