According to an article published by the World Economic Forum in October 2016, the annual cost of employee burnout on the global economy is estimated to be £255 billion a year. But what is burnout and why has a new publication by the World Health Organisation given it a lot more credibility.
What is employee burnout?
Employee burnout is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged workplace-related stress. Individuals who are experiencing burnout will often feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and as though they are unable to meet the constant demands of their jobs.
As a result, employees experiencing burnout will lose interest in their jobs, have reduced motivation and be less productive. They’ll also become much more critical/cynical at work, irritable/impatient with their colleagues and find it hard to concentrate while performing their jobs.
What causes employee burnout?
Various factors can cause employee burnout, including:
- Lack of control – when an employee is not able to influence decisions that affect their job, such as assignments, schedule, workload, etc. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.
- Lack of resources – when a team is running on the bare minimum and/or does not have the skills or tools needed to perform their jobs.
- Unclear job expectations – when an individual is unclear about the level of authority they have, or what is expected of them in their role.
- Dysfunctional workplace dynamics – when there’s a workplace bully, or an employee feels frequently undermined by their colleagues/manager.
- Extremes of activity – when a job can swing from being monotonous to chaotic. The lack of baseline normality can lead to fatigue and employee burnout.
- Lack of social support – when a person feels isolated at work and/or in their social life.
- Work-life imbalance – when someone’s job takes up too much of their time, leaving them unable or lacking the energy needed to be with their friends and family.
The WHO and employee burnout
In its most recent International Classification of Diseases (IDC-11) – a handbook that many refer to – the WHO has, for the first time ever, included burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Referring to it as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” the WHO says burnout is much more than just stress, highlighting that it is the result of deep, long-term stress that hasn’t been dealt with.
What can employers do to combat employee burnout?
Employers have a duty of care towards their employees, and that includes dealing with burnout. Line managers should not only be in a position to spot signs of burnout and be confident in starting conversations with employees about it, but also able to ascertain what the root cause is. Only then can they begin to tackle the situation.
If burnout is the result of too much work, then that is something the manager can address. Likewise, if an individual is struggling to complete their work because they lack training, then that can also be addressed.
Should one person in a team or department cause their colleagues undue stress through bullying, then that is something a line manager absolutely needs to deal with. The bottom line is that employers need to be able to recognise burnout and take necessary steps before it becomes too big an issue.
Finally, employers can help prevent their workers from experiencing burnout by offering great benefits. Whether it is something simple like allowing employees to work more flexibly, or providing Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), employers can proactively support their staff and tackle burnout head on.
Tom is the Sales Director for Premier Choice Group. In his role, Tom oversee’s growth across all areas of the business while maintaining a small number of his own clients. At Premier Choice, Tom and the team deliver a unique, personal service to every client, while growing the business and maintaining a strong reputation as the UK’s best intermediary.