Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO of Yahoo!, once said, “I think that burnout happens because of resentment. That notion that 'Wow, I worked 100 hours last week, and I couldn't even have this thing that I really wanted’.” Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, expressed her thoughts a lot more succinctly and pointedly, “The land of burnout is not a place I ever want to go back to.” Put it whatever way you wish, there is no escaping the fact that outside of humorous or poignant rejoinders, burnout is indeed a problem, an issue that companies must comprehend and address.
What, really, is burnout?
As an occupational phenomenon, burnout finds mention in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It is defined in ICD-11 as follows:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
Is it common?
According to a survey by staffing firm Autotemps, 96% of senior managers in the US believe their teams experience various degrees of burnout. Rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest level of burnout, 20% managerial respondents rated the burnout level of their team as an 8 or higher. The average burnout level for workers was 5; more than a quarter of respondents, though, rated their burnout between 8 and 10.
Need more statistics? In a 2018 University of Phoenix poll, over half the employees reported experiencing burnout. Earlier in that year, a poll found that 60% of working parents experience the phenomenon. Burnout is now more or less a ubiquitous experience for the entire millennial generation.
What causes burnout?
It clearly is a problem, though its causes appear to be different when viewed by different groups. Employees believe that constant interruptions to their work were the top cause of burnout; senior managers, however, felt that unmanageable workloads were the primary issue. Both groups concurred on the following factors as contributors to burnout:
A study by Gallup suggested that a number of factors were highly correlated with burnout, and leaders ought to focus on these to address the problem:
This cannot be good! What are its effects?
Burnout has a number of very visible ill-effects. The chief ones include:
A significant difficulty in attracting talent is less visible, though highly probable, the outcome of burnout. In an employee-driven labor market, a survey by HR tech company Hibob suggested that 69% of candidates would reject a job offer if they got to know that the employees of the target company were burned out due to the work environment or the toxicity of the culture there.
This must be fixed! Suggestions?
The urgency of the problem cannot be emphasized enough! There are a number of things that management can do to address burnout, of which some are suggested below: