The pressure to address employee burnout has so intense that the World Health Organization declared burnout an occupational phenomenon1 in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Unfortunately, employee burnout is still a big issue in 2023. A recent survey from Slack found that burnout is on the rise globally, most significantly in the United States where 43% of middle managers reported burnout — more than any other worker group. Another survey of 10,243 global workers by US think-tank Future Forum reported that 42% of workers experienced burnout.
Employee burnout can have a negative impact on businesses in several ways. Burned out employees may become disengaged and unproductive, leading to decreased productivity. Burnout can also lead to increased turnover, as employees who are burned out may become dissatisfied with their job. Burnout can also have a negative impact on the health of employees, leading to decreased quality and quantity of work and more sick days.
Employee burnout diminishes their desires to learn and grow. When employees are experiencing these work burnout symptoms, most of their energy and mental focus is on daily survival, not developing for the future.
Burned out by burnout
There is little doubt that employee burnout is a symptom of modern workplaces that are increasingly fast-paced, complex and demanding. At work, many employees feel overwhelmed by competing demands and conflicting expectations. Technology — especially mobile technology — has blurred the lines between home life and work life. Here are some other common causes of employee burnout:
- Workload and job demands
Excessive workloads, unrealistic deadlines, and overwhelming job demands can lead to chronic stress and burnout. When employees consistently feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with the amount of work they have, it can take a toll on their physical and mental well-being.
- Lack of control
When employees feel they have little control over their work environment, decision-making processes, or the way they perform their tasks, it can contribute to burnout. Feeling powerless or micromanaged can erode motivation and increase stress levels.
- Lack of support and recognition
Employees who don’t receive adequate support from their managers or colleagues, or who feel undervalued and unappreciated for their efforts, are more likely to experience burnout. Feeling isolated or unsupported can lead to feelings of disillusionment and emotional exhaustion.
- Work-life imbalance
An imbalance between work and personal life, with excessive work demands encroaching on personal time and commitments, can contribute to burnout. When employees have little time for rest, relaxation, and meaningful personal activities, they become more susceptible to burnout.
- Organisational culture and values
Toxic work environments, where there is a lack of respect, unhealthy competition, or a culture of overwork, can foster burnout. When organizations prioritize productivity at the expense of employee well-being, burnout rates tend to increase.
- Job dissatisfaction
If employees are unhappy with their work or feel unfulfilled in their roles, it can lead to burnout. Lack of growth opportunities, uninteresting tasks, or a mismatch between skills and job requirements can contribute to feelings of frustration and burnout.
Stopping burnout before it happens
If an organisation’s culture promotes working excessively long hours, working during personal time and generally putting work ahead of family, those burnout-inducing habits are going to be difficult to break. However, employee burnout is not an inevitability. The warning signs can be detected, and burnout can be stopped before it passes the point of no return.
There are several strategies that can be employed to prevent employee burnout. To meaningfully deal with it, organisations must start by creating a positive and supportive organizational culture that values employee well-being. Encourage open communication, empathy, and mutual respect among team members. Promote a healthy work-life balance and discourage a culture of overwork.
When an organization makes wellbeing a priority of its culture and provides resources for employees to live healthier lives, they take better care of themselves.
Employees encourage one another to live a healthy, meaningful and productive work life. They support each other in pursuing their ideal work-life balance — whether that means working reasonable hours, taking advantage of a flexible work environment or enjoying their vacation time — and they collectively model making healthy choices.
Organisations must also educate employees about the importance of self-care and provide resources to support their well-being. Offer wellness programs, access to mental health resources, and encourage breaks, exercise, and time for relaxation. Lead by example and promote self-care practices within the organization.
Encourage employees to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Discourage after-hours communication and respect employees’ personal time. Consider implementing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to help employees better manage their work-life balance.
Managers can also help here, by generating positive employee experiences and learning how to reduce stress at work for employees. It’s their duty to set clear expectations, remove barriers, facilitate collaboration and ensure that employees feel fully supported to do their best work. When they do, managers can reverse burnout and prevent further burnout before it starts.
They can also conduct regular assessments of burnout risks within the organization, by surveying employees to gather feedback on their experiences and identify potential areas of improvement and using the insights gained to develop targeted interventions and policies to prevent burnout.
Ultimately, employee burnout is closely intertwined with productivity and organisational performance. When your employees’ wellbeing is thriving, your organization directly benefits; employees take fewer sick days, deliver higher performance, and have lower rates of burnout and turnover.
Organisational effectiveness is the lifeblood of any successful organisation. Companies need to run seamlessly to achieve their goals. Achieving sustained success requires the right strategy, but as importantly, an organisation that is aligned and ready to support the execution of the strategy.
The best workplaces care for their employees and then position employee engagement as the catalyst for improving important business outcomes.
Want to know more? Make sure your employees are engaged — and boost your competitive advantage. Talk to us to find out more.