Burnout and work-related stress are impacting an increasing number of employees as excessive workloads, combined with fatigue caused by a cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic have left employees struggling to remain positive. While many external factors cannot be helped by companies, some firms have found ways to alleviate the stress workers are feeling, buoyed by effective employee benefits.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped. The effects are felt physically, emotionally, and mentally.
The term became a recognised condition by the World Health Organisation in 2019.
Burnout on the increase
A January study (opens a new window) from the American Psychological Association found that almost three in five US employees had experienced work-related stress, combined with decreased motivation, energy, and interest. The phenomena extends beyond the US though, with UK research noting marked increases of UK employees feeling more stressed and exhausted from work in 2022.
Although a number of employees now experience a more flexible way of working, on average they are working longer hours than before the pandemic, taking shorter lunch breaks, and working through sickness. The blurring line between home and work life is also making it more of a challenge to achieve the right work life balance.
What can cause burnout?
Burnout can be caused by a number of factors which can be related to work, lifestyle, and personality traits. Some causes of burnout are:
Unclear or overly demanding job expectations
Not getting enough sleep
Working in a high-pressure environment
A need to be in control, a reluctance to delegate to others
A lack of supportive relationships
What are the signs of burnout?
The symptoms of burnout fall broadly into three categories:
Physical symptoms – feeling tired, frequent headaches, stomach problems
Emotional symptoms – cynicism, detachment, a sense of failure
Behavioural symptoms – withdrawing from others, irritability, a lack of motivation
As with most things, prevention is better than a cure and, on an individual level, exercise, eating a balanced diet, practicing good sleep habits and asking for help are all useful.
As an employer, what can you do?
Support – listen to, empathise with, and generally check in with your employees. Weekly meetings between teams are an easy way to ensure workloads aren’t becoming too heavy.
Some organisations, such as employee benefits specialists Unum and Canada Life, provide workshops to educate managers how to spot the signs of burnout and support employees who may be experiencing burnout, allowing them to take action before symptoms are too severe.
Awareness – raising awareness through wellbeing schemes, or training sessions will not only help others to identify the signs of burnout in others but also in themselves.
Some companies have already adopted tools to alleviate burnout at work. Simple changes, such as banning emails to be sent after the end of the day, or giving employees the choice to delay an email until the next morning, are schemes that can take the pressure off employees feeling they need to work beyond the end of the day.
Culture – treat employees with respect, with clear and open communication, in a non-blame environment where achievement is recognised.
Along with this work environment, having a comprehensive employee benefits package, which provides services to address stress or burnout in the workplace will help in making it easier for employees and employers to find long-term solutions to these issues.
For more information, please contact:
Chris Rofe, SVP, Head of Client Development
T: +44 20 7933 2876
Chris Rofe, a Partner in Lockton's Employee Benefits team, will be hosting a panel on rethinking mental health at the Lockton Global Benefits Forum on Thursday, June 9. To register or to see the forum's full agenda, click here (opens a new window).