Workplace burnout is not reserved for CEOs of international organizations or heart surgeons. Average employees experience the fatigue and discomfort of burnout every day in the United States and around the world. The World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases now categorizes work burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout results from chronic stress, can impact workers in any industry and often leads to decreased productivity, unhappiness and exhaustion.
Publications from the American Psychological Association provide an understanding of how workplace burnout can occur. Common causes of burnout include:
- Too much work
- Imbalanced work
- Lack of control over work
- No financial or emotional rewards for work
- Unsupportive community
The World Health Organization’s recent classification has reignited a meaningful conversation about mental health in the workplace.
How Common Is Burnout?
According to Gallup research for occupational burnout statistics, about two-thirds of employees admit to feeling sometimes or very often burned out in the workplace. According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, even highly engaged employees can suffer from burnout.
Employees are at higher risk for burnout when they have unrealistic expectations of themselves, never feel good enough, are in the wrong role and feel unappreciated. Companies can and should provide support that helps prevent employee burnout. Some support strategies companies can use include:
- Adequate vacation time
- Boundaries between work and home life
- Expansion of wellness programs
- Employee recognition
- A culture of celebrating achievements
Regular touch points with management that are positive can be an essential element in promoting employee mental wellness.
Effects of Workplace Burnout
Symptoms of burnout in the workplace may not be obvious and can be confused with other issues. Some people react to stress in anger, frustration or sadness. It is important for employers to be aware of the ways burnout can manifest in different employees. Some signs of burnout at work may include:
- Severe lack of energy
- Cynicism or extreme criticism
The effects of burnout at work can impact a company’s culture and bottom line. The American Institute of Stress developed a survey in 1998 that they use to screen for workplace stress. This and other research has led them to the conclusion that stress-related factors that affect job attendance and productivity cost companies in the United States $300 billion a year. Creating a company culture and opportunities for mental wellness is essential for companies to avoid significant financial loss.
Managing Work-Related Stress
Stress is a primary source of workplace burnout. Managing stress at work is an important coping tool that can provide guidance on how to avoid burnout in the workplace. It’s important to identify the source of stress. Once it’s clear what factors in a person’s workplace cause burnout, they can begin to take steps to address them. Companies can learn how to prevent burnout in the workplace by using tools and strategies to promote mental wellness among their employees.
The American Institute of Stress. “Workplace Stress.” Accessed June 20, 2019.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Job Burnout: How to spot it and take action.” Mayo Clinic, November 21, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.
Seppala, Emma et al. “1 in 5 Employees is Highly Engaged and at Risk of Burnout.” Harvard Business Review, May 16, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.
Wigert, Ben et al. “Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes.” Gallup Workplace, July 12, 2018. Accessed June 20, 2019.
Wilson, Susan M. “Avoid the burn.” American Psychological Association GradPSYCH Magazine 2011. Accessed June 20, 2019.
World Health Organization. “Burn-out an occupational phenomenon’: International Classification of Diseases.” May 28, 2019. Accessed June 20, 2019.