The term “burnout” was coined in 1974 by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the effects of stress in “plus caring” professions such as health and social work—jobs that women often did.
Since then, the term has been modified to reflect a widespread reality in many workplaces.
In 2019, “burnout” was formally recognised by the World Health Organization as an occupational health phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an occupational phenomenon driven by a chronic imbalance between job demands (workload pressure and poor working environment, for example) and job resources (job autonomy and supportive work relationships, for example).
Fatigue, distant feelings from the job, reduced ability to regulate cognitive and emotional processes, cynicism, energy depletion and exhaustion are symptoms of employee burnout.
Organizations that fail to address workplace factors that trigger burnout symptoms pay heavy prices like absenteeism, lower engagement, decreased productivity, and employee attrition.
This study on stress burnout relationship provided insights into the relationship by testing and examining the moderating effect of physical activity and intrinsic motivation for off-job physical activity.
Here’s what it entailed:
“A total of 369 university staff (70% females) completed a web survey comprising measures of perceived stress, job burnout, physical activity, and intrinsic motivation for physical activity.
A three-way conditional process model revealed that the ‘Stress × Physical Activity’ interaction was significant for cognitive weariness and that the three-way interaction between ‘Stress × Physical Activity × Intrinsic Motivation for Physical Activity’ was significantly related to job burnout and to cognitive weariness.
The results highlight:
Most jobs aren’t utopias and many employees have had bad days once in a while. Still, when you constantly hear negativity from someone who was previously a source of encouragement for the rest of the team, they are likely feeling the effects of burnout.
Many organizations (like Microsoft, Pinterest, and Unilever) and employers have responded to employee burnout by prioritizing the mental health of their employees; providing several wellness activities such as yoga, meditation app subscriptions, well-being days, and trainings on time management and productivity.
While these initiatives are commendable, it is also true that an accident is often caused by an attempt to prevent it.
The simple truth is that preventing the causes of employee burnout is bound to be more effective than focusing on individual-level interventions, as many organizations do.
That said, here are 4 ways to prevent employee burnout:
The truth is that employee burnout is not just harmful for the employee, but for your company as well. Who wants a demotivated, perpetually-exhausted workforce spending the majority of their week in a place they don’t feel motivated?
So, what can we do? A good starting point is asking questions like:
The next step after this exercise would be to draft action plans on how to address toxicity and promote inclusion.