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Tracking and Mitigating Staff Burnout in the Public Sector

A record number of people quit their job in November 2021, indicating a meaningful staff burnout. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, around 4.5 million American workers quit their jobs. Quits have been on the rise since August 2021 and they show no signs of career fatigue.

This is a troubling statistic even in government or public sector work. In November 2021, the total separation rate — or the rate of workers quitting — for the government industry was 1.6 according to the BLS. While the government has the lowest separation rate recorded by BLS, it’s still essential for public sector agencies to keep an eye on employees, so staff members don’t become part of the hidden resignation.

What Is the Hidden Resignation?

While some employees have chosen to express their displeasure with an organization by leaving, some staff members can’t do so. Instead of leaving the organization, employees who fall into this new category are disengaging with work. Disengaged workers can harm your workplace by being less productive and ruining the employee experience for other team members.

Before employees join the hidden or great resignations, win them back by tracking and mitigating staff burnout in the public sector.

What Are Some Employee Burnout Signs?

Are you unsure about burnout in your organization? Look for some of the symptoms of burnout below:

  • Decreased workplace productivity
  • Isolation from coworkers
  • Increased time off and absenteeism
  • Irritability with coworkers, managers and customers
  • Expressing more cynical or negative thoughts than usual

How Organizations Can Track Staff Burnout

Before you fix burnout, you need to understand how deep the issue goes in your department. Here are some ways to track burnout so you can address it.


Sending out anonymous surveys to your team is a great way to understand burnout. Public sector burnout is a huge issue and an anonymous survey asking about burnout and workplace thoughts can help you understand how your team is feeling.

Stay Interviews

Another way to track staff burnout is through a stay interview. Unlike the exit interviews you conduct when an employee leaves, you run stay interviews to see why someone sticks with your organization.

1:1 Conversations

Lastly, you can find a lot of information about staff burnout during 1:1 conversations. If you are not meeting with employees weekly to understand their issues, you miss a moment to bond with team members and catch burnout before it becomes an issue.

What Organizations Can Do to Address Burnout and Support Employees

Once you understand how employee burnout is impacting employees, here are a few tips on how to prevent employee burnout:

Expand Sick Leave Policies

First, consider expanding sick leave policies. Many public sector jobs have generous sick leave policies, but require doctor’s notes for this sick time off. Taking a sick day for mental health purposes should be celebrated. Employees know when they need rest and companies should allow more flexibility for employees to take time when needed.

Focus on Providing Work/Life Balance

Are employees coming into the office early or leaving late? Are you connecting with employees after work hours to chat about their upcoming schedule? Boundaries are essential and employees need to have ample time after work to recharge. If your organization is short on work/life balance, consider simple techniques to improve this balance, like hiring more employees and setting boundaries as a manager.

Provide Worker Autonomy to Handle Tasks (While Providing Help If Needed)

Micromanagement isn’t fun. You have trained your employees to handle their job and they need space to do their work effectively.

Create boundaries to help your team when they need it, not when you think they do. For example, you could host daily office hours where employees can freely come to you for help if they need it. If employees don’t go to you, you should assume they know what they are doing and don’t need help. This simple reframe can help your employees feel more confident in their abilities.

Ensure Employees Have Easy Access to Organizational Resources

Do your employees know all the resources available to them as public sector workers? Maybe there are specific resources in your office and at the city, country and state levels. For example, many public sector companies are starting to offer resources like access to meditation apps or courses on avoiding burnout at work.

Sharing those organizational resources widely with employees may help them manage their own experiences with burnout. Compile these resources into a document and share them with staff members before they express issues with employee burnout.

Key Takeaways to Mitigate Employee Burnout

Companies in both the private and public sectors are dealing with burnout right now. Fortunately, there have never been more resources around avoiding burnout in the workplace. Helping your team members find resources that work for them is the best thing you can mitigate employee burnout as a public sector leader.