Jill Flint-Taylor: How to prevent workplace burnout

Building a resilient workforce is critical if organisations are to perform at their peak and meet the challenges of constant change. Unfortunately, however, so much of working life serves to undermine resilience.


Employees get worn down by shifting goalposts, unrealistic targets and uncertainty about what is expected of them.

Managers that want to keep their teams strong and prevent burnout need to pay attention to these factors: work demands, sense of control, change, resources of information and work relationships.

In a difficult economic climate, we are all being asked to achieve more with less. It is important to recognise that pressure means different things to different people.

The key is to communicate openly and regularly about what is expected and to help people prioritise so they can perform at their best and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Keeping people informed and giving them a voice will improve morale and reduce stress in the short term, and it will also help employees to build resilience over the longer term by encouraging them to engage more actively with others and generate new ideas.

Managers have a key role to play, not just in keeping the team informed, but in ensuring they are equipped to do the job being asked of them. Investing in employee development is important too, so make performance conversations an integral part of management practice.

Those who want to enhance resilience in their teams at times of change need to find ways to involve and engage employees in the process. Employees are more likely to feel positive about change and even be energised and excited about it, if they feel they are involved in creating the way forward.

Issues such as infrequent feedback, inadequate training and out-of-date technology or equipment are all negative pressures that combine to push staff over the top into burnout.

However, employees’ relationships with their colleagues and their managers define how they feel about work. Lack of support, aggressive management styles and other people taking credit for achievements are the kind of issues that can make staff feel demoralised. It is important for leaders to actively create positive relationships.

Sometimes, during times of pressure, we can over-use our strengths, with an unintended, negative impact on employees. If your response to pressure, for example, is to take more control, it might be perceived that you are taking control away from the team.

Jill Flint-Taylor is an associate business psychologist at the Ashridge Business School