Employee burnout – don’t let it take hold

Photo by Dawn Ashley via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by Dawn Ashley via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

According to research carried out with 200 HR Directors by the recruitment firm Robert Half, 30% of HR Directors surveyed reported that employee burnout is a common phenomenon in their organisations across all pay scales.

So, what were cited as the main causes for this burnout?

  • 67-75% blamed it on ‘workload’ (there was some variance in results based on the size of organisations and whether they were in the public or private sector).
  • 56% cited ‘overtime and long working hours’ as an important reason.
  • 35% named ‘unachievable expectations’ as a cause of burnout.
  • 32% gave ‘economic pressures’ as the main cause.
  •  27% suggested an ‘inability to balance personal and professional commitments’ as a major reason for burnout.

Many organisations are trying out initiatives in an attempt to prevent employee burnout with the aim of taking the pressure off staff who may already be feeling the pinch. These include:

  • promoting a team-based environment;
  • providing flexible working options;
  • restructuring job functions and tasks.

The figures quoted above are troubling and show just how much pressure many employees are under, perhaps because they fear their job may be under threat, they are struggling financially or in their personal lives, or because their employer is putting them under pressure to work longer and harder.

Communication is key. Developing an organisational culture in which staff feel comfortable talking to their line managers about any work/health issues they may be facing will help prevent the build-up of stress and pressure that might eventually lead to employee burnout. Advice is available for employers/line managers from the Health for Work Adviceline (0800 0 77 88 44) on how best to support staff who appear to be struggling, or who are already suffering from some kind of physical or mental illness.

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3 Responses to Employee burnout – don’t let it take hold

  1. Magda Rall says:

    Peter Whybrow wrote a fascinating account of the stress, overwork and general dissatisfaction that give way to the ‘burn out factor’ experienced in the workplace in the 21st century in his book ” American Mania” (2005). We are losing ourselves by wanting to fit into the culture being created by forces beyond our capacity – we want to excel, be taken into account, be the best parent, the trustworthy friend, the provider par excellence, – and in the end it is not what we have gained but what we have lost.
    Magda Rall

  2. Helen says:

    I am a teacher with 22 years’ experience. Over the last two or three years, the job has become undo-able due to higher and higher expectations, heavier workload which erodes more and more homelife. For years now, I have not even been able to consider going away for a weekend, or even go out for the day, because I have so much to do at the weekend which, if left undone, will make my week hell. I have tried talking to my superiors about this to no avail. Now I feel I am cracking up. Others in the orgnaisation are also suffering: tell-tales signs are recurrent illnesses, being ‘on the edge’ emotionally, taking no breaks, too tired to talk to colleagues and a general atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Luckily, I can just about afford to take early retirement.

  3. It amazes me how close the symptoms of employee burnout are to disengagement. However, if you talk about employee engagement it is seen as a soft and fluffy management tool as opposed to the more serious employee burnout.

    The the principles of involvement, feedback, recognition and being valued are key to preventing both, and potentially employee engagement is one step away from preventing burnout.