Employee burnout is an occupational phenomenon that can wreak havoc on your workforce. Burnout is by no means a new phenomenon, but thanks to great strides in labor regulation over the last century, at least some of its reach has been hampered. Even so, the risk of burnout is still very real.
The risk is so real in fact that two out of three full-time employees say they have experienced burnout at some point in their careers. This isn’t comforting, considering many employees report that their organizations offer little to no support or awareness around the subject of burnout.
But the tide is changing when it comes to burnout awareness; employers are starting to understand the need to educate themselves on how to deal with workplace burnout. Burnout rates were already steadily on the rise before the arrival of COVID, but the pandemic has fanned the flames significantly, and employees and employers alike are feeling the effects.
Though anyone is susceptible to burnout, some tend to be more so than others. For example, certain demographics, industries, and professions are much more likely to experience burnout. Employers need to be aware of this, as they may unknowingly have a workforce with a high volume of employees more vulnerable to burnout or, in some cases, an entire workforce that is highly at risk.
Before we get into which employees are most at risk of burnout, let’s take a look at the damage burnout can cause to better understand why prevention and awareness are so essential.
How Does Employee Burnout Affect Your Business?
Employee burnout can have disastrous effects on the affected employees, as well as your workforce and business. Burnout in the workplace can cost employers time and money, lead to high turnover rates, and damage the employer’s brand, reputation, and culture.
How does burnout play out in the workplace?
- Increased absenteeism
- Increased mistakes
- Increased healthcare costs
- Increased turnover
- Deteriorating relationships
- Poor communication
It’s easy to see how these signs of burnout can negatively affect your workforce. Worse yet, employee burnout can be contagious, spreading throughout your organization like a virus. If the problem is not appropriately addressed and remedied, then your business will suffer on the workforce, customer, and investor levels.
Employee burnout is expensive too. Research shows that companies without systems to support employee wellbeing have higher turnover, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs. Workplace stress is estimated to cost the US economy more than $500 billion dollars each year; the cost of employee burnout is staggering.
Who is Most at Risk of Burn Out?
Is your workforce made up of many remote workers, parents, or women? Do your employees work shifts, or in high-stress positions? Perhaps your industry requires a lot of on-the-job compassion? All of these factors make your workforce more susceptible to burnout, requiring you as an employer to be extra attentive.
There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of stress and burnout in the workplace based on personal factors, social factors, industry type, position, and work environment. Take a look at how burnout can affect different employees disproportionately.
High-Stress and High-Stakes Professions
Professions in which high stress is embedded into the nature of the job like police, firefighters, healthcare workers, lawyers, mental health workers, etc. are at higher risk of burnout. Any high-stakes profession in which a simple mistake could result in the harm of another person, or a lawsuit, is under a constant state of emotional stress, increasing the risk of burnout. The legal, civil service and healthcare fields are good examples of this.
The high-stress nature of these jobs, combined with a general high-intensity work environment, is often coupled with long working hours and shifts. Furthermore, due to previous negative experiences on the job, some employees may suffer from afflictions such as PTSD, which can be triggered and aggravated further by symptoms of burnout and vice-versa.
- 73% of lawyers surveyed in the UK were concerned about burnout due to a lack of work-life balance, difficult clients, strained working relationships, and constant interruptions.
- Roughly 15 percent of any police department's officers are in a burnout phase at any one time and 5 to 7 percent are totally burned out.
Long hours are often embedded into the culture of “purpose-driven” industries like the healthcare industry, non-profits, or small businesses. Additionally, the empathic nature of some of these jobs can often result in “compassion fatigue”, adding additional mental, emotional, and physical strain.
Purpose-driven jobs are very connected to the organization’s mission, either because failure could negatively affect the well-being of other people, or in the case of small businesses, because the success of the company depends on being highly invested in the purpose. This means the nature of these jobs requires employees to put the well-being of others before their own.
