Employers need to focus on workplace burnout: Here's why

Employers need to focus on workplace burnout: Here’s why

Workplace burnout can be a serious problem for individual workers and entire organizations. The good news is there are ways to get ahead of it and methods to rectify it.

Workplace burnout is an occupation-related syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout can be measured and quantified using validated scientific tools. It involves ongoing emotional exhaustion, psychological distance or negativity, and feelings of inefficacy—all adding up to a state where the job-related stressors are not being effectively managed by the normal rest found in work breaks, weekends, and time off (World Health Organization, 2019).

This isn’t “burnout” we use in casual conversation. True workplace burnout is specific to one’s job or occupation and is more concerning and detrimental than the daily irritations everyone experiences and most of us manage.

There are three dimensions to workplace burnout:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or emotional exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s work and negative or cynical feelings toward one’s work
  • Reduced sense of efficacy at work

Mindy Shoss, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida and associate editor of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, says, “There are many potential causes of burnout in today’s workplaces—excessive workloads, low levels of support, having little say or control over workplace matters, lack of recognition or rewards for one’s efforts, and interpersonally toxic and unfair work environments. Add to that the constant hum of uncertainty about a possible recession, and it’s no surprise that burnout is on the rise in many workplaces.”

Decades of research shows an association between workplace burnout and a host of negative organizational, psychological, and even physical consequences, including:


  • Absenteeism
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Presenteeism


  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Psychological distress


  • Heart disease
  • Headaches
  • Musculoskeletal pain

According to leading scientific research, employees who experience true workplace burnout have a:

  • 57% increased risk of workplace absence greater than two weeks due to illness
  • 180% increased risk of developing depressive disorders
  • 84% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • 40% increased risk of hypertension (von Känel et al., 2020)

Additionally, workplace burnout may impair short-term memory, attention, and other cognitive processes essential for daily work activities (Gavelin et al., 2022).

Dennis P. Stolle, JD, PhD, APA’s senior director of applied psychology, points out that burnout has consequences for organizational effectiveness, not just individuals. “When workers are suffering from burnout, their productivity drops, and they may become less innovative and more likely to make errors. If this spreads throughout an organization, it can have a serious negative impact on productivity, service quality, and the bottom-line.”

Christina Maslach, PhD, one of the leading experts on workplace burnout, has emphasized that finding solutions to the problem of burnout requires considering the workplace, the worker, and the workplace/worker fit.

“We need to reframe the basic question from who is burning out to why they are burning out. It is not enough to simply focus on the worker who is having a problem—there must be a recognition of the surrounding job conditions that are the sources of the problem. That is why the job-person relationship is so important. Is there a good match between the worker and the workplace environment, which enables the worker to thrive and do well?” Maslach says.

  • Periodically measure whether workplace burnout is happening in their organization through thoughtful and systematic surveys.
  • Keep track of workloads, regularly check in with workers on how they are doing, and encourage taking advantage of time off.
  • Take a hard look at their organization’s practices to ensure that they are giving workers the control, flexibility, and resources needed to manage workload and job stress.
  • Prioritize self-care, including caring for both physical and emotional well-being.
  • Set appropriate boundaries, including giving themselves permission to truly unplug from work for reasonable periods of time.
  • Prioritize social relationships. Healthy relationships with coworkers, friends, and family can help buffer workplace stresses.
  • Constantly strive for a healthy, supportive, and inclusive workplace that fosters a sense of trust and confidence that workers have each other’s backs.
  • Regularly discuss whether workloads are reasonable and appropriate to ensure work is distributed in an equitable way and, if needed, restructure accordingly.

Sometimes the solution may be to redesign job responsibilities or move the employee to a different position in the same organization. Not only might this be good for the employee, but it may help the organization retain valuable talent. A win/win.

Workplace burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment from one’s job.

The symptoms of workplace burnout can vary from person to person, but they may include:

  • Physical symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, sleep problems, changes in appetite, and weight loss or gain.
  • Emotional symptoms: Exhaustion, irritability, anxiety, depression, and detachment from one’s job.
  • Behavioral symptoms: Withdrawal from social activities, decreased productivity, and increased errors at work.

The causes of workplace burnout are complex and can vary from person to person. However, some of the most common causes include:

  • Excessive workload: When employees are given too much work to do with too little time or resources, they are more likely to experience burnout.
  • Lack of control: When employees feel like they have no control over their work, they are more likely to experience burnout.
  • Unrealistic expectations: When employees are expected to meet unrealistic deadlines or goals, they are more likely to experience burnout.
  • Toxic work environment: A toxic work environment is characterized by conflict, stress, and negativity. Employees who work in toxic work environments are more likely to experience burnout.
  • Personal factors: Personal factors, such as stress from outside of work, can also contribute to workplace burnout.

There are several things that can be done to prevent workplace burnout. Some of these include:

  • Set realistic expectations: Set realistic goals for yourself and your team.
  • Take breaks: Take breaks throughout the day to relax and recharge.
  • Delegate tasks: Don’t try to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to others when possible.
  • Say no: Don’t be afraid to say no to new projects or responsibilities if you don’t have the time or resources to do them.
  • Take care of yourself: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental health. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly.
  • Seek help: If you are struggling with burnout, don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist or counselor.

If you are experiencing workplace burnout, there are several things you can do to cope. Some of these include:

  • Take a break: If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break from work. Take a few days off or go on vacation.
  • Talk to someone: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about how you are feeling.
  • Make changes: Make changes to your work environment or workload to reduce stress. This could include setting boundaries, delegating tasks, or saying no to new projects.
  • Take care of yourself: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental health. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly.
Don't forget to share this post!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *