Burnout is a word trending across social media and news articles, but what does it actually mean and when did it start to become so prominent in our work culture? Most importantly, how can we start reducing burnout in the workplace?

While Burnout is a catch phrase as of late, it actually first came into our vocabulary in the 1970’s when it was originally described as an occupational medical hazard. 

Then in 2019 the World Health Organization updated their definition of Burnout calling it a syndrome of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

So what is Burnout? How can we identify it within our organizations? 

1) People who are suffering from Burnout often show signs of:

  • Feeling depleted or exhausted
  • Feeling mentally distant from their jobs or negative feelings or cynicism about their job
  • Experiencing reduced professional efficacy

 

2) Employees who say they experience Burnout at work are:

  • 63% more likely to take a sick day
  • 1/2 as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager
  • 23% more likely to visit the emergency room
  • 2.6x as likely to be actively seeking a different job
  • 13% less confident in their performance

 

3) How certain industries have been contributing: 

  • Tech companies often celebrate overwork - with employees on average often putting in more than 55 hours/ week (Pre-COVID) with some often pushing closer to 70-80 hours/week. 
  • Teachers have always participated in long hours and deal with consistently low pay. 
  • Nurses and Physicians, those who were some of the most affected by 2020, came into 2020 already working long shifts and having large cases of extreme Burnout - with 16-18 hour-long shifts often multiple days a week.


Recent annual trends of workplace stress


When we look at the data, workplace stress and what led up to Burnout being notated as a chronic condition began building 10+ years ago just a few years after the 2008 recession. It was on the rise well before 2020, with 2019 being the record breaking year. And that was before the shift to remote work, the challenges of the pandemic, and increased reported stress across households around the world.


In 2019, 76% of employees were bringing workplace stress home and it was affecting their home lives, according to a Korn Ferry study.

In 2020, there was a noted 35% increase in prescriptions for Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia, of in the Spring of 2020 68% of those prescriptions filled were first-time prescriptions.

Now in 2021, more than 91% of employees say stress is impacting the quality of their work. A recent Deloitte study found that employees are feeling overwhelming stress and it’s depleting the quality of their work. Harvard Business Review reported in 2021 that workplace stress is leading to a 50% increase in voluntary turnover. 

What are tangible ways leaders can begin reducing burnout in the workplace?

1) Reducing Burnout Starts With You

Leading by example means creating boundaries of time, self care, and thoughtfulness. Part of reducing Burnout will happen when we make it OK to unplug - an astounding 55% of employees did not use all of their vacation time last year, and more than 75% did not use most of their vacation time. We also need to create a clear separation of work and home now that leaving a physical location and commuting home is no longer the industry norm and these blurry lines are creating unhealthy and unhappy employees.

2) Listen and Adjust to Your Employees' Needs 

We can no longer stop by an employee’s desk to check in, and its more important than ever that we find new, thoughtful ways to create face time with employees. Not just to check on their numbers or report on business priorities, but to really take the time to check in with them as individuals. Making someone feel seen, heard, and valued can go a long way in reducing Burnout and overall stress in the workplace over time.

3) Bringing Empathy to the Individual Employee

On the subject of focusing on the individual, it’s important that we understand that every single person is experiencing changes differently. When thinking about the myriad individual struggles our team members may be facing: 

  • Some are parents (parents with children under 18 comprise almost ⅓ of the US workforce
  • Some are single and lonely
  • Some are showing outwards signs of stress
  • Some may feel that stress internally but show no signs externally

When we focus on the individual and understand there is no ‘one-size-fit-all’ approach to reducing stress in the workplace, then we can lean into what our organization can do to help.

What can organizations do to reduce Burnout and Stress in the workplace?

1) Sick Days, Wellness Days, and Vacation Days

As simple as it may sound, encouraging employees to take their vacation time and express when they need a day off makes it safe to be human.

2) Encourage leadership and managers to conduct walking meetings

Most employees have a 1 on 1 meeting at some point in their week, so take the time to encourage those employees and team members to take their calls outside and get some fresh air. 

3) Openly speak about, and work to improve, Work/Life Balance

It comes up in most conversations about stress and boundaries at work, but developing a culture where work/life balance is accepted and encouraged is a key to reducing Burnout and workplace stress within organizations of all sizes. Leaders need to lead by example with this, and bring it into the daily conversation at work, for it to take hold across the organization.

4) Focus on Management training and improving manager/direct report relationships

Prior to COVID, 55% of individuals who reported Burnout and left their job did so because of their boss. Now is the time to increase the focus and attention on manager training and development to help managers and their direct reports develop effective communication pathways and workplace relationships that allow for healthy discourse around stress, Burnout, and the steps that can be taken to help mitigate those feelings at work.

5) Provide wellness resources 

Organizations don’t have to take this journey alone. By working with wellness partners and providing wellness resources for their employees, organizations are able to more effectively scale their wellness efforts and help reduce stress and Burnout from their employees. 

BurnAlong works with leading employers, insurers, municipalities, universities, and more to help reduce stress among employees and their families by providing relatable and engaging wellness content that they can access from home and at work. Organizations are implementing BurnAlong across every aspect of their company culture, from meaningful meeting kickoffs to organization-wide challenges, BurnAlong helps promote a culture of wellness within organizations of all sizes. 

Schedule a demo to learn how you can get started with BurnAlong for your organization.