How Leaders Should Handle Employee Burnout?

How Leaders Should Handle Employee Burnout?

Covid-19 has been a game changer. Pardon me for sounding insensitive but the fact is the pandemic has had no less a disruptive effect from the advent of the internet or perhaps even more. We have to relook at life and work from all possible angles. Our health, life style, work prospects at the individual level, growth and business from the country and organization point of view. The way we look at our life and business are undergoing a paradigm shift. 

One critical aspect that has come to the fore is Employee Burnouts.  Organizations and individuals alike are now slowly waking up to the stark reality and danger that if this matter is not addressed immediately, this can have another negative disruptive impact on a massive scale.

Since last year (March 2020), the pandemic forced everybody to work from home. Despite the health and safety concerns, people were somewhat happy they will be able to spend more time with their family. Fast forward to May 2021, the honeymoon period is over and people are now working more hours than they did from the office. At least when everybody is working from the office, there is a definite time to pack up and leave for home, especially in India where the commute time is much longer. While working from home, there exists no boundaries between work and personal life. The advent of technology had already started diluting the boundaries but the pandemic dealt the last nail on the coffin. Most start working very early and they wind up very late in the night. I have personally spoken to many people who are now desperate to get back to office.

An individual dedicates a better part of their daily hours towards working and thereby helping in the growth of organizations. Therefore, the onus squarely falls on the organizations and their leaders to take the initiative to do something about this. Here are some of the way’s organizations can deal with the situation, both under the current situation and later. Some of the suggested measures may not be feasible under the current situation.


Organizations must accept the reality that we are staring at a very serious problem and it is already late. We should not be in denial by saying “This too shall pass”. This will not happen unless we act fast. Becoming aware that massive steps need to be taken really quick is the first step.


Organizations and their leaders must aggressively promote the culture of “We are there for each other”. This must start right from the top. If there is one time to enforce this culture, it is NOW! Not only through communication but also through action. Starting from the top leadership, each one of us must understand the problems of the other.  Work out plans which are flexible, considering the personal situation of each individual. There is no straight one fit for all. Each person will have their own unique situation which the organization must understand and adapt accordingly in the work plans. If that means someone sharing more workload because the person’s personal situation permits it, I think that is absolutely OKAY. That is the real meaning of ‘We are there for each other’. I am very sure when the opportunity and need arises, there will be reciprocity. 

The key point here is that all employees build a strong working relationship (including trust) and the organization must facilitate this process. This can be done in 3 ways:

  1. Organizations must invest in proper Learning and Development to make each person understand and implement as to how to build strong relationships

  2. Proper coaching, guidance, mentorship at all times

  3. Without being excessive, organize ‘knowing’ and ‘bonding’ sessions, especially across departments. Organize food & beverages, and include family occasionally (all paid by the company). In the current situation, such events need to be virtual, to the best extent possible



Flexibility in working from office and home is going to become the norm. This implies employees will be working a better part of the time from home. 

Work from home has already started isolating employees. They are working alone and this sets in with a lot of worries and anxieties. This is the time to make the employee feel wanted. I know people who work from a remote distance but they are not sure whether their work really matters, and this sets in anxieties like job security etc.

Organizations can do the following. Most of these points hold good while working from the office as well.

  1. Keep communication channels open at all times, individually and otherwise.

    1. To the extent feasible and possible, top leadership must make it a point to talk to each and every employee from time to time. 

    2. Thank them for the contribution they are making and find out what more the organization can do for them  

    3. Assure them all possible support from the company, both financially and mentally

  2. Immediate Supervisors and HR should check in on employees from time to time, even if it is not official work

  3. Keep employees informed how the company is doing

  4. Re-emphasize to each and every employee their roles and responsibilities and how the same align to the organizational goals

  5. Offer permanent flexibility of working from home as well as office 

  6. Ensure the home infrastructural needs are taken care of by the company – laptop, furniture, dedicated Wi-Fi connections, power back ups etc. 

