How I can support members of my team who are feeling burned out?

Our Spill therapists share some tips on how to support team members who are experiencing burnout and prevent burnout from happening in future

Do you have any advice for how I can support members of my team who are expressing that they are feeling burned out? What are some things that I can been doing as their manager, and are there any resources I can pass on to them?

First therapist's response

The fact that your team feel comfortable telling you that they are feeling burned out says something about you as a leader. It says that you have already created an environment in which they feel safe enough to talk honestly and openly about how they are feeling.

So you already have a good foundation from which to build.

Remember that as a leader you are the facilitator of support but you may not always be the provider of it so be clear about what can be done to help in terms of workload and what help they may need to get elsewhere.

If you can reassign some responsibilities, even temporarily, that may help to give them some breathing space. Talk to them about what they feel is expected of them because you may find that they think they have to deliver more than you actually need.

Consider other options that might provide opportunities for support such as flexible working or giving them assistance on some of the more time intensive tasks.

Make a plan with them that you can agree will to some degree release the pressure they are feeling and then keep on checking back with them intermittently to see how they are doing.

Often, when people feel burned out, they work harder to try and keep up rather than doing what is really required which is to slow down and let go a little. Anything you can do to encourage them to keep healthy boundaries between work and home life will be both valuable and appreciated.

A large part of dealing with burn out is taking personal responsibility for making changes and while you can support this your people will need to do the work that frees their time and helps them recover. If they are finding this hard or their emotional struggles persist suggest that they seek some professional help from a therapist.

Spill has some good resources on ways in which you can help combat burnout so it may be worth having a look there too.

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Second therapist's response

It’s hard being a manager and balancing the needs of the business with the needs of the staff, especially when people are in distress. You’re doing a great and hard job.

Let’s see what you can do as a manager including what messages you are giving out. Depending on the visibility of your role, you may set a precedent within the company and implicitly set cultural messages. How do you show “It’s OK to look after yourself. It’s OK to pause/rest/stop”? By implying the opposite (e.g.keep going regardless), this implies what the company/you expect, and staff won’t feel they can ask for a break. At its worst, this message equates to “The company’s needs are greater than yours” which is not helpful to hold as a rigid truth the entire time. It sounds like you are a very compassionate human but it’s worth flagging up that, in some of us, there may be some rules coming from our own belief system with regards to what’s OK or not OK to show or experience (i.e. it’s not Ok to be ill or rest). Or maybe it’s implicit/explicit messages from the company’s culture around how managers “must” or “should” behave? It may be worth a chat with a therapist to explore and challenge any thinking that may be stopping you offering the support your team needs.

Finally, you can be a supportive other. Offer an ear and show that person you see them. Ask them what they need. We are all different with different ways of coping. Don’t assume or guess what this person needs; ask. Check-in with them (more regularly), build in more time and space for them, delegate work away from them, etc. Create a psychologically safe workplace where they can tell you they’re not OK without fear of consequence and heal in a way that makes sense to them..

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Third therapist's response

As a manager you want to support your team with managing burnout. There is evidence that this is currently an issue in your team. The following are tips to help you:

- Learn more about burnout. Understand what the symptoms are and why it happens. Spill have some resources on burnout here.

- Identify factors leading to burnout for your employees. You can ask them about this individually. Factors contributing to burnout need to be remedied rather than just expecting employees to cope with them.

- Ask employees what they think they need to feel better.

- Once you have identified the issues, advocate where necessary for change in your organisation and engage in your own problem-solving work where possible. What are the workable solutions? Whose help do you need? Who else needs to know about the issues that are being raised? What are the long-term and short-term impacts?

- Where employees are struggling to cope and there is no immediate fix in the workplace environment accessing Spill may be useful. Talk to employees about the benefits of therapy, for instance learning new ways to manage stress. Be mindful to locate problems where they truly exist, however. Don’t make employees feel responsible for workplace issues or that they are ‘the problem.’

- Regarding resources you could look to local mental health services to see if they offer any guides for the workplace. If you are in the UK, you may wish to share the following link with your team or the one above: Burnout - Mental Health UK (

- Be honest with yourself about your own mental health. Managers may struggle to acknowledge burnout themselves. Make sure you have your own coping strategies and tools and model good self-care.

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