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5 major causes of employee burnout

11/17/2021

Stressed male worker

Unfortunately for many organizations and businesses today, employee burnout is on the rise. A survey by FlexJobs illustrates this — stating that 75% of workers have experienced burnout. Meanwhile, Indeed says 67% of all workers believe that this burnout has worsened as a result of the pandemic. As this work-related stress continues to increase, it is crucial to note the symptoms and causes of burnout to properly manage them moving forward. Understanding this issue is beneficial for both individual workers and their managers, so they can create the most productive and high-spirited workplace environment possible.

What are the symptoms of burnout?
Burnout represents a prolonged state of stress related to the workplace, but it is necessary to acknowledge that there is a difference between stress and burnout. Extended time periods of intense stress result in severe symptoms that not only negatively affect your work life but also your life outside of the organization. Some symptoms of burnout to pay attention to include:

  • Disengagement
  • Exhaustion
  • Isolation
  • Reduced performance
  • Irritability

Major causes:

1) A feeling of no control
A lack of control in the workplace can encompass a variety of job aspects including scheduling, workload, and most often, resources. The absence of access to proper resources often means you are unable to do your job to the best of your ability, which usually leads to distorted feelings of inadequacy.

2) Overwhelming workloads
A workload that does not match an employee's capacity to effectively do their job results in unrealistic individual expectations and conflicting priorities. A constant inability to meet goals leads to workers feeling incompetent and, eventually, disengaging from the job completely. 

3) Inadequate rewards
The amount of time and effort put in by employees should match the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards of the job. Employees are highly unmotivated when their investment of time and effort isn't worth the pay-off.

4) Lack of community
Workers perform best when surrounded by social support and a feeling of community in their workplace. This emphasizes the need for proper communication channels within organizations to properly support these social interactions.

5) Bad management
Managers have an extremely large impact on the physical and mental well-being of their employees, as they have more direct control over organizational aspects such as workloads, internal communication and rewards. A study from Gallup even reports that only 60% of workers can strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. Therefore, it is dependent upon managers to accurately assign work while setting clear expectations to give their employees the best chance to succeed.

While it is relevant for individual workers to recognize and actively take steps to prevent burnout, it is equally, if not more, crucial for managers to regulate this before the issue exacerbates. It is paramount for employers to pay attention to the social and organizational structures they have set in place, as the costs of employee burnout have a considerable influence on workplace performance, along with psychological and physical well-being. Luckily, burnout is not inevitable, which means if the symptoms are becoming more prominent in yourself or your workers it's time to take the proper steps to combat employee burnout and bring productivity back to your organization.