We all know that employees are the greatest asset of any organization. Yet there are companies where employees seem to be disengaged, unhappy, and unproductive. Being a key factor in business success, it’s important that organization leaders take a look at their employees’ work experience.

One of the key reasons for employee disengagement and decreased productivity is overburden or what we all know as employee burnout. In lean management, this is known as muri. How can you determine if your team is overburdened with work or experiencing muri? We’re here to help you out.

6 Signs Your Team is Experiencing Muri

Muri is the Japanese word for overburden. It happens when there are too much stress and strain on people or machines. It’s part of the Toyota 3M Model, which stands for Muda, Muri, and Mura. Muri manifests in employee behavior and work processes in a variety of ways. Some managers may overlook this and not recognize them as problems. We’ve rounded up 6 of the most common signs that tell your team is overburdened with work.

Decrease in Quality of Work

When you notice a consistent decline in output or an increase in defective items from your pipeline, it could be a sign that your employees are overburdened with work. If an employee, who used to be the A-player of the team, is suddenly experiencing problems, it’s always good to check their workload. Assess whether you gave them more than they can handle.

Missed Deadlines

Has your team been missing their commitments? Do you always adjust your target release dates? While unrealistic deadlines can cause this, it can also be due to overburden. When deadlines are still missed no matter how much effort the team exerts, you need to check if they are overburdened with work.


Employees would sometimes extend their working hours for the sake of getting the work done. When your teams are clocking in 60-hour workweeks, their performance is bound to suffer.

Lack of Confidence to Get the Work Done

What some managers may fail to recognize as overburden is when employees are given tasks that do not match their competence. This is another type of overburdening because the work given is beyond the person’s capabilities.


When employees start to isolate themselves and become distant from the rest of the team, it could be a sign that they feel overburdened with work. You will be able to tell the difference, especially if the employee used to be livelier at work than their current behavior.

Absenteeism and Turnover

If you notice recurring absences from employees, you might want to check how they’re doing at work. When employees are overburdened, they feel demotivated and stressed. Instead of getting out of bed and showing up for work, they’d be absent. Even worse, submitting their resignation letter when they feel they’ve finally had it.

How You Can Fight Muri


The recognition of the symptoms of muri is the starting point of battling it. Once you know something’s wrong, it’s time to take action. Here are 5 tips to help you eliminate muri:

Talk to your employees

You must understand where your employees are coming from. Discuss their current feelings and situation at work. Once you get a clearer understanding of why they feel overburdened at work, then you can design an action plan together. Let your employees feel that you want to help them be relieved from the stress at work.

Use Kanban

One technique to eliminate overburden is to limit how many items your employees are working on at a time. With Kanban, you can implement work-in-progress limits to keep your employees focused on getting one task done before moving to the next.

Involve Your Employees When Planning Their Work

Don’t just assign tasks. Be reasonable and involve your employees in planning. While it’s important to give them challenging work, you need to find the balance and not push it too much that they get overwhelmed.

Set an Example

Set reasonable work hours not only for your team but for yourself as well. Take breaks. Engage with your team on short casual conversations from time-to-time. When your employees see that you’re taking time for yourself and are getting out of work on time, they will follow suit.

Establish a Supportive Culture

Create a work environment where employees feel safe to express their feelings towards work. Employees must be open to ask for help or to say that they don’t know how to do something, without feeling judged by their colleagues. Take time to listen and address your employees’ concerns.

We don’t have to wait for our employees to reach their boiling point. Taking the time to observe and recognize signs of possible overburden can help you turn things around. What other signs of employee burnout have you seen or experienced? How did you tackle them? We’d love to know your thoughts.

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

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