Workplace burnout is literally killing us. Workplace burnout is work-related stress that results in physical and emotional exhaustion reducing productivity or sense of personal identity.
In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed burnout an occupational health issue. Research revealed that employees who work more than 54 hours a week are at high risk of burnout, and the chronic diseases inspired by it could lead to potential death. The study correlated workplace burnout with a rise in ischemic heart disease and strokes responsible for killing three-quarters of a million people each year. Not only does workplace burnout negatively impact the health of individuals, but the health of economies and businesses as well. The impact of people quitting due to burnout is devastating, especially in healthcare and government, with an annual loss of $322 billion globally.
Burnout looks different for everyone but revolves around three core feelings: energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from a job (i.e., feelings of negativism or cynicism), and reduced efficacy. Everyone handles burnout differently, but common symptoms of burnout look like this:
Feelings of unfulfillment
Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns
Decrease in productivity
Using food, drugs, or alcohol to mute or boost feelings
Unexplained aches and other physical pain
Getting sick easily
Burnout impacts your body, too. Renzo Bianchi, a psychologist at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, described the biological effects of burnout as a state of hormonal depletion. “When stress is chronic, cortisol levels in the body keep going up, but the system doesn’t shut itself down. The burnt-out phase begins when that system is tapped out,” he said. Burnout is your body’s mental, physical, and biological way of telling you that you’re overdoing it. The only way to be proactive about workplace stress and its impact on your mind and body is to distance yourself from the stressor.
It’s easy to say you’re overworked, but it’s tough to assess where exactly you feel overwhelmed or unfulfilled. An article on POPULAR SCIENCE shared these six core areas of work where burnout evolves from:
Workload: The amount of work one balances daily or weekly.
Autonomy: The amount of personal agency one has with their team and employer.
Fairness in the workplace: How often a person is treated fairly, commonly related to age, race, gender, or seniority within a workplace.
Reward: The amount of fulfillment one receives from work.
Workplace Community: How much respect and connection is between an individual and their coworkers.
Values & Meaning: How much alignment between personal values and the values upheld daily in the workplace.
Burnout impacts everyone and can happen to anyone who has overindulged in work-related stress. Burnout can impact anyone, but individuals more susceptible to burnout are:
Remote, hybrid, or employees on distributed teams
Parents / caregivers
Essential or Frontline Workers
People with disabilities
Though we cannot prevent burnout from happening, we can spread awareness. By being mindful of burnout, you have a better chance of catching it before it sabotages the health of you and your teammates. Despite that burnout begins at the individual level, the best way for businesses to be proactive is by taking responsibility by offering education and resources for employees.
Keep a pulse on your company: Evaluate morale and team health with surveys and use metrics to evaluate who’s in the red zone working more than 55 hours each week. Workforce management systems like Oversight are great resources to evaluate over performing employees.
Create conversations: Podcasts, YouTube videos, Memes, Articles, and social media posts are a great way to start a discussion about the impact of burnout. If team members know there’s not a stigma around burnout, they’ll feel more comfortable about sharing it with leadership when it happens.
Offer resources: Lunch and learns, work incentives like gym memberships, company holidays dedicated to mental health, counseling stipends, and book suggestions are viable solutions to helping team members work through burnout.
With the growth in remote and distributed teams, workplace burnout is a bigger concern than ever. But finding ways to track and prevent burnout may seem daunting at first. The important thing is to be aware of the issue and to start conversations with your team to work toward a solution together.