There’s a fine line between employee engagement and burnout. Know the warning signs of employee burnout for higher retention and productivity.

Employee engagement drives productivity and retention, but it’s not all good news. Research from Yale University revealed 50 percent of moderately to highly engaged employees are burnt out. They’re passionate about their work and show high skills acquisition, but they’re also the employees most at risk for turnover.

Dr. Jochen Menges, a co-author of the study, claims his research can help employers. “By shedding some light on some of the factors in both engagement and burnout, the study can help organisations identify workers who are motivated but also at risk of burning out and leaving.” A shortfall of Menges and his colleagues’ research is its inability to pinpoint when engagement stops being productive and starts exhausting valuable employees.

The challenge is to find the fine line between engagement and burnout. It’s different for everyone. One way to tell is to watch for signs like frustration and anxiety.

The study measured engagement, burnout, demands, resources and how they interact and influence each other in over 1,000 U.S. employees. Employees that were ‘optimally’ engaged reported high resources and low to moderate demands. They had support from their supervisors through rewards and received recognition without having to struggle with cumbersome bureaucracy, demands for concentration, or heavy workloads. On the other hand, 64 percent of employees experiencing burnout reported high demands and high resources. Finding the right balance between resources and demands might be the key to productive engagement.  

Look for common symptoms like exhaustion, frustration, anxiety, and inability to keep up with daily tasks. Monitor workloads to find out when it’s time to dial demands back and expand resources. Wellness programs can ease stress and help employees manage work-life balance, but if demands are too high employees will still burnout.

Research from Business Point Innovation Network and Pollfish found that 60 percent of working mothers and fathers experience burnout. Employees with children might be more likely than others to experience burnout, but there isn’t enough research on demographics to confirm which employees are most at risk.

Until there’s more research, it’s best for employers to assume any employee could be at risk for burnout.