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Leveraging Knowledge Management to Detect and Address Employee Burnout

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Leveraging Knowledge Management to Detect and Address Employee Burnout

Nov 01, 2023   |  By
KMI Guest Blogger Amanda Winstead

Employee well-being has always had a significant impact on company results, but the connection came into sharp focus during COVID-19. As everyone moved to work from home and worries about ill employees mounted, it became even more obvious that employers benefit from protecting employee well-being.

In a 2022 McKinsey survey that covered 15 countries, 28% of U.S. employees reported burnout symptoms, and 32% reported moderate distress. This happened even though the same survey found that 74% of U.S. HR decision-makers reported making mental health a top priority.

Fortunately, improvements can be made in addressing employee burnout, including using knowledge management (KM) to better share work best practices and help encourage employee productivity and autonomy.

What is Burnout?

How can you know if your employees are struggling with burnout? Signs of burnout include symptoms of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

For example, employees may struggle with anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and an increasingly cynical outlook. Burnout can happen in any professional field or industry, and it can happen at any level of work, from the frontline worker to the highest executive.

Another sign of burnout is disturbed sleep. Employees may have symptoms of sleep disorders like insomnia, for example, which can be caused by anxiety or depression. If burnt-out employees don’t take care of their health, they could develop sleep apnea or grind their teeth at night causing jaw pain and headaches.

As an employer, you might think that burnout is something employees need to handle themselves, which may be partly true, but you must offer significant support. Not only can employee assistance programs provide resources to help employees manage their mental and emotional health, but knowledge management strategies can help make work less stressful.

Using Knowledge Management to Detect Burnout

You can use the principles of knowledge management to help your organization detect burnout and take action to make things better.

It starts with managers getting relevant training to help them become better leaders. High-quality and ongoing training can help build a company culture based on trust rather than fear, for example, and allows employees to be more honest about their feelings, workload, and other stresses.

From there, detecting and managing employee burnout continues through knowledge management strategies as managers share best practices amongst themselves. KM helps ensure that organizational knowledge doesn’t stay siloed in specific departments or individuals at every level of the company.

Detecting burnout among employees is a type of tacit knowledge, which means that frequent roundtables or workshops among managers can help these leaders recognize signs and respond with appropriate resources. Over time, there might be a codified list of symptoms to watch for. Still, it’s important to keep the conversations going because how employees respond to stress, especially in your company culture, changes over time.

How Knowledge Management Can Address Burnout

Addressing employee burnout has two equally important aspects: preventing burnout and connecting burnt-out employees with the resources they need to reset and return to productivity.

Preventing burnout is, of course, the best option. Knowledge management plays a significant role in helping employees work productively with lower levels of stress, which helps prevent burnout symptoms from developing.

For example, one major stressor is following all the cybersecurity rules that help keep company systems secure. Knowledge management strategies can help employees learn from the company’s IT professionals about how different business scams operate so they don’t fall victim to them. Knowing how to identify and avoid phishing scams, fraudulent phone calls, and malware in ways that are simple or even automated can help everyone in your organization be more productive and less stressed.

You can also set up workshops and other ways for employees to share best practices within departments and between them for best ways to use company software, execute common processes, and more. Knowledge-sharing workshops may improve employee well-being by helping employees do their work more effectively, stay productive, and spend less time on meaningless tasks. They’ll be more autonomous and independent in the work, which all drive employee engagement and satisfaction.

How to Implement KM Effectively

If you don’t already have KM strategies in place, it’s time to implement them. Knowledge management allows you to spread the expertise of key individuals and departments throughout your organization, helping everyone work effectively and reducing the problems you experience if a vital employee leaves.

Knowledge management involves accumulating institutional knowledge, storing it, and sharing it with employees at the right time. That might mean having a company “university” with on-demand training modules, a searchable knowledge base, internal wikis, or forums and discussion boards where employees can share best practices.

As you implement these new processes, ensure you use change management strategies to improve adoption and keep the momentum moving forward. Process improvements often fail because organizations make common mistakes, like making new processes too complicated or not having anyone in charge of key parts of implementation.

Instead, have strong accountability for each part of implementing knowledge management, keep communication about the new processes strong, and be willing to adapt your plan as necessary. The accountability and strong buy-in will help make KM successful in your organization.

Burnout is Bad for Business

Burnt-out employees are less productive, more likely to be absent, and have lower motivation and poor performance. Your organization can’t afford to ignore burnout. Instead, know the signs that an employee is beginning to struggle and use knowledge management to both detect and address burnout.

When you do, you’ll not only reduce burnout, but also improve productivity, help employees feel mastery and autonomy in their work, and increase the chances that work is carried out in the most effective and efficient ways.


Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Northwest US area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. She has been following Knowledge Management for several years and it's one of her favorite topics to explore.  Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts.

If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn or check out her portfolio.

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