tired businesswoman in glasses working at office and rubbing eyes

9 Tips for Preventing Burnout in Your Small Business

Sadly, employee burnout is very, very real in small businesses – your employees probably wear a lot of different hats and work longer hours than employees at larger companies. That added stress can lead to burnout fast, if you’re not careful.

You’ve probably seen the signs of burnout – an employee is completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and constantly panicked. Or, they’ve started to hate their job and are in a terrible mood all the time.

When an employee starts to feel burnt out, they could consider leaving the company, start fighting with coworkers, become less productive, and start disrupting their coworkers’ productivity, too. It’s not something anyone wants to happen.

What Causes Burnout?

Understanding the causes of burnout can help you figure out how to step in if an employee starts to feel overwhelmed. We’ve also included a few tips on how to prevent your employees from ever reaching that point.

Being Pulled in Multiple Directions

When you work for a small business, you kind of expect to wear multiple hats, but if you keep getting pulled in too many directions, you’ll get tired of it really quickly.

These employees are in danger of becoming burnt out if they’re constantly having to multitask (like having to send out emails to one department while in a meeting with another department) or having to work overtime just to get everything done.

Job Ambiguity

If an employee never received a good job description, or if their job has changed a lot since you hired them, they might not really know what their job is. If an employee isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be doing, they’ll feel like they don’t have enough information to do their job properly, which can cause them to feel overwhelmed.

Lack of Resources

If an employee doesn’t feel like they’ve had adequate training or that they have the resources they need to do their job well, they’re not going to feel good about the job they’re doing.

Lack of Support

No matter how independent an employee is, they still need some support from their boss and coworkers. If they have that support, they’ll be less stressed about an upcoming deadline because they know they can ask for help.

Lack of Feedback

How often do you give your employees feedback about how well they’re doing their job? If you don’t get them much feedback, they might feel like they’re doing a terrible job, even if they’re doing well (or vice versa).

Lack of Rewards

Everyone wants to know that the work they’re doing is noticed and appreciated. If you’re not genuinely thanking your employees or paying them what they’re worth, they’ll feel like their work is unimportant.


Some people’s personalities set them up to become burnt out.

They might naturally think that everything is out of their hands, so they’ll blame failures on other people and successes on luck. When you feel like outside forces are responsible for everything, it can be easy to get tired of your job.

Other people might like so much control that they end up working themselves to the bone.

The Wrong Fit for a Job

If you hired someone because they were the perfect fit for the company, but not necessarily the right fit for the job, it can cause problems. The person might feel like they don’t have the necessary skills to do the job, so they’ll be overwhelmed.

Not Connecting

You already know that hiring someone that fits your culture is important, but that also plays a role in employee burnout. If you hire someone who isn’t the right fit, they might not have the same values as everyone else in the company. So, they’ll always feel like they’re on the outside looking in. That can cause them to feel alone and unsupported, no matter what.

How Can I Prevent Burnout?

Okay, now that you know some of the causes of employee burnout, is it possible to just prevent it altogether?

1. Assign Realistic Tasks

When you’re assigning tasks to your employees, you want to assign them things that are challenging, but not overwhelming. That means you need to set realistic deadlines and make sure that each employee has the tools they need to do the job well.

2. Hire the Right Fit

Wow, how many times can we say this? A lot because it will always be true. Whenever you hire someone new, make sure they align with your company culture and that they have the skills for that particular job. So, don’t hire an accountant for a customer service job just because you really like the person.

3. Schedule Breaks

Make sure each employee takes a few breaks throughout the day – for lunch and then a couple of minutes here and there. This gives them a chance to eat, stretch, make personal calls, and socialize. It also gives them time to regroup and come back to any problems with fresh eyes.

4. Be Flexible

Make sure you’re talking to your employees to find out how they’re doing and feeling. Then, be flexible and help them find solutions to whatever is overwhelming them.

Is someone overwhelmed because they just can’t possibly meet a deadline? Extend it, if you can, or help them find someone else in the company to help them finish the project.

Does someone really need to leave a few minutes early on Tuesday afternoons to get their kid to baseball practice? Let them.

If it makes sense to your business, you could even let everyone work from home once a week. This gives everyone a day to knock out some of their bigger tasks without anyone really bothering them. Wednesdays seem to work the best for encouraging productivity.

5. Provide Plenty of Support

Make sure that your company values support. Don’t just tell your employees that your door is always open, actually show them that you’re always there to listen to them. Address their concerns and help them find solutions to any problems.

6. Reward Your Employees

Reward your employees for meeting a really important goal or even just for surviving a tough week. It can be an annual bonus for something big. Or, something small like their favorite snack, a gift certificate, a catered lunch one day, or letting everyone leave early on a Friday.

7. Set Goals

If you haven’t set company goals and individual goals with each employee, they’ll be overwhelmed pretty easily because they don’t know where they should be headed.

Start by writing clear job descriptions for everyone so they know what they should be doing on a day-to-day basis. Then, set annual goals with them. Don’t just set them and forget about them until next year, though. Regularly check in with them to see how it’s going or if the goals need to be revised.

8. Take Vacation Time Seriously

If you offer your employees vacation time (and we highly encourage you do), then take it seriously. That means encouraging them to actually take the time, then letting them know that you don’t expect them to answer any phone calls or emails while they’re on vacation.

How do you make sure they know you’re serious? You take some vacation time and make sure you’re not working during it.

9. Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Between smart phones and the internet, your employees are always within reach. But, make sure they know you don’t expect them to be reachable 24/7.

Encourage them to unplug from work when they leave for the day – don’t answer or read emails and let phone calls go to voicemail. If it’s really an emergency, you can always send a 911 text or email.

Like with vacations, that means you should set the example. Set work hours for yourself and avoid answering emails and phone calls outside those hours as much as possible.