What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined by the World Health Organization as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” In the 1970s, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger was one of the first researchers to publish a paper in a psychology-related journal coining the term “burnout.” In his research, he characterized burnout by a set of symptoms that include exhaustion resulting from work’s excessive demands, as well as the resulting physical symptoms, such as headaches and sleeplessness, and “quickness to anger.” He also noted that the burned-out worker “looks, acts and seems depressed.”
Continued research on the topic has found that burnout can affect employees across all job functions and has the potential to have significant impacts on their health and well-being.
Burnout is On the Rise
Indeed, the giant job aggregator site, conducted a survey of U.S. workers to determine the level of burnout exhibited by different groups of people. The subjects were picked from various age groups, experience levels and industry sectors. This survey was then compared to their pre-pandemic survey from January of 2020. Listed below are a few highlights:
- Over half (52%) of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021, which is up from the 43% last year.
- Millennials remain the most affected population, with 59% experiencing burnout today. However, Gen-Z is now neck and neck, with 58% reporting burnout. That is a 6% increase from last year for Millennials and an 11% increase for Gen-Zers.
- Baby Boomers show a 7% increase in burnout from pre-pandemic levels and Gen-Xers had a 14% jump.
- Of all the respondents, 80% believe Covid-19 had a negative impact on workplace burnout.
How Employers Can Help
The rise in burnout levels over the past year can be contributed to the rapid transition to remote work, lack of boundaries, inability to disconnect and working longer hours. On the employer side, burnout is notoriously associated with costly business outcomes including declining employee health, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and poor retention. But what can employers do to help stop the burnout cycle? Listed below are tips from Koa Health and Gallup.
1. Two-Way Communication
Open, two-way communication is one of the most effective tools at preventing burnout. Clearly outlining job roles and expectations alone can reduce a significant amount of a stress for employees. In addition, keep employees informed on upcoming organizational changes and be transparent about how those changes will affect them and their job roles. Making sure every voice is heard during meetings and acting on feedback or suggestions is a great way to show employees that they have your support.
2. Eliminate Roadblocks
Are there any tools, policies or equipment keeping an employee from completing their daily work? Removing roadblocks will increase efficiency and boost performance. In addition to eliminating what is holding them back, make sure to provide all the necessary tools and resources your employees may need to complete their job. Setting them up for success directly impacts their well-being and helps prevent burnout at work.
3. Make Well-Being Part of your Culture
As an organization, it is important to make well-being a priority in your culture and provide resources and benefits for employees to live healthier lives. Mental health benefits, such as meditation training and on-demand webinars and workshops like those provided by Health Designs, help employees recognize the signs of burnout and teach them ways to practice self-care to manage it.
4. Hold Frequent Check-Ins
Checking in frequently with your employees, one-on-one, is incredibly important so you can notice any signs or symptoms of burnout. This is especially true for your employees that are still working remotely. Talk about their goals, their progress, their roadblocks, and give feedback so they know where they stand. This is also a great opportunity to discuss employee development plans and career ladders, so employees know they have futures at your company.
5. Lead by Example
A culture that supports mental health and works to prevent burnout must start from the top. Beyond giving employees permission to prioritize their well-being, all company leaders must lead by example. That means prioritizing their own mental health, practicing work-life balance, and having candid conversations around mental health in the workplace. When leaders prioritize their mental health, they silently give their employees permission to do the same.