Workplace Burnout

Workplace Burnout

What is Workplace Burnout?

On May 28th 2019 the World Health Organization recognised burnout as a disease, classifying it  in its latest International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11):


“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It 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.

“Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

WHO May 28, 2019 news release

Hot Topic

This week, workplace burnout is all over the news:

  • What’s the difference between depression, exhaustion and burnout? – ABC Life Nov 21, 2019
  • Avoid burnout by managing your energy levels, not time – Artshub Nov 19, 2019
  • How to Tell If You’re Burned Out at Work (and What to Do Next) – Money Nov 21, 2109

  • How Much Rest You Need To Prevent Burnout – Lifehaker Australia, Nov 22, 2019

  • Is Employee Burnout a Threat to Workplace Safety? – Material Handling & Logistics, Nov 21, 2019

  • Speaking up can reduce staff burnout, study shows – Australian Ageing Agenda Nov 13, 2019

The Effects of Employee Burnout


According to the latest Gallup survey, employees who say they very often or always experience burnout at work are:


63% more likely to take a sick day
Half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager
23% more likely to visit the emergency room
2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer
13% less confident in their performance

What Can You Do?

So what can businesses do to make sure employees don’t suffer from workplace burnout?


Well, of course, the first thing I’m going to say is provide your team with holistic health information and coaching!  Contact me here to present to your team and give them the tools they need to attain holistic health by the end of the presentation.


OK, enough of the shameless marketing, what should you do if you suspect burnout?

Firstly, what signs should you be looking for?


signs of burnout

Behavioural signs

  • Withdrawn behaviour
  • Decreased productivity and quality of work
  • Cynicism and complaining
  • Sensitivity
  • Exhaustion
  • Lateness
  • Absence or Presenteeism (when employee attends work but should be off sick, either because they are ill or no longer effective)


Psychological and physical health problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Memory impairment
  • Neck pain


Psychological and physical health signs:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Memory impairment
  • Neck pain

Source: (Peterson et al., 2008)

The Maslach Burnout Inventory test

If you suspect an employee has workplace burnout you may consider The Maslach Burnout Inventory test.  The MBI was specifically designed to assess the three dimensions of the burnout experience


The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is an introspective psychological inventory consisting of 22 items pertaining to occupational burnout. The original form of the MBI was constructed by Christina Maslach and Susan E. Jackson with the goal to assess an individual’s experience of burnout. The MBI measures three dimensions of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. The MBI takes between 10–15 minutes to complete and can be administered to individuals or groups.

Source: Wikipedia


You can find out about the Maslach Burnout Inventory here and can complete a burnout self test here and you can purchase the test for corporate use here

What do the Studies Show

  • In a study conducted by Kronos Incorporated  in 2017 of 614 HR leaders, they found 46% say workplace burnout is responsible for 20-50% of their annual workforce turnover.


  • A Gallup study of 7,500 full-time employees in 2018, found that 67% of employees experienced burnout at sometime on the job.


  • A recent American study indicated 36% of employees reported dealing with feelings of on-the-job burnout every week. Only 12% of surveyed employees say they have never felt burnt out while working in their current position


  • A study of 3000 Finnish workers reported depressive and anxiety disorders  and of alcohol dependence  – source: Ahola (2007)


What to do if you suspect your employee is burnt out

  • Talk to them, compassionately, understand their perspective
  • Encourage stress relief techniques – see this article
  • Try to relieve their workload
  • Acknowledge their work
  • Find out what motivates them and use it
  • Limit overtime
  • Provide performance measures and metrics that are within their control – according to Gallup this will reduce the chance of burnout by 55%
  • Design the job to be more automonous – Gallup says “employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a choice in what tasks to do, when to do them and how much time to spend on them”
  • Provide collaboration spaces – Gallup says: “employees who have space that helps them connect with coworkers are 26% less likely to feel burnout on a frequent basis”

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