Burnout build-up

221 per cent surge in demand for burnout support causing employee exodus

Experts are warning that there is currently a ‘burnout build-up’ for employees, which is likely to grow as we move into the winter months. The last three months have seen a 221 per cent spike in searches for ‘signs of burnout’, according to Google search data.


This is the culmination of a year of heightened risk of burnout among employees, with the latest data showing a 31 per cent overall increase in searches for ‘signs of burnout’ over the last 12 months – when compared to the previous year. 


To raise awareness of the impacts of stress in the workplace, experts are now urging HR and leadership teams to turn their attention to this issue, particularly as winter approaches; it’s a time of year when mental health concerns often surge.


Excessive stress is considered to be a major predictor of burnout and other mental health impacts. A recent mental health and employee stress study, speaking to employees from over 500 companies, found that almost half of employees (47 per cent) experienced excessive stress at work in the past year. And this is becoming a big challenge for employers trying to retain their employees — one in eight have considered leaving their current job due to excessive work-related stress in the last 12 months, and a further one in ten have actually quit.


The research also uncovered some of the biggest impacts of excessive stress. Prominent effects described were an inability to sleep (reported by 41 per cent), physical health impacts (30 per cent) and withdrawal from social interactions and relationships (26 per cent).


Staff level employees were found to be most likely to experience excessive stress in the workplace, with 67 per cent having suffered over the last year. This compares to 61 per cent of employees in management roles, and 49 per cent of company owners or directors.


However, those in management positions were found to be most likely to suffer from other mental health issues caused with work contributing, such as anxiety or fatigue — one in five have experienced this over the last year. This could be due to increased pressure placed on middle-management roles.


However, owners and directors are not immune to the effects of excessive stress. Nearly one in four have considered leaving their job role or have left their job role due to excessive stress over the last year.


“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress,” said Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health. “Pressure at work is usually the main culprit and when budgets are tight and teams are small, people often find themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads, piling on the stress.


“Policies like turning off email servers outside of working hours helps ring-fence valuable recovery time. Mental health first aid training can also help managers spot the signs or triggers and put preventions in place.”


When employees were asked about the support received from their workplace, one in every eight employees felt they didn’t receive the required support. 


In terms of the factors affecting stress levels, 26 per cent of employees reported that the greatest cause of excessive stress in their job role was an unmanageable workload. This was followed by financial concerns, with 24 per cent saying the excessive stress was a result of inadequate pay, which left them struggling to keep up with their bills. Dissatisfaction with employers and managers was also a significant contributing factor, with 18 per cent of employees saying that management was poor or lacking, and 17 per cent describing a lack of support from their company. 


Claire Brown, a qualified life and career coach, commented: “Companies should look to encourage employees to have input into the organisation of tasks, duty and priorities and be invited to engage at every possible level in devising an in-house stress management policy. Employees should be encouraged to prioritise their health & wellbeing above productivity by taking regular breaks from the screen and getting fresh air where possible. Providing alternative and innovative ways for connection and communication between team members is also really valuable.


“By adopting a flexible attitude and approach to how and when work is completed, this alleviates some of the pressure and mental strain,” Brown adds. “As always, communication is key. It’s important for employers to be fair and realistic about what is possible and to seek opportunities to provide practical support to help team members manage their workload.”

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