preventing and navigating burnout: a manager’s guide

The majority of managers want a motivated and productive workforce, but it’s a common error to push your team too far beyond their limits. Find out how to prevent physical and emotional burnout from occurring in your team.

Many people think of ‘burnout’ as solely related to how much they work and that taking some time off will relieve feelings of overwhelm and pressure, and they’ll bounce back to work feeling refreshed and renewed.  

Burnout is caused by a number of factors and is unlikely to be resolved by taking a break. One of the most important contributors to a person’s wellbeing at work is the relationship they have with their line manager. As ‘burnout’ has been classified as a workplace phenomenon by the World Health Organization (2019), support at work is essential if we are to curb the rising of tide of overwhelm within the workplace. 

It's useful on an individual level, and in your capacity as a line manager to pinpoint exactly what your team are feeling and the factors that are contributing to this. This will enable you to provide the specific support they will find most useful and encourage them to look after their own health and wellbeing.  

The role of the manager is critical in assessing and addressing employee burnout. Here are some specific tips to support you in navigating and preventing burnout in your team

be knowledgeable about the factors that contribute to burnout 

Research has indicated the six areas that, when left unchecked, can lead to burnout. Recognising how these areas are impacting your team can give you a good steer to make improvements: 

  • workload – are the demands of the roles are reasonable and do they have the resources they need to fulfil responsibilities assigned to them?
  • perceived lack of control – do they feel a sense of autonomy and agency within their role? When people feel that they have a say in the decisions being made around them that relate to their job it can have a positive effect on wellbeing and reduce feelings of disengagement and cynicism 
  • appreciation and reward – when people feel the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for the job don’t match the effort and time that they put in, they can become disengaged and unmotivated, which is key indicator of burnout. Does your team feel appreciated? Are their achievements recognised and rewarded?
  • community – it is important that people feel a sense of belonging within the organisation and team environment. Can you create spaces where people feel they are safe enough to speak up when things get overwhelming and can support each other? Develop opportunities to bring teams together and keep connections strong. Loneliness and isolation are key drivers of poor mental health and wellbeing. Learning to build positive relationships with your team is an integral part of a line managers role.
  • fairness – ensure that people receive fair and equitable treatment and effectively communicate the reasons why decisions that might impact them are being made. Transparency and trust are the foundations for psychological safety within the workplace and out of this flows innovation and creativity  
  • values – are behaviours are aligned to the organisation’s values?  Try to tackle anyone within the team that are not reflecting these values. Are your behaviours creating an environment where people feel that it’s OK to look after their own wellbeing? Role modelling and recognising your management style and how this contributes to an employee’s experience at work is an important piece of reflective work that will lead to improved relationships 

pay attention to the warning signs of poor mental health  

If you notice that someone isn’t acting or performing in the way they usually do, start a conversation to give you both the opportunity to explore the reasons and identify what support will be helpful. The common indicators are: 

  • poor decision making 
  • reduced concentration levels 
  • feelings of overwhelm 
  • withdrawal 
  • procrastination 
  • inability to prioritise tasks effectively 
  • poor time keeping 
  • relationship difficulties 
  • expressions of anger and frustration 
  • increasing cynicism and disengagement.

If you’re noticing these signs in someone and think they’re acting or performing unusually, here’s what to do next:   

start supportive conversations 

Use 1:1 opportunities to start exploring what might be driving any difficulty. If your conversations with individuals are purely task focused, you’re missing out on an opportunity to support your direct reports and ensure that they feel heard and listened to. 

Some people will need a little encouragement to open up so actively listening to what they say, creating space, and responding sensitively will help to reassure people that you are there to support them. The following questions may be helpful: 

  • ‘What part of your job is most difficult at the moment?’ 
  • ‘How does your workload feel right now?’ 
  • ‘What one thing can I do better to support you?’ 
  • ‘Is there anything I can take off your plate, help you delegate, or help you prioritise?’ 
  • ‘What kind of flexibility do you need right now?’ 
  • ‘Is there anything unclear or blocking your work right now?’  

set clear goals and spotlight progress  

When we don’t have clear goals we either become stuck because we are unsure where to invest our energy or we frantically churn out work in the hope it will be valuable. At the beginning of each month, help each person to produce five goals that connect to the team’s shared vision. It’s also important to recognise progress and highlight any accomplishments or achievements within individuals or the team.  

protect the team’s time – even when they won’t 

It’s important as a manger to be there when people really need you, for deeply personal reasons or life emergencies. Ensure that people take time off if they need to in light of illness, bereavement, or other important situations.  Encourage people to take their annual holiday allowance and to have some protected time to rest and decompress during time away from work, for instance at weekends or other days off. Try to role model the behaviour you wish to advocate for.

You can also sign up to our free, dedicated Managing Burnout Course, which will provide you with practical guidance on the best way to manage your mental health and burnout. 

Join the course here

further reading

Couple hugging on sofa with smiles on their faces

what is good mental health and why is it important?

Your mental wellbeing is about your thoughts and feelings and how you cope with everyday life.

View more
Woman giving presentation to work colleagues

leadership: eight skills all great leaders share

Happy workers can lead to a happy workplace. One of the main ways to achieve workplace happiness, is by having positive relationships with all of your colleagues. Here, we share 6 easy-to-follow ways you can nurture those professional relationships.

View more
Two people at work talking and laughing

improve your communication skills at work

Do you want to polish up on your communication skills? Perhaps you’re strong in some areas and lacking in others? Here, we reveal the dos and don’ts of how to effectively communicate at work, regardless of your role or where you work.

View more

training and events

16 August 2022

espresso mindfulness for beginners

Understand the concept of mindfulness and the ‘opportunity to give it a try’ practicing exercises like mindfulness of breath and three step …
espresso series
23 August 2022

espresso understanding mental health: skills for life

Mental health is a fundamental part of your wellbeing.
espresso series
6 September 2022

developing a compassionate mind

Learning to support ourselves with care and kindness will equip us with the internal resources we need to manage stressful times. Research has …
enhanced course
8 September 2022

espresso personal impact, make a memorable first impression

Learn how to make a memorable impact in a variety of work situations.
espresso series

view all training and events 

your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW)1, ACA students2, ICAEW staff members3, and the family and carers of members and students4

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is or was dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

I’m an accountant, but not a member of ICAEW, can you still help?

Unfortunately not. We only support past and present ICAEW members, their carers and their families. If we are unable to support you, where possible we will point you to help elsewhere.

caba has supported me in the past; can I receive support from caba again?

We understand that circumstances change. If we’ve helped you in the past there’s no reason why we can’t help you again. You can contact us at any time. Please call us if you need our help.

view more questions

Not got the answer to your question?