Here’s how bad Burnout has gotten at work

For Kaitlin Howes, the topic of burnout hits home.

Howes, an HR partner at Reward Gateway, said that at a previous employer, she was stuck in a rigid role without much flexibility, where innovation felt out of reach. The monotony of completing the same tasks the same way every day stifled any potential for growth or learning. Opportunities for collaboration were few and far between, leaving her feeling isolated.

Every morning, I felt a sense of dread and it affected my mental health, Howes said. Exhaustion was on his face and he knew he had to do something.

Job burnout isn’t new, but it’s getting worse. SHRM’s 2024 Employee Mental Health Research Series, released for Mental Health Awareness Month in May, found that 44 percent of 1,405 U.S. employees surveyed feel burned out at work, 45 percent feel emotionally drained from their work and 51 percent feel burned out at work. end of the working day.

When you consider how many workers feel burned out and the direct and indirect effects burnout has on an organization, it should really raise a red flag to organizational leaders, said Daroon Jalil, a senior researcher at SHRM who led the mental health research initiative.

Burnout can have profound effects on employees, including physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased work performance, increased absenteeism, job satisfaction, and even long-term health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Employees who are burned out are also more likely to leave their companies. According to SHRM data:

  • Workers who have experienced job burnout are nearly three times more likely to be actively looking for another job (45 percent vs. 16 percent of those who reported no burnout).
  • Workers who feel burned out by their work are significantly less likely to go above and beyond what is expected of them at work (40% vs. 56%).

The SHRM research aligns with previous reports, including the American Psychology Associations 2023 American Work Survey, in which 57 percent of workers said they experienced negative impacts due to the ‘work-related stress associated with burnout, including emotional exhaustion, irritability and anger.

When employees feel burned out, it’s not just their own productivity that affects entire teams. Employees suffering from burnout are more likely to mentally check out, leading to reduced employee engagement and absenteeism.

Howes explained that burnout can lead to missed deadlines, lower quality work and a general feeling of sluggishness that spreads throughout the office. Burnout can also increase turnover. When employees feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, or unsupported, they are more likely to find another job where they have a greater sense of purpose.

SHRM data found that employees whose managers have a negative impact on their mental health are twice as likely to say they believe in their organization’s mission (43 percent vs. 91 percent of ‘those whose managers have a positive impact).

Additionally, when employees are exhausted and demotivated, they are less likely to think creatively, solve problems, or come up with new ideas, which hinders the company’s ability to adapt to changing market conditions and maintain be competitive, Howes said.

How companies can deal with burnout

Howes said recognizing and addressing burnout is crucial to maintaining a healthy work environment for both the individual experiencing burnout and organizations dealing with the effects of a burned-out workforce. As an individual, preventing burnout involves taking proactive steps to maintain a healthy work-life balance, managing stress effectively, and prioritizing self-care.

However, I think a large part of dealing with burnout is also the company’s responsibility, Howes added. Organizations should always be looking for new ways to engage their workforce to promote retention and improve well-being.

Organizations should work to create an environment that fosters belonging and authenticity, which can reduce burnout. SHRM research showed that workers who feel a strong sense of belonging to their organization were 2.5 times less likely to feel burned out by their work. Additionally, employees who feel they can be authentic at work are 2.5 times less likely to feel emotionally drained from their work.

Another effective way to address these concerns is with regular recognition, according to Howes.

Organizations should encourage leadership and managers to provide regular and specific recognition for the work and achievements of their employees, he said.

Terri Bogue, chief operating officer of Indiana-based technology company Thor Projects, said at SHRM’s 2022 Annual Conference and Expo that people can avoid burnout in a number of ways:

  • Try to maintain an optimistic point of view when facing work challenges.
  • Reframe your perceptions, because many people have false perceptions of the expectations that others have.
  • Give yourself some credit.
  • Focus on maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, taking mental health days, and seeking professional support when needed.
  • Find ways to limit your demands.

We need to make sure our expectations, perceptions and results match, Bogue said. When we don’t, that’s when we experience burnout.

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