Employee Burnout: Causes, Statistics & Cures


 — November 17th, 2021

Employee Burnout: Causes, Statistics & Cures

According to Mayo clinic, employee burnout is a special type of work-related stress that affects employees’ mental, physical and emotional health. It also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. While not officially considered a mental health issue, there is a significant association between burnout, anxiety, and depression.

Employee burnout is one of the biggest threats to worker wellbeing and employee engagement. A study from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that employee burnout costs the global workforce an estimated one trillion dollars in lost productivity each year.

When burnout is experienced, it leaves employees unable to meet demands either at work or in their personal life. This not only affects individual employees but the teams they are part of and the organization itself.

How to align HR wellness programs with business strategy

Employee burnout causes

Overwhelming workload

A heavy workload is one of the primary causes of stress among employees. When under immense pressure, employees may lose their motivation, engage in conflicts, and have a difficult time completing their tasks. Furthermore, employees who work long hours are more likely to develop heart disease, hypertension, joint pain, weight loss, and tiredness.

Here are a few suggestions to help employees manage their workload better:

  • Set clear priorities and goals for team members at the start of the week
  • Schedule regular catch-ups to check progress and highlight blockers
  • Don’t overload employees with too many tasks at once
  • Be realistic

Workplace culture

Workplace culture plays a key role in determining whether or not employees succeed in their roles. A company’s culture dictates how its employees are managed, approach their work, and interact with their colleagues. Negative company culture including bullying, unrealistic expectations, and toxic attitudes can be very bad for business.

Employees can’t thrive in poor company culture, and they will burn out or leave in search of a more supportive environment. This is why it's vital for companies to build a culture that promotes wellness, sets clear expectations and lets workers know it’s ok to make mistakes.

Lack of recognition

When employees work hard for a company they want to feel their efforts are being recognized and that they are not just a means to an end. Employee retention, engagement, and motivation all increase when workers feel they are getting the respect they deserve.

Employees will also gain a feeling of value and understand that the work they do matters. If workers don’t feel rewarded for their contribution, or like their ideas and opinions hold significance within the organization, it is only a matter of time until they burn out.

A winning employee recognition program starts with having a company culture that advocates appreciation.

Examples of ways companies can recognize their employees include:

  • Offer fun projects or professional/personal development opportunities
  • Give shoutouts
  • Take them to lunch
  • Distribute non-cash rewards
  • Loosen the reins (e.g. casual dress days, more opportunities for remote work)
  • Throw a competition, party, or potluck
  • Encourage peer-to-peer recognition
  • Just say thank you!

Employee burnout statistics

  • In a survey of over 1,000 respondents by Deloitte, 77% say they have experienced burnout at their current job. Meanwhile, 91% say that unmanageable stress or frustration impacts the quality of their work, and 83% say burnout can negatively impact personal relationships.
  • Employee burnout has increased over the last year: more than half (52%) of respondents are feeling burned out, and more than two-thirds (67%) believe the feeling has worsened over the course of the pandemic, Indeed’s Employee Burnout Report found.
  • A FlexJobs and Mental Health America survey found that 37% of people were working more hours than usual since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Unfair treatment at work makes people 2.3 times more likely to experience high levels of burnout, a survey from Gallup found.
  • Job stress costs US companies more than $300 billion per year due to accidents, absenteeism, and decreased productivity, among a number of other factors, Michigan State University found.

Cures for employee burnout

Get serious about mental health

According to a 2019 study about mental health in the workplace, 60% of participants reported experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition in the last year. Responsible employers need to be aware of how common mental health illnesses are and take positive action to allow employees to know they are being taken seriously.

Tips include:

  • Use an emotional rating system
  • Talk about mental health to the general group, and not to specific people
  • Be confidential and private
  • Teach your employees how to be mentally healthy
  • Learn to spot mental health issues

Design the employee experience to reduce burnout

The employee experience incorporates everything employees encounter and observe over the course of their employment at an organization. The company's physical workspace, culture, and technology are all important components of this experience.

By improving the employee experience, employers can directly target employee burnout and create a workforce of engaged and productive workers.

Help employees connect with their purpose

Studies indicate that when employees believe that their work matters, they’re four times more likely to be engaged, are more motivated, learn faster, and are more fulfilled in their roles. When workers understand the deeper purpose behind their work, they're likely to be more satisfied and productive and less likely to become burned out.

Take the following steps to help your people find purpose in their work:

  • Write a meaningful mission statement
  • Link personal drivers with the team or organizational goals
  • Uncover strengths
  • Build a positive work environment.
  • Use feedback to boost positivity

Other cures for burnout

  • Host team-building events
  • Get feedback from employees
  • Offer wellness activities
  • Delegate tasks efficiently
  • Send an employee care package
  • Let employees take mental health days
  • Allow workers to make mistakes
  • Re-align tasks with interests

How to align HR wellness programs with business strategy

Key Takeaway

Employee burnout is a serious issue where employees lose all motivation or incentive to perform their jobs, leading to feelings of depression and stress. Although it is not considered a mental health illness, it is a mental health issue and should be treated as such by employers.

There are several factors that can contribute to employee burnout including an overwhelming workload, unrealistic expectations, and a negative work environment.

To prevent burnout, employers should focus on creating a supportive environment where everyone can flourish and employees understand their purpose and importance within the company. By doing so leaders will succeed in cultivating a workforce of satisfied and engaged workers who carry out tasks and perform their roles to the best of their abilities.

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