  7. Provide opportunities to employees to learn new skills which will help them in the long run

  8. Simple and small happiness by surprising them with small gifts, incentives and recognition 

We are living in the real world and the financial and economic considerations from the organization point of view cannot be ignored. However, to the best extent possible, the organization should take care of the following, especially during difficult situations like the pandemic:

  1. Assure the employees about their job security

  2. Ensure adequate salary and benefits, in line with market standards and their own performance and contribution

  3. In the worst-case scenario, when adjustments need to be made, ensure the short term needs of the employee are taken care



This is an area which needs special focus. There is still a lot that needs to be done here. 

The key measures the organization needs to take are the following, pandemic and post pandemic. Some may not be feasible during the pandemic times but organizations must implement once the situation stabilizes, if already not in place.

  1. Tie up with hospital and health organizations (fully paid by the company)

    1. Provide immediate medical assistance to employees and their immediate family as and when required

    2. Teleconsultations

    3. 24/7 Support/hot line 

    4. Awareness sessions 

  2. Medical insurance for employees and their immediate family, covering pandemics like Covid

  3. Financial assistance for emergency medical expenses

  4. Paid time off for specified days in the case employee or immediate family members fall sick during situations like the pandemic 

  5. Gym facilities in office (if feasible)

  6. Sponsor for tournaments, sports Olympiads and marathons

  7. Annual get-togethers with family   

  8. Team lunches (virtual when working from home, order online)

  9. Movie time  

  10. Abolish leave encashment

  11. Compulsory vacation/time off



Proper planning and prioritizing of work are at the heart of employee burnout and work-life balance. 

The main problem arises when work is allocated/assigned without considering:

  1. The actual/realistic time the work will take

  2. Employee capability

  3. Current work load of the employee

  4. Personal situation of the employee/available work hours

  5. Vacation/Time off plans

The main reasons are:

  1. Client delivery pressure

  2. Resource crunch

  3. Productivity issue with employees

Agreed. These are valid concerns but my point is that all these concerns will always be there.  The leaders will have to find a way out keeping these constraints in mind and I am convinced this is possible with proper planning and strong management. 

Leaders at all levels must be exposed to good Leadership and Work Management programs, along with constant monitoring coaching, and guidance.

Meeting time needs to be cut down significantly. A day is generally filled with many unproductive meetings without proper time frame, agenda and call to action. Leaders must ensure meetings are scheduled only when it is really necessary, and that too with participants who are really required. Maintaining the time frame is also very important.


Everything costs money, including management of employee burnouts as well as situations like the current pandemic. Organizations cannot handle the employee burnout program without adequate cash reserves. Therefore, prudent financial management and building cash reserves are the needs of the hour. Organizations must always be prepared to face unforeseen risks to business (like the pandemic) such that the organization can keep running for those periods where there are growth drops. 

  1. Realistic growth planning

  2. Risk Management planning 

  3. Optimize expenditure and investments

  4. Zero-based budgeting system i.e. not doing as % increase from the previous year, rather, relook at all the expense items afresh (necessity, optimization etc.)

  5.  Save and invest judiciously

While working out the plans, organizations must keep in mind that a good organization will need to keep investing on Sales and Marketing, IT systems, new skills and resourcing. Such expenses should not be curtailed under the pretext of managing employee burnouts.


An organization is made up of leaders. How well and effectively organizations respond to and manage employee burnouts will depend on their leaders.  

Recent studies have revealed that only 18% of the leadership have confidence in themselves to manage employee burnouts. The studies have also brought out the fact that leaders falter under the stress of difficult situations, and during such situations, the leaders’ ability to show empathy towards team members drops as high as by 15% whereas in difficult times,  leaders’ ability to show more empathy is the need of the hour.  

Manging teams virtually is another area that leaders are struggling with. Managing work and providing the right coaching are the other critical areas.

While managing the workforce and keep them motivated and engaged, leaders must also look at new avenues and innovation to keep the organization growing.

Organizations must invest considerably in the training and development of leaders, especially in the areas that need more focus in the new world, including empathy, managing virtual teams, building strong relationships, influencing team members, and change management. Leaders also require constant monitoring coaching, and guidance.


It is late but not too late. If organizations can get their act together, there is still hope for us in the horizon.