Mental health in the workplace: brownout vs. burnout

June 26, 2017 - Tags: Managing

Are you or your employees suffering from brownout? They may seem fine. They might participate and get work done, but secretly work overwhelms them and their private lives may decline. This is a brownout.

As an employee's personal life deteriorates it spreads to work, and they can become more and more disengaged, demotivated, and jaded. Left too long, brownouts become burnouts and employees may no longer be able to work. Burnouts can be a crisis. Employees can become depressed or suffer other serious mental health issues.

Proactive employers recognize it's important to address brownout before it becomes a crisis. Look out for your employees. Are they acting their usual selves? Have they called in sick more frequently? Do they seem happy and engaged or has their behavior become toxic?

It may be hard for employers to recognize a problem, but it may be even harder for employees to speak about their problems. It helps to give employees a chance to speak privately with you and to reassure them they can be candid. Performance reviews are an opportunity for this.
Are they sleeping enough? How's their health? Do they keep in touch with friends and family? Have they any hobbies? If not, it could be a sign of brownout.

Addressing brownouts and preventing them go together. Being supportive, and maintaining a healthy organizational culture is essential. You could consider creating an employee wellness program as physical and mental health are closely connected. Practicing mindfulness can also be beneficial.

Keeping talented employees is an investment. You should be prepared to accommodate your employee's needs. This may mean new challenges, flexible hours, or lightening workloads. It can also mean encouragement, mentoring, and rewarding success.

Brownouts and burnouts are bad for employers and employees. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep employees productive, loyal and happy.

For more information have a look at our post about investing in employee wellbeing as well as our section on managing employees.

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