Human Capital Management, Total Well-Being

Burnout in the Workplace

/ August 9, 2019 August 9, 2019

The word “Burnout” has recently been showing up with greater frequency. So what exactly is burnout? It’s a state (emotional, physical, and mental) of exhaustion usually caused by long term stress. Many people experiencing occupational burnout will feel helpless and underappreciated. There are methods to prevent and treat burnout, but if left untreated it can be an issue for your organization.

Why? Employees work better when they’re feeling better. Unaddressed burnout can have negative effects on a company, in fact many people who do not treat this, experience some or all of the following:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses

There are several reasons that employees feel burnout. Some common signs include:

  • Lack of control
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional Workplace Dynamics
  • Lack of social support
  • Work-life imbalance

Why does this matter to an organization? Because people who are experiencing these feelings won’t do as efficient and effective work. There will be a loss of productivity and a lack of motivation. In fact, a disengaged employee costs an organization approximately $3,400 for every $10,000 in annual salary as well as costing the American economy up to $350 billion per year due to lost productivity. In addition, there is an increase in things like doctor and ER visits and medication, making premiums go up and costing employers more money. Engaged employees are happier, more productive employees.

What can be done to prevent burnout?

Simple changes to HR policies can not only prevent burnout, but actually increase productivity. As stated in a SHRM article titled “Managing for Employee Retention”, “employees want to be recognized for their achievements. Respondents to the SHRM/Globoforce survey, Using Recognition and Other Workplace Efforts to Engage Employees, agreed that recognition can help create a positive workplace culture and employee experience, and 68% said their organization’s recognition program positively affects retention”.

There are some additional steps you can take to help reduce burnout in employees:

  1. Ensure that employees are taking free time for themselves and feel well balanced between their work and home life. One way to do this is by instituting vacation policies so employees feel encouraged to take the necessary time they need to disconnect from work and rejuvenate. Organizations can also institute policies that say employees have no obligation to answer their work calls or emails outside of the hours of 9-5.
  2. Give employees free time throughout the work day. Setting aside a time during the day, even if it just for a lunch break, to put work aside and enjoy a stress-free period is easy to implement and can have a significant positive impact.
  3. Implement stress management techniques. These can be individual to the person, for example, one employee may choose to exercise regularly as a way to unwind and destress. Another employee might value meditation or going for walks. By giving them the option to do this during work hours, it allows employees to feel that their well-being is valued and in turn increase their engagement.

Although burnout is something that has negative effects on both organizations and employees themselves, knowing what it is and how to prevent it is the first step. There are many ways to treat burnout and following the techniques outlined above will be beneficial.


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