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How to Support an Employee Who Feels Overwhelmed

The Australian economy loses over $14 billion a year due to untreated mental health conditions that may stem from everyday challenges like overwhelm and burnout in the workplace. This number is a testament to the magnitude of the problem.

Employee overwhelm is more than just feeling stressed or overworked. It's an issue encompassing emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. When left unaddressed, it can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and severe health issues.

Organisations that prioritise the wellbeing of their employees not only foster a more positive and productive work environment but also position themselves as leaders that value profit and people.


  • Employee overwhelm can lead to decreased productivity and health issues.
  • Recognising signs of overwhelm is key for timely support.
  • A sense of belonging in the workplace boosts productivity by 56%.
  • Active listening and safe spaces are crucial for employee wellbeing.
  • Practical solutions like fair pay and work-life balance reduce burnout.

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Insights From Our Resident “Mind Training” Expert

Mind trainer and coach to Australian Olympic swimmers, Julie Robinson, mentions in her MiTraining course How to Transform Workplace Anxiety Into Positive Performance that we aren’t defined by feelings of overwhelm but that we “do” overwhelm (as a behaviour) and therefore need to learn alternative behaviours.

Recognising the Signs of Overwhelm

In Julie Robinson’s role as a mind trainer, she frequently observes the signs and symptoms of overwhelm which can include:

  • Apathy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Negative self-talk
  • Overthinking
  • Worry
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

Overwhelm can manifest in various ways, and understanding these indicators can lead to timely intervention and support.

Physical Indicators

  • Fatigue and Tiredness: A study conducted by the Sleep Health Foundation found that 45% of Australians suffer from poor sleep quality, with work-related stress being a significant contributing factor. This lack of rest can lead to a perpetual state of exhaustion.
  • Frequent Illnesses or Headaches: The body's immune response may be compromised due to stress, leading to a higher infection susceptibility. Regular headaches may also indicate underlying tension.

Emotional Indicators

  • Increased Irritability or Mood Swings: Employees may become more reactive or sensitive to minor issues. This emotional volatility can disrupt team dynamics and should be addressed with empathy and understanding.
  • Signs of Anxiety or Withdrawal from Social Interactions: A report by Beyond Blue revealed that anxiety disorders affect 3 million Australians. Withdrawal from colleagues or social events may indicate underlying anxiety or overwhelm.

Behavioural Indicators

  • The Decline in Work Performance: Once manageable tasks may become challenging, and the quality of work may suffer. This decline is not a reflection of capability but a sign of underlying stress that needs to be addressed.
  • Procrastination or Missed Deadlines: Procrastination or consistently missed deadlines may signal overwhelm. What may seem like a lack of motivation or poor time management could be a cry for help.

A Surprising Way to Help Overwhelmed Employees?

Work Safe has reported that absenteeism is reduced by three times in organisations that prioritise their employees' wellbeing. But how do we “prioritise wellbeing”?

*This* Improves Productivity by 56%

One surprising approach could be through belonging. BetterUp did a study to determine the importance of a sense of belonging in the workplace.

A high sense of belonging was associated with a 56% increase in productivity on the job, a 50% decrease in the likelihood of employee turnover, and a 75% decrease in sick days taken. More than $52 million a year might be saved by a firm of 10,000 people using this method.

Workers who felt more a part of the team had a 167% better employer promoter score (how likely they were to suggest their organisation to others).

The Silent Struggle in Workplaces and the Power of True Listening

  • Creating a Safe Space for Employees to Express Their Feelings: Employees must know that their workplace is a safe space to freely express their feelings and concerns without fear of judgment. A study by the Australian HR Institute found that almost one-third of workers don’t feel comfortable talking about mental health (31.9%) or accessing mental health programs (33.1%) at work.
  • The Importance of Active Listening: Active listening goes beyond merely hearing what someone is saying. It involves fully concentrating, understanding, and responding to the speaker. According to Relationships Australia, active listening is critical in building trust and understanding in any relationship, including the workplace. By practising active listening, managers can gain deeper insights into the challenges faced by their employees and provide tailored solutions.

The Dual Approach: Balancing Formal Check-ins with Casual Interactions in the Modern Workplace

  • Scheduled One-on-One Meetings: These scheduled interactions offer a systematic avenue for employees to delve into their tasks, relay feedback, and voice concerns. More than just a routine, they serve as an early warning system, pinpointing signs of stress or burnout. It's a testament to an organisation's dedication to the mental and emotional health of its workforce.
  • Informal Chats to Gauge Employee Wellbeing: These spontaneous exchanges, be it over a cup of coffee or a fleeting corridor conversation, can be revealing. They not only cultivate a culture of camaraderie but also underscore the message that employee wellbeing isn't restricted to meeting rooms—it's an everyday priority.

Offer Practical Solutions: Empowering Employees in the Modern Work Environment

By equipping employees with the right tools and strategies, businesses can create a supportive work environment that promotes wellbeing. A recent survey examined the statistics on employee burnout and the factors that affect it.

  • Reevaluate Pay Rates: Only 55% of those feeling burned out believed they were adequately compensated, whereas 72% who didn’t exhibit burnout symptoms felt fairly compensated.
  • Give More Control: A staggering 68% of employees who felt they had minimal influence over their job tasks reported burnout.
  • Build Team Bonds: A concerning 72% of workers who felt isolated and uncared for at work reported burnout, while only 8% of those with supportive colleagues felt burnout.
  • Help Balance Work and Life: A significant 80% of workers struggling to balance their professional and personal lives reported feelings of burnout.
  • Show Appreciation: Only 56% of burned-out workers felt that their superiors genuinely cared about their wellbeing.
  • Guide with Clear Goals: A notable 76% of employees uncertain about their company's direction reported burnout.
  • Show Career Paths: A concerning 70% of individuals without a clear career progression path reported burnout.
  • Give Meaningful Work: A significant 75% of workers who found their tasks irrelevant experienced burnout, in stark contrast to the 6% who found meaning in their roles. A whopping 93% of workers proud of their job role did not experience burnout in the past six months, unlike the 20% who felt otherwise.
  • Watch Workloads: 70% of workers frequently stressed by their job also reported burnout, with many working outside regular hours, including weekends and vacations.
  • Cut Down Outside-Work-Hours Work: A significant 32% of workers pointed to excessive overtime and after-hours work as primary culprits for their burnout.

How Continuous Learning Can Help Your Team

Your people are your biggest asset. But managing staff can be challenging, especially when balancing your company's profitability and your customers' unique needs.

Throw the effects of a global pandemic into the mix, and you have a recipe for either growth or staff turnover.

If you can harness the challenges your staff experience each day and utilise them for training, you can supercharge your team's development and learning. If not, the challenges your staff experience each day at work could ultimately lead to lower productivity, staff friction, customer disputes and staff turnover, all of which are expensive.

We have a solution. 

Face-to-face interactive workshops are among the best strategies to create more competent teams. That's why MiTraining makes our range of short courses and business qualifications available as in-house live corporate workshops.

Our trainers are happy to come to you and deliver training so that your team can develop their abilities and support the objectives of your company.

Our trainers have a minimum of 15 years of experience in training. We help high-performing businesses like yours improve workplace culture and lower team friction, so they can retain quality staff and offer better service to customers.

We offer live workshops throughout Australia in metropolitan and regional locations. Contact us to find out more about our corporate workshops or to request a quote email us at

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