What is employee burnout?
There aren’t many jobs out there that are completely stress-free. It’s normal, and even necessary, for employees to feel some amount of anxiety toward the demands of meeting deadlines and performing work-related tasks. However, when stress from work manifests in extended emotional or physical exhaustion it ceases to simply be stress and becomes what is known as employee burnout.
Recently, the World Health Organization updated their employee burnout definition to include three aspects of burnout:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy.
Employee burnout can make it difficult for an employee to feel accomplished in their work, it can lead to personal identity crises, and it can be signaled by a complete lack of interest in regard to work or otherwise.
It’s easy to see that employee burnout can lead to job performance issues, so both employers and employees can benefit from educating themselves about employee burnout. This article will provide information about employee burnout causes and cures and will show how proper training can help minimize the likelihood of burnout.
Employee Burnout Statistics
A universal problem
Forbes, in this 2017 article, reported that 95% of businesses are in some way affected by employee burnout. That affect comes primarily in the form of high turnover or low workplace efficiency. Onboarding and training new associates is expensive, and employee retention is a key to success for any organization. Ultimately, employee burnout costs organizations money, and it’s happening in every industry.
The ‘Burnout Epidemic’
According to CNBC, 23% of employees in a recent study reported feeling burned out by work either always or very often. 44% of the employees in the study said that they sometimes felt burned out by work. It’s numbers such as these that are the reason for the phrase ‘burnout epidemic’ becoming far too common. Employers today must make themselves aware of the factors leading to job burnout, the employee burnout signs, and of how to combat job burnout.
A study conducted in 2013 by Dr. Srini Pillay, M.D., and detailed in this Arielle article, found that 75% of the C-level executives and senior managers surveyed believed that senior managers in their organization were burned out. Executive burnout statistics like this one show that employee burnout can penetrate all the way to the top of an organization. When the senior managers at an organization are burned out it’s no surprise that the employees that they oversee are burned out as well. The same survey participants reported that 79% of front-line workers also showed signs of being burned out.
Star employee burnout
Employee burnout statistics 2018 show that burnout is not limited to employees who might be called “under performers.” A recent Yale University study, detailed in this Harvard Business Review article, found that 20% of the 1000 employees surveyed reported being highly engaged and, at the same time, burned out. This means that employers need to be aware of, and take steps to avoid, star employee burnout to ensure that they don’t lose their top talent.
A cross-industry quandary
As mentioned before, employee burnout is not limited by industry or profession. This Inc.com article reports on a survey of 11,000 tech industry workers that found that 57% of them reported suffering from burnout at the time of the survey. The Medscape National Physician Burnout Report 2019, which can be found here, gathered that 44% of physicians self-reported being burned out by their work. Physician burnout is not restricted to the U.S. either, the British National Health Service (NHS) has invested in a “burnout service” to combat the burnout symptoms NHS physicians are experiencing.
Tech workers, doctors, CEOs, and all employees in between are susceptible to employee burnout. The next section will cover the factors leading to job burnout, and shed light on why the specific type of work an employee is doing doesn’t necessarily impact the likelihood that they will become burned out.
Factors Leading to Job Burnout
The factors leading to job burnout are many and diverse. While some causes of employee burnout can be contributed to the employee, many of them are due to factors within the control of employers.
Lean on leadership to avoid job burnout
A company looking to keep its employees from experiencing burnout must turn to its leadership team. A properly trained leadership team can create an environment where negative workplace culture that causes company burnout is nonexistent. Leadership teams should also manage employee workloads and set appropriate deadlines to keep employees from becoming overwhelmed.
Of course, employees have a certain responsibility for managing their time and for workplace toxicity as well. In contrast, one shortcoming that consistently leads to job burnout, and is solely controllable by a company’s leadership team, occurs when employees are not rewarded for their accomplishments and are not made aware of how their roles contribute to the mission of their companies. Employees who are not supported by their managers and who lack clarity in their role are susceptible to the career fatigue that eventually leads to burnout.
New job burnout
It’s important for employers to keep in mind that new employees are at especially high risk for job burnout. A new job can lead to lifestyle changes that aren’t always positive. A new job-perhaps with higher demands or a longer commute-can cause an employee to make poor diet choices or to develop unhealthy sleep habits.
Employee Burnout Signs
As important as it is for company leadership to take steps to keep employees from burning out, it may be even more important for a leadership team to be able to recognize the signs of burnout so that they can avoid losing talent. Listed here are five warning signs of overworked employees that managers and leaders should look out for. Employees who feel like they may be experiencing employee burnout symptoms can take this burnout symptoms test.
One of the most noticeable employee burnout signs is an outwardly irritable employee. Employees who have become cynical, and sometimes critical of their job and employer, can be impatient with coworkers, managers, and even customers. Uncharacteristic outbursts of anger could be a symptom of an employee who is experiencing burnout.
Employee burnout can result in not just mental stress, but also in physical stress that causes the employee to suffer physical symptoms as well. Those suffering from employee burnout have reported headaches, digestive issues, dizziness, fainting, trouble sleeping, and other physical ailments. Although employee burnout is classified as a mental condition by the World Health Organization, it can lead to serious physical health problems.
Lack of concentration
Employees experiencing burnout may find it difficult to concentrate on work, or in other aspects of their life. Often times employees suffering from burnout are already feeling overwhelmed by their workload, so their inability to concentrate only compounds the issue.
Sick days and late arrivals
It’s no surprise that employees suffering from burnout are apt to miss work. According to a 1998 American Institute of Stress survey, detailed here, as many as one million workers miss work each day because of stress. That data is twenty years old, but all signs point toward American workers being more stressed today than ever before. Again, workers who are already overwhelmed have their problems compounded because they are too stressed to come to work. The costs that employers take on due to absenteeism that stems from job burnout are significant.
How to Combat Burnout
Not all employees are fortunate enough to work for a company that will help them combat burnout. So, if they are determined to stay in their role, then they need to learn how to treat burnout on their own. For instance, employees can learn to manage their time better, commit to getting enough sleep, become more organized, and cultivate a work-life balance. Burnout is not always a problem the employee can solve by themselves, but there are steps that employees can take to combat burnout.
Managing and leading the fight against burnout
Of course, employees shouldn’t have to treat burnout on their own. Employee burnout is almost completely controllable, and avoidable, with the right leaders who have had the right training. Managers can keep their employees from burning out by ensuring a fair and safe work environment. They are also responsible for providing the role clarity and the connection between company goals and employee tasks, whose absence is one of the culprits of burnout.
Managers must understand that no matter what overarching steps they take to create a positive workplace environment-employee burnout is unique to each individual. The single best way to combat burnout is to connect to team members on a personal level. Noticing the symptoms of burnout-lack of concentration, fatigue, dips in productivity, irritability, etc.-is not possible for a manager who does not engage with their associates. Great leaders keep employees from burning out and provide the fuel to get them going again when they see them start to dim.