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Career and Workplace Corporate Wellness

The Impact of Stress and Burnout in the Workplace

Employee burnout and workplace stress are major issues. Many employees are exhausted and finding it difficult to stay engaged with work. They are feeling frustrated and hopeless as if there is no longer any purpose or meaning in their work, and that any effort they put into it is inadequate.

And the pace isn’t slowing down.

What is burnout?

Job burnout is an employee’s response to emotional and work-related stress. The WHO recognises it as an “occupational phenomenon” that has three major components:

  1. Emotional exhaustion
    Emotional exhaustion is characterised as the state of feeling worn-out, drained, and powerless as a result of accumulated stress. People may experience it differently but symptoms generally include trouble sleeping, irritability, lack of motivation, absentmindedness, and apathy. Employers may notice changes in job performance such as failure to meet deadlines, absences, and a high turnover rate.

  2. Depersonalisation
    Depersonalisation happens when an employee begins distancing themselves from people they work with as a coping strategy to deal with overwhelming emotional exhaustion. It is a feeling of cynicism and pessimism as if they are cut off or separated and unable to interact with work and their co-workers.

  3. Loss of professional efficacy
    Decreased efficacy occurs when an employee feels they aren’t accomplishing as much at work as they used to. This could be a result of micromanaging where the employee feels like they are constantly being reviewed, which can lead them to feel like they are not capable in their roles. 

What causes it?

  • Long hours with little to no time-off

  • Dreadful commutes or work-from-home environments

  • Getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep

  • Micromanaging and a lack of trust or autonomy

  • Unfair treatment such as bias, favouritism, unfair compensation or corporate policies

  • Out of control workload

  • Lack of role clarity where accountability and expectations shift

  • Lack of communication and support from management

  • Unreasonable time pressures

The cost for employers

Workplace burnout can trigger a downward spiral in individual and organisational performance. Burned-out employees are more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. And even if they stay, they typically have lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager.

Burned-out employees are also more likely to visit the emergency room. With stress comes unhealthy lifestyle choices that lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. This costs employers millions in healthcare, absenteeism (employees taking unaccounted-for leaves), presenteeism (employees showing up to work but are unable to be productive), and poor performance annually.

What can be done?

While burnout is an individual employee’s response to emotional and work-related stress, it has external causes. “Hustle culture” and “busy-ness” as badges of honour have led to late nights, weekend work, and an inability to manage stress properly. Instead of finding ways to get rid of stress or reducing it in the workplace, organisations need to find solutions to build the mental and emotional resilience skills of their employees.

Here’s how:

Identify the issues that exist
Take employee workload and work-life balance concerns seriously. Understanding individual challenges will lead to discussing personalised solutions. Encouraging employees to self-check-in with a reliable mental health assessment like DASS-21 can help pinpoint the level of support needed.

Create a safe environment
Employees experiencing burnout tend to think it is a personal weakness that they are not able to keep up. Prioritising mental health, removing the stigma around it, and enabling employees to discuss work concerns and stressors without fear of retaliation is essential in creating a safe environment.

Re-examine wellness programmes
Building healthy habits is a key to combating burnout. Digital wellness programme providers like Naluri can help employers reach more employees at the employees’ convenience and help individuals with resilience skills, lifestyle choices, and emotion regulation that interrupt the cycles of anxiety and fear that stem from burnout.

Enable a healthy workplace
Encouraging employees to rest, take paid time off, and work reasonable hours will send the message that employee well-being is important to the organisation. Communicating this and implementing it fairly to all levels of employees is crucial. 

Employee expectations are changing. Being able to manage a healthy work-life balance is more important than ever, even more so than compensation and benefits. Organisations need to acknowledge the importance of employee well-being to curb the impacts of stress and burnout in the workplace.

For more info on how your employees can benefit from one of Naluri's programmes, email hello@naluri.life.

Written by:
Chloe Pharamond