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Build your own burnout recovery plan for employees

Help your employees in their recovery from burnout — and stop it from happening again

In this article
How long does burnout recovery take?5 ways to support moderate burnout recoveryHow to create a long-term burnout treatment planTwo more ways to help with your employee’s recovery from burnout

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  • Burnout leaves people feeling exhausted, negative, and ineffective, and is thought to have affected 70% of people last year.
  • Burnout recovery can take three months to a year, but the exact amount of time varies depending on the levels of burnout.
  • Both moderate and severe levels of burnout require time of work and rest — your employee needs to recover sufficiently to start addressing the root causes of their burnout.
  • To support long-term burnout recovery, you and your employee should create a burnout treatment plan to discuss objectives and ideas for each of the problem areas.
  • Therapy is a highly effective way to support long-term burnout recovery as it provides your employee with validation and support, helps them create coping strategies, and challenges their negative thought patterns.

In the last year, 70% of people experienced burnout at work. 

Let that sit with you for a moment. 

That’s pretty huge. That’s 70% of people feeling exhausted, negative, and ineffective at work, not to mention the myriad of other symptoms associated with burnout. And that’s 70% of people navigating their recovery from burnout alongside the other daily pressures of their work and personal life.

Clearly, proper support for burnout recovery (and preventing employee burnout in the first place) is needed. And while taking time off work will address the symptoms of workplace burnout, it won’t solve the root cause of the problem. After all, if someone on your team has already burnt out so badly that they have to take off, that’s a sign there’s a deeper organisational issue that needs to be rectified to prevent it from happening again. 

So, how can you properly support an employee in their recovery from burnout? Well that depends on the severity of their burnout. Here, we’ll give you strategies to help tackle the symptoms and root causes of both moderate and severe burnout, and a free burnout recovery plan PDF to use with anyone in your company navigating burnout recovery.


How long does burnout recovery take?

‍Before we dive into the different strategies to support burnout recovery, we wanted to set the expectation for how long recovery from burnout can really take.

On average it takes three months to a year to fully recover from burnout. But just as the symptoms vary from person to person, so does the length of time it takes to recover depending on the level of burnout. In the most severe cases, research suggests that recovery from burnout can take up to three years. This potentially long burnout recovery time is another reason why it’s so important to have a proper burnout recovery plan in place to support your team: the sooner you can help your employee, the sooner they’ll be back on track and that’s good for them — and your business.

How much time off work does a person need to recover from burnout?

That depends on how severe their symptoms are. The best way to assess this is by using our burnout symptoms test. With only moderate burnout symptoms, taking a few days off might be enough; if the symptoms are severe then that will probably need to be weeks rather than days.

No matter whether your employee has moderate or severe burnout, the first step is to address the symptoms — fatigue, negativity, and ineffectiveness — and to address them quickly. It's important to do this sooner rather than later, as prolonged periods of burnout risk turning into a more serious form of poor mental health, which could be a lot trickier to recover from. To do this, your employee should be encouraged to take time off work and rest.

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This template is designed to help managers form clear objectives and initiatives to support employees who are experiencing burnout, and prevent it from happening again.

5 ways to support moderate burnout recovery

So, your team member is off work. Good! Rest has to be the first priority when it comes to recovery from burnout, and has to happen before anyone can start to change their relationship with work or develop prevention strategies for the future. 

But, what’s also important is how that time off is spent. Research suggests that there are optimal activities for rest and renewal when it comes to work-related wellbeing. If you have an employee taking time off for burnout recovery, consider sending them this list so they can make the most of their time away from work.

1. Connect 👯

As burnout can make a person feel disconnected and numb, spending quality time with close friends and family can help restore a sense of meaning and engagement, bringing much-needed vitality back into life. For a time, consider cutting back on socialising with work people: this is important for fully disengaging with work (see below).

2. Disengage (from work) 📵

It sounds obvious we know, but it can be hard to switch off from work at the best of times — let alone when you’re drowning under a sea of negativity and exhaustion. The research showed that by disengaging from both work and your ‘normal’ (i.e. weekday) routine, energy levels and wellbeing improved:

  • Turn off work-related devices and silence notifications
  • Avoid checking work email, LinkedIn etc.
  • Read fiction rather than business books and articles
  • Go for a run, walk, swim, or do any other kind of physical activity during the day to disrupt your routine and improve energy levels

3. Keep learning and doing 🧠 

Burnout can leave a person feeling ineffective and incapable. As tempting as it can be to do nothing at all during time off for burnout recovery, engaging in activities that reinforce someone’s abilities, skills, and talents will build confidence, improve energy levels, and restore emotional strength. Plus, it’s fun (and important) to make time for the things we love! 

4. Relax 🙏

The term ‘rest and relaxation’ has become synonymous with slowing down, being alone, and not doing much at all. For some, these might be the perfect ways to relax but for others, relaxation could mean reading, gardening, cycling, socialising, cooking, or anything else that brings peace and calm to the body and mind.

5. Get back in control ⚙️

A common symptom in burnout is feeling trapped or out of control at work, so it makes sense to use time off for burnout recovery to do things that reset the balance of control. It doesn’t have to be huge, anything from choosing the book for a book club or planning a new running route, to helping organise something in the community.

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How to create a long-term burnout treatment plan

Taking time off work to recover from burnout is only the start of the process — once your employee feels in the right state of mind, the next step is to dig into the root causes of burnout with your employee and figure out how these can be addressed at an organisational level. So, what is the best burnout treatment plan in the long-term?

Our free burnout recovery plan PDF template will help with this next step👇

(you can download this further down the page)

A screenshot of Spill's burnout recovery plan template
Spill's burnout recovery plan template

To help someone on your team in a full recovery from burnout, you need to (a) understand what the underlying work-related causes were for them burning out in the first place, and (b) make changes to stop those causes happening again. For the first point, the best thing to do is to ask the employee in question to fill out our burnout causes questionnaire

This helps to bring some structure to a one-on-one conversation with your team member, which is the next thing that needs to happen. Your employee should complete the questionnaire before the meeting and come ready to discuss the causes where they have responded with ‘strongly agree’. You can use our free burnout recovery plan PDF – which you can get access to at the bottom of the page – to discuss objectives and ideas for each of the problem areas, which we’ve given suggestions and thought starters for. Each idea should be given a success metric and a date to be checked in on, to keep everyone involved accountable to the plan.

Two more ways to help with your employee’s recovery from burnout

‍Reassure your employee about taking time off for burnout recovery

Taking time off work to recover from burnout is often easier said than done. A lot of the time, it's fear and worry that stops people taking a break from work, even if you or another manager has suggested it. As the psychoanalyst Josh Cohen puts it, you need to actively free a burnout sufferer of "the nervous compulsion to go on regardless". So it's not enough to just propose it: you need to take active steps to plan out when they will take the time off, and how you are going to help overcome the four common obstacles people have to taking time off for burnout recovery:

1️. "I'm worried I'll be seen as a slacker"

Make sure senior people in the company (and especially the person’s manager) are setting a good example by taking time off themselves. Emphasise to the person that taking time off will not impact how their performance is assessed.

2️. "I'm worried I'll miss out on stuff"

Ensure work progress and socials are documented, so that everything can be caught up on quickly and easily when the person returns. At Spill, we ask teammates to make a daily 3-minute Loom video while someone is off work so that they can easily catch up before their first day back. The person’s manager should also offer to check in a couple of times during their time off, and reassure them that they aren’t missing out on too much.

3️. "I'm worried I'll create more workload and stress for my colleagues"

Push back work wherever possible, reallocate it only to people who are under capacity, or bring in freelancers to pick up the slack if you have the budget. Reassure the person by making a clear plan for how the work will get done without causing undue stress for others.

4️. "I'm worried I won't be put on good projects when I get back"

Make sure that the employee is considered in any upcoming work allocation discussions, and that their preferences have been discussed before leaving work.

Partner with Spill to support your employee’s long-term recovery from burnout

Burnout is mentally exhausting and has a significant impact on mental health. It can take time to unpick burnout and chances are, your team member will be appreciative of any extra support for their mental load, both when they’re off work and ready to return to the office. 

Spill gives everyone in your company immediate access to corporate therapy, whenever they need it. A highly effective tool for treating both the symptoms and root causes of burnout, therapy can support other burnout recovery strategies (such as changes in the work environment) to help your employee successfully navigate the turbulent burnout recovery journey by:

💙 Providing emotional support and validation: therapy is a safe and non-judgemental space to express individual emotions and experiences. Burnout often brings feelings of frustration, exhaustion, and overwhelm, and Spill’s therapists will help your employee discuss these feelings to help reduce stress and build their emotional resilience.

💙 Creating coping strategies: Spill’s team of therapists can help your employee identify the factors contributing to their burnout and will work with them to develop a personal plan of strategies to manage stress, set boundaries, and prioritise their mental health to prevent burnout from happening again.

💙 Identifying and challenging negative thought patterns: burnout often involves negative thinking patterns such as self-doubt, perfectionism, and excessive self-criticism. Spill’s therapists can help your employee identify these patterns and work on replacing them with more realistic and positive ones.

As well as offering single sessions or courses of therapy, Spill’s weekly check-in feature also keeps an eye on your team’s mood every week to catch signs of burnout and help people quickly, before they get worse. 

Get your burnout recovery plan PDF below to help your team member find a long-term and sustainable path to burnout recovery 👇

Submit document logo

Get our burnout recovery plan template

This template is designed to help managers form clear objectives and initiatives to support employees who are experiencing burnout, and prevent it from happening again.

Give your team access to Spill therapy sessions with burnout specialists to speed up their recovery.

Compare pricing plans