10 Factors Leading To Employee Burnout

In a recent survey, HR managers and leaders admit that employee burnout is a threat to building a happy, engaged and productive workforce. In fact, employee burnout is responsible for up to 50% of annual workforce turnover. The larger the organization, the higher the numbers.

Also read: Your Employees Aren’t Taking Time Off — Here’s Why That’s a Problem

Is there any solution to the problem? Well, in order to find solutions, first, we need to understand what employee burnout is and what causes it. Only then can we figure out ways to prevent it.

What is employee burnout?

The term burnout was coined in the 1970s by Herbert Freudenberger – an American psychologist who used it to describe the outcomes of severe stress as well as high ideals in professionals who tend to sacrifice their needs to help others. In short, Freudenberger defines it as “a state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.”

Burnout can affect anyone: stressed out careerists, success driven celebrities, perfectionistic homemakers or overworked employees. It also has a wide range of symptoms, so it can be hard to spot. However, there are several common signs of burnout that can help you identify those employees who aren’t coping with work and so, need help:

  • Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion,
  • Mood issues and isolation,
  • Accidents and missing days,
  • Lower engagement levels,
  • Unfinished tasks.

Now, in order to build a successful, satisfied and happy workforce, you need to be able not only to help those employees who are burned out (check here for tips), but also know what causes burnout in the first place so as to prevent it. Remember, it’s better to prevent than to cure.

Thus, I’ve prepared for you the ultimate list of 10 factors that lead to employee burnout together with tips on how to create a positive working place for your employees:

1. Monotonous work

Tackling the same tasks over and over again can be not only exhausting, mind-numbing and boring, but also, it can lead to burnout. Employees who are educated, skilful and smart will become disengaged quickly by doing repetitive work. In order to flourish, they need challenges. Thus, make sure your employees like the work they’re doing. Also, encourage them to work on different projects each time and collaborate with their colleagues. Keep things fresh.

2. Career stagnation

If your employees are doing their jobs as if on autopilot, they are slowly burning out. Did you know that according to Gallup poll, only 33% of employees are engaged? That means, almost 70% of employees find no opportunities for career growth or skill improvement in their companies. Let’s be honest, if you don’t help your employees develop, their productivity, work satisfaction and performance will decline. Thus, in order to build your team, invest in career development. For start, you can offer your employees to take part in various courses or skill and career-building programs. Opportunities will make the difference.

Also read: How to Deal with Employee Burnout

3. Non-existent employee recognition

When you work around the clock for a company, you want to know your work is appreciated. Otherwise, you feel like you’re wasting your time. So, if you never thank your employees for the work they’re doing or ask them for ideas and opinions on a given subject, they’re likely to burn out. If that’s your case, it’s about time to change your strategy. In order to prevent employee burnout, talk to your employees often. Make them feel valued. It will not only make them more engaged and satisfied, but also, it’ll increase their motivation.

4. Work-life balance is a myth

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” – a proverb.

Without time off from work, a person becomes exhausted, bored, depressed and so, burned out. Everybody needs some alone time, time for their families and time for their hobbies. So, make sure your employees work when they’re at work, and rest when they’re out of work (don’t send them emails at 11 P.M.!). By giving them fair amount of time off, they’ll be less likely to burn out. Also, well-rested and energized, your employees will be happier and more productive.

There are also situations when employee burnout isn’t the fault of his or her manager or the company, but the employee him or herself. Being extremely committed to the job, an employee can decide to work around the clock seven days a week. Be mindful of such individuals as well, for they are also likely to burn out fast. If you have a highly engaged employee, make sure they find time to rest. If not, offer them a few days off, so that they could recharge.

5. Job requirements impossible to meet

Not being able to get the work done, not meeting deadlines, constant multitasking – it can all lead to an increased stress level and thus, make your employees burn out quickly. Although it has been proven that some amount of stress can boost productivity, toxic stress is harmful. Thus, don’t give your employees too many tasks at once or work they can’t cope with. Instead, give them more autonomy, flexible schedules and encourage single tasking. This way, they won’t live in constant stress and they’ll be less likely to burn out.

6. Huge consequences for work failure

“Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?’” – Thomas J. Watson

Everybody makes mistakes. Making mistakes is a part of being a human. You make mistakes, I make mistakes, your employees make or will make mistakes too. This way we learn and gain experience. Without making mistakes, we cannot make any progress. Now, if your employees know that there are huge consequences, such as a lawsuit, for failure, they’ll be less likely to take risks, spread their wings,  learn and progress. Eventually, fear and excessive stress will make them burned out. So, perhaps it’s time to rethink your policies?

7. Toxic coworkers or managers

Many people tend to see the mote in their neighbor’s eye but not the beam in their own eye. Thus, think about your actions as well as the behavior of your team members. Is anyone in your workplace (including yourself) upset, often loses control over their emotions, shouts or reprimands others harshly for their mistakes? If yes, it needs to change. Having a toxic manager or coworker can result in an employee burning out. Thus, improve company leadership, treat everyone fairly, recognize success of your employees and above all, establish boundaries with toxic people.

To learn more about the issue, check these tips on how to deal with five types of toxic employees.

8. No or insufficient rewards

Let’s be honest, nobody will do their best work and be most productive while working for a company that doesn’t pay competitive or reasonable salaries. Remember,

“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Thus, make sure your employees receive fair reward for their work. It’ll prevent them from burning out and, at the same time, boost their loyalty, increase their motivation and work performance.

9. Doing the wrong job in the wrong environment

Some people, especially graduate students who only start working, are likely to end up being placed in roles that don’t suit their personality type and/or abilities. Thus, soon, they feel exhausted, dissatisfied and think they’re failures. As a result, they burn out. In order to prevent such situations from happening in your company, be mindful of your employees skills and personality types. It’ll help you to decide who should and who shouldn’t work in a team, office or from home. So, get to know your employees!

10. Feeling isolated

The last factor that leads to employee burnout is getting disconnected with team members and so, feeling isolated. That, in turn, leads to being depressed and burned out. In order to prevent it, invest in team-building activities. Also, spend more time with your employees: talk with them often, ask for ideas and show your appreciation. It’ll make them feel a part of the team.

Employee burnout: can it really be prevented?

Yes, it can. Having the right strategies and building positive company culture can increase employee engagement and satisfaction, thus, decreasing the likelihood of anyone burning out. So, keep the above factors in mind and make the necessary changes, so as to have a happy and productive workforce.

Download the eBook and learn how to use neuroscience to attract the right talent, retain high-performing employees and foster collaborative teams.

Image via Pexels.com