- 7 in 10 small-to-medium business employees experience work-related stress or anxiety, and 5 out of 10 continue to work even when they feel unwell.
- The lifetime burnout rate for social workers is as high as 75% due to compassion fatigue and coping with secondary trauma.
- 44% of physicians feel burned out.
With the rise of remote work, we have also seen a rise in burnout levels. The rapid and necessary shift to remote work during COVID did not allow employers the time to properly prepare their employees and offer the right support, and many managers were inexperienced in managing remote workforces.
Many employees reported working longer hours and on the weekends during the pandemic, resulting in higher burnout levels. The fact is, it can be easy to lose track of where the line is between work time and personal time. Employees, as well as employers, need to do better to make that line apparent and know when to unplug.
- 86% of employees who work from home full-time experience burnout, for hybrid workers the number is 81%.
- 67% of remote workers report feeling pressured to be available all the time.
- Only 30% of remote workers completely avoid working on the weekends.
- 51% of remote workers feel they don’t have support from their employer to deal with burnout issues.
- 45% of employees working remotely due to the pandemic report working more hours than before.
- 76% of remote employees say that workplace stress has a negative effect on their mental health.
- 49% of remote workers say they lack the work-based support they need to manage their stress.
Women and Parents
Female employees are more likely than men to suffer from burnout. Less likely to be promoted than men, women are often in positions with less authority or autonomy, leading to stress and fear of economic insecurity. This can result in female employees working themselves harder to “go the extra mile” to stand out among male colleagues, which can trigger unhealthy working habits that eventually lead to burnout.
Women are also more likely to head single-parent families, experience child-related stress, and invest time in domestic tasks, making it a struggle to achieve a proper work-life balance. Of course, women aren’t the only employees with children, men with children are also at greater risk of burnout, due to the juggling act required to manage work life and family life. Parents with you young children are particularly at risk.
- In 2020, 32% of women said they were consistently burned out at work, while only 28% of men reported feeling burned out.
- More than 50% of women in leadership positions consistently feel burned out.
- 47% of working mothers and 38% of working fathers are often burned out.
Burnout is found more frequently among shift workers than those who do not work shifts. Working over 10 years as a shift worker has been associated with a significant increase in burnout.
Many shift workers also work in high-stress environments and jobs requiring a high degree of empathy - further compounding the risks. Nurses, doctors, caretakers, police officers, attorneys, and firefighters are all examples. Furthermore, fast food workers, factory workers, retail, and other shift-related work are all at higher risk of burnout.
Shift workers are at high risk of burnout due to often irregular hours and mandatory overtime, which can lead to inconsistent and poor sleep patterns and poor work-life balance. Staff shortages put further stress on other colleagues, leading to guilt for requesting time off or requiring sick days to take care of physical or mental health.
- In a survey of 2,500 retail workers, nearly half planned to quit. 58% of the employees leaving their jobs indicated that burnout was the number one reason, thanks to low wages, long workdays and unusual schedules, and minimal recognition.
Employees in positions responsible for generating sales and driving business work in highly competitive environments that often require them to work tirelessly to secure deals. The need to drive numbers manifests as long hours and high workloads. Many employees in such positions will bend over backward for potential clients to lock them into a contract and maintain the business relationship, which can take a toll on their ability to maintain a proper work-life balance.
- A study found that 67% of workers in business development and sales were close to experiencing burnout because of long working hours, a dense workload, and felt required to always be switched on to work and available.
- In a recent study of sales professionals, two-thirds of respondents reported that they were close to experiencing burnout. Fifty-seven percent said their workload is more than their capacity, and 67% reported working more than their contracted hours.
Other Vulnerable Demographics
That’s not all, job burnout statistics show many other potentially vulnerable workforces
- Young people: As of February 2021, Millennials (59%), Gen Z (58%), and Gen X (54%) shared similar burnout rates, whereas Baby Boomers (31%) had significantly lower rates.
- The middle class: The highest rate of burnout was reported in mid-level incomes with 44% in the $30,000 to $60,000 bracket.
- The public sector: Sixty-five percent of government employees say they are burned out, significantly higher than their private-sector counterparts (44 percent). Government workers also indicate they are more likely to leave their organization in the next 12 months (49 percent) as compared to private-sector workers (30 percent).
- The tech industry: Poor leadership, work overload, and toxic workplace culture all contribute to burnout in the tech industry. Of 30 large tech companies surveyed, 25 had an employee burnout rate of 50% or more.
- Teachers: One in four teachers indicated they were considering leaving teaching at the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Insufficient funding, high emotional demands, and challenging teaching situations are all contributing stressors. The pandemic created a need for new technological demands which further exasperated teachers.
How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace
By now you may have a better idea of how susceptible your workforce may be to employee burnout. If your workforce is highly vulnerable, then it’s important that you begin to take steps to create burnout awareness within your organization. Failure to do so could jeopardize your workforce’s health and retention rates, your relationships with customers, your bottom line, and your attractiveness as a potential investment.
How can employers help prevent burnout in the workplace?
- Consider the disparate impact of burnout on certain employees, such as working mothers and single parents, and how to better accommodate their needs.
- Provide ample vacation time. Offer paid mental health days, mandatory vacation days, and ample maternity and paternity leave. Four out of ten employees suggest that employers should encourage time off and offer mental health days to help combat burnout.
- Utilize leadership by investing in education on how to prevent burnout and burnout management which can be implemented to avert team burnout. Management burnout should also be a focus for employers.
- Prioritize engagement and wellbeing. With proper engagement, communication channels, and opportunities for employees to give actionable feedback - burnout in the workplace can be identified and mitigated before it negatively impacts the employee, their job, or the company.
- Provide flexibility for your workforce and capitalize on the benefits of well-managed remote and hybrid work. Three out of four HR leaders agree that allowing flexible working hours is one of the most effective ways to help avoid employee burnout.
- Prioritize work-life balance. Managers’ decision-making needs to be in tune with employees' well-being while fostering work schedules that support productivity and work-life integration.
- Foster a vibrant company culture to help prevent the development of a burnout culture and keep employees engaged around a unified purpose to motivate and drive the workforce. A sense of “belonging” in the company can make a big difference.
- Reduce unnecessary meetings and ensure all managers have a proper span of control to manage their teams’ workloads effectively. Manager burnout is common and should also be addressed.
- Offer physical and mental health benefits in the form of insurance, perks, coaching, therapy, and other human resources programs and initiatives.
- Create a high-performance KPI culture over a micromanaged “hustle” culture.
- Create or collaborate with volunteer or charitable programs that boost employees’ sense of purpose.
- Advocate for healthier work environments and habits as part of your brand. Set an example for competitors.
- Use productivity monitoring and other tools to help stop burnout before it starts.
Use An Employee Monitoring Tool to Help Avoid Burnout
Luckily, there are tools available that can help employers with burnout reduction. Software that helps support employee well-being can be a big help in ensuring your workforce stays healthy. Communication tools and surveying apps can help boost engagement and encourage 2-way feedback so employers can identify employee discontent and possible burnout signs early.
Software for employee monitoring productivity, performance, and time and attendance are great tools for keeping tabs on the health and vitality of your workforce. An employee monitoring tool like Insightful identifies individual and workforce trends that can lead to burnout and offers actionable insights that can help you prevent burnout before it starts.
How? Software for employee monitoring offers:
- Visibility into employee workloads and workflow allows managers to make adjustments to ensure a proper span of control and stable work-life balance.
- Insights into employee productivity and how employees use their time can highlight whether employees are properly engaged.
- Time and attendance data shows if employees are working too long hours.
- Collective features support a robust company culture by enabling remote and hybrid work and providing more autonomy, independence, flexibility, and trust to your workforce.