In today’s environment, it comes as no surprise that employee burnout is on the rise. But, what causes employee burnout — and how can you prevent it?

Why Employee Burnout is on the Rise

We’ve reached the two-year mark of the massive disruption of work and home life brought on by the COVID pandemic. Employees have been challenged to work in new ways — often hybrid or entirely remotely, and with people they’re no longer physically near. At the same time, many have also had to deal with added pressures at home, assisting children who’ve been learning from home at times during the pandemic and caring for family members and others who’ve been impacted by it. Many have also had their incomes negatively impacted as they or family members were furloughed or experienced business losses.

But COVID isn’t the only impact employees have been feeling over the past few years. They’ve also been affected by economic and financial shifts, racial injustice, and social violence. These impacts have further contributed to a silent pandemic that’s been growing for years — mental health challenges for people across all walks of life and all demographics.

All of which has contributed to an increase in employee burnout in the workplace.

How to Measure Employee Burnout

Even before the pandemic, workforce burnout was a significant concern. In May 2019, the World Health Organization declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon,” including it in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). They indicate that burnout “is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Employee Burnout Statistics

In Canada, the Globe and Mail reported that 84% of employees in organizations with 100 or more staff members are suffering from career burnout — and 34% are reporting high or extreme levels of burnout. And, according to Sodexo, “In the US, 67% of workers believe the effects of COVID-19 have worsened employee burnout, while in the UK, a fifth of managers are considering quitting their jobs because of pandemic-related burnout.”

Signs of Employee Burnout in the Workplace

In the workplace, signs of employee burnout show up as reduced drive and work performance, increased absenteeism and tardiness, decreased involvement in work-related activities, poor concentration, detachment or isolation, visible frustration, and statements of being overwhelmed.

So, What Causes Employee Burnout?

Mayo Clinic indicates that the causes of job burnout include:

  • Lack of control — feeling you have no control over your schedule, assignments, or workload
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics — e.g., working with a bully or feeling undermined or micromanaged
  • Workload extremes — too much monotony, or too much chaos
  • Lack of social support, both at work and in personal life
  • Work-life imbalance — work responsibilities that negatively impact home and personal lives

In an era of uncertainty and ambiguity, lack of control on many fronts continues to take a toll on employee wellbeing. While company leaders, managers, supervisors, and HR professionals are also at risk of burnout themselves, they have an important role in helping address and prevent employee burnout in their organizations — and that comes back to workplace culture.

How Can You Support Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Today’s Workplace?

This guidebook provides discussion resources and exercises to help you promote a culture of respect and inclusion in the modern workplace.

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Establishing and maintaining a positive work culture — where employees feel in charge of their destinies, understand expectations, feel supported and trusted by leaders and colleagues, and have a positive work-life balance — is critical to addressing burnout among your workforce.  Below are a few strategies you can implement to address employee causes and cures.

Burnout Prevention Strategies

  1. Focusing on supporting an inclusive culture, where employees feel that they, their opinions, and their contributions are important, can be a great starting point. Exclusive cultures cultivate burnout, which can lead to mistakes, lower productivity, and have negative impacts on the bottom line. When employees feel excluded, they’re less likely to be engaged and more likely to be at risk of voluntary turnover.
  2. Another way for organizational leaders to address and manage employee burnout is by demonstrating through their actions and behaviors how they address their own potential for burnout. They can do this both by acknowledging that burnout is a real problem that impacts many people — including themselves — and by modeling behaviors designed to minimize it, like taking time off, engaging in healthy eating habits and activities, being respectful of others’ opinions, and establishing a trusting, two-way communication environment.

Leaders need to be intentional about their efforts to support not only their employees’ wellbeing, but their own. Too often, we fail to do that.

A Harris Poll indicates that while 76% of all U.S. employees have struggled with a mental health issue at some point, only 7% have sought help from a mental health professional.

Focusing on Workplace Culture

A renewed focus on workplace culture can help address the physical and mental health concerns that can lead to employee burnout. Ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, such as training and communications can help with this — making caring for physical and mental wellbeing a priority, not just an afterthought.

There are some additional, specific, things leaders and managers can do to support an environment that minimizes employee burnout:

  • Be approachable and available
  • Proactively acknowledge challenges and how hard they are
  • Make it personal — share your feelings
  • Communicate genuine care and concern for employee wellbeing

There’s a dangerous misconception that leaders need to be stoic — but, that stoicism can be harmful to both teams and leaders themselves.

Keeping the doors open, maintaining two-way communication channels flowing in honest and transparent ways, and focusing on establishing a strong DEI culture can help companies combat the negative impacts of employee burnout.

How DEI Training Creates a Safe, Inclusive Environment

Investing in long-term DEI efforts, such as diversity training for leaders and employees, helps build diverse, inclusive, psychologically safe environments where employees feel comfortable being their full selves, raising issues, and sharing input and feedback, and trust that their input will be heard and acted upon as appropriate.

It’s also important for employees to understand their role in supporting a strong DEI culture. Company-wide DEI training can help empower employees with the skills they need to help create a supportive environment where employees feel safe, welcomed, and treated fairly — key factors in building and supporting a positive workplace culture that reduces employee burnout.

Diversity & Inclusion Training

Are you ready to further your diversity initiatives and strengthen your harassment prevention strategy?