4 March 2024

Putting an end to the burnout crisis

a man looking up.

Stress has always been a problem, but now the workplace is dealing with a serious burnout crisis. Unless you absolutely love your job, it's likely you've felt exhausted or even faced real burnout at work.

It's a common issue. The real trouble starts when you or your employees reach a crisis level of burnout. The crisis stage of burnout is when the stress becomes overwhelming, and it's important to understand what leads to it and how you can safeguard your employees from reaching this point. 

Understanding burnout

When we talk about burnout, we're referring to a state of exhaustion caused by prolonged workplace stress. It's not classified as a medical condition, and occasional stress doesn't necessarily lead to burnout. However, if the underlying stressors aren't addressed, burnout can develop. 

Burnout can manifest through a mix of physical and emotional symptoms, including: 

  • Tiredness or fatigue 
  • A feeling of detachment or loneliness 
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • A sense of failure 
  • A loss of motivation 

There are also symptoms that might be more noticeable in others, such as procrastination, social isolation, decreased performance, and emotional outbursts. 

The impact of burnout

The symptoms of burnout can significantly affect your mental and physical health. For instance, if burnout is causing you to lose sleep, it can weaken your immune system and increase your likelihood of falling ill. Approximately 64% of people believe that poor sleep can contribute to burnout. 

In severe cases, burnout may lead to more harmful behaviors, such as substance abuse and damage to personal relationships. 

Beyond individual consequences, burnout can also greatly impact the workplace. More than half (52%) of employees are feeling burnout in a recent report from Indeed. Even when employees do come to work, burnout can make them less creative, less productive, and more error-prone. Burnout can also be contagious within a work environment; if one employee is suffering from burnout, it can affect others as well. 

Research from Microsoft indicates that 50% of employees have reported feeling burned out at work. 

Causes and contributors to burnout

Work stress alone doesn't usually lead to burnout. Burnout often results from enduring stress at work and at home over a long period. Factors in the workplace that can contribute to burnout include: 

  • Working long hours 
  • Long commutes 
  • Customer service roles that require a lot of empathy 
  • Feeling a lack of control over one's work 

Personal factors can also contribute to burnout, such as responsibilities for caring for others, financial concerns, problems in romantic relationships, and low self-esteem. These personal issues can intensify the effects of professional stress, making someone more susceptible to burnout. 

Burnout can affect anyone dealing with chronic stress, although it is more commonly reported among women and young people. 

Solutions and coping strategies

Knowing the causes of burnout can help you create strategies to prevent it from affecting your employees too severely. 

While it's impossible to eliminate all stressors, providing employees with tools and resources to manage stress better, and avoiding overburdening them, can be beneficial. 

You can implement various wellbeing initiatives to alleviate some of life's pressures, such as: 

  • Financial coaching 
  • Flexible working arrangements 
  • Strong policies to prevent chronic stress, including regular assessments for support 
  • Regular check-ins with employees to discuss their workload 
  • Setting reasonable deadlines 
  • Encouraging regular breaks and full use of annual leave 
  • Providing regular training to reduce the stigma around mental health 

Talent management strategies are also important. Ensuring that employees have a positive and consistent experience at work can greatly reduce burnout. This also helps in retaining talented employees who are eager to continue working with your organization. 

For more information on talent management and how to support your employees in avoiding burnout, you can refer to our guide. 

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Emma Reid

Content writer at MHR

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