How to Fight Employee Burnout

Posted on August 23, 2017 by Michelle Locke

It’s the little things you notice first: employees are calling out sick a little bit more; your favorite server asks to leave early, looking exhausted and bored; and your best bartender seems frustrated. It’s busier than ever in your restaurant and you’re not sure you have time to deal with these issues?

What’s going on? It’s easy to think that these issues, all stacked up, are individual problems. Is it time to fire that star server or bartender? Do you need more discipline about calling out?

The truth is, employee burnout is a workplace problem—not an individual problem. It’s simpler to assume it comes down to a single employee, but realistically, no matter who steps into that employee’s shoes, the factors that lead to burnout will remain.

“Burnout — the mental and physical exhaustion you experience when the demands of your work consistently exceed the amount of energy you have available — has been called the epidemic of the modern workplace.” That’s a quote from this article on burnout . It’s becoming increasingly common in a lot of industries, but in the fast-paced, high pressure restaurant industry, it’s even more common.

What Are the Signs of Burnout?


When we talk about fighting and avoiding employee burnout, it’s important to recognize the signs. They are:

  • Unexplained absences from work
  • Showing up to work late/leaving early
  • Decrease in productivity
  • Apparent frustration
  • Decline in health
  • Lack of enthusiasm
  • Isolation

You might think that these signs are shockingly similar to symptoms of depression. You’re not wrong. Click here to read our blog post about mental health training in restaurants.

( Click here to read our blog post about mental health support for back of house and front of house staff.)

What Does Burnout Cost?


You might wonder: do I really need to do anything about burnout? Why should I care? Your employees mental health matters.

( Click here to read about detoxing your restaurant & training.)

As well, employee burnout can cost your restaurant money—and good employees, because burnout has widespread psychological and physical effects on your employees. According to HBR, “the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees, which cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S., are just the most obvious impacts.”

What Can You Do About Burnout?


We have a few ideas for battling burnout and turning things around for your restaurant.

  • Don’t overload your most capable employees. While your best server might be a bedrock for your restaurant, giving them tons of responsibilities on top of their normal work will only lead to burnout.

  • Encourage your employees to take breaks alongside the federally mandated breaks. (And remember to be strict about those federal breaks!)

  • Don’t interrupt your employees time off. That includes lunches and breaks, as well as texting, calling, or emailing on your employees’ days off.

  • Hold regular staff meetings to recognize and acknowledge hard work, repeat important training material, and address negative behaviors in the restaurant that can lead to burnout.

  • Improve leadership skills. Remember, your employees are only as capable as your management staff. If your management is doing a bad job delegating work, overloading employees, and expecting too much, your employees aren’t going to be successful.