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Workplace burnout: why is it such a problem; how can employers combat this?

16th November 2022

Burnout in the workplace is a real concern for employees and employers alike. It can have a huge impact on the productivity of a business and the value workers are able to add but the biggest concern is the impact on both the mental and physical health of individuals.

There are numerous reasons why we’re in the middle of a perfect storm for workplace burnout at the moment:

  • Cost-of-living crisis

Forecasts of runaway inflation, particularly energy bills, have left many people terrified and exhausted. Swathes of people are worrying about costs and debts and are working harder than ever to earn additional income or ensure their job is secure.

Working additional hours, some even selling back their annual leave to employers, means that workers are not getting the rest and recuperation they need to do their jobs to their full potential.

A YouGov survey for Totaljobs found that 6 in 10 workers felt tired or drained and more than 1 in 3 said they felt overwhelmed or had a cynical, negative outlook.

  • Remote working

hybrid workplace burnout

Post-pandemic, remote working (at least some of the week) seems to be the norm for a lot of businesses. Whilst a welcome change for many (avoiding traffic jams, busy trains and rainy walking to work) people often work long hours at home and never 100% switch off. Work becomes life, life becomes work and it’s possible there is no clear line between these areas of life, both physically and mentally.

The global pandemic forced much of the global workforce to work from home and some found it to be quite a shock to the system. A survey by monster.com found 69% of employees experience burnout symptoms while working from home. These symptoms and feelings can spiral and amplify at home where it’s easy for workers to feel alone, isolated and lacking the necessary emotional and social support to deal with stressors.

  • Winter

As the nights draw in and the days get shorter, the winter can naturally take a toll on your team’s mental health. Some might even suffer seasonal affected disorder (SAD) which sees their mood drop during the winter months.

Workload also tends to increase at this time of year as business pressure ramps up to meet year end targets.

Signs and Symptoms

Employee burnout doesn’t happen overnight. Triggers can build up over time and cause even the hardiest employees to struggle. It’s important employers familiarise themselves with symptoms to enable them to get their staff the support they need. Signs of burnout can include:

  • Unable to complete tasks on time
  • Increasing physical illnesses such as headaches or dizziness
  • More and more unauthorised absences
  • Mood swings and communication challenges
  • Losing track of tasks and time, diary management being a challenge
  • Negative attitude towards work
  • Reduced productivity


Prevention is better than cure

It’s increasingly important that businesses garner a culture that reduces the risk of employee burnout. Some good practices for a healthy workplace culture include:

  • Check in with your staff

Regular one-to-ones between managers and direct reports are important – they build a trusting relationship and give people the opportunity to open-up especially when they’re more than just have functional work conversations. Asking questions such as ‘What are you enjoying the most about work at the moment?’, ‘Any key challenges you want to discuss?’ or ‘How do you feel each morning when starting work?’ will give you greater of understanding staff motivations, concerns and aspirations and will allow you to help keep them motivated and engaged in work

  • Promote work/ life balance

Practice what you preach! Managers must live out a healthy work/ life balance to ensure this is embedded in an organisation. Encourage everyone in the business to find time for family, exercise and self-care. This can be a more structured thing (holding office yoga sessions once a week, having an early finish on a Friday) or just simply a flexible culture where individuals can work around their personal schedules so they feel more motivated and energised.

  • Monitor workloads

It’s a responsibility of leaders to ensure employees don’t have unreasonable workloads or are drowning in meetings. Yes, workloads are likely to spike on occasion, but employees cannot be expected to sustain heavy workloads and demanding schedules. As a manager you could review whether all meetings are a necessity or try to enforce a ‘No Meeting Friday’, or simply help your employee to prioritise their seemingly endless to-do list.

  • Inject fun into work

inject fun into the workplace to avoid burnout

The benefits of a positive work environment on engagement, wellbeing and productivity are well known, yet despite this many businesses are still slightly uncomfortable with the concept of having fun at work. It’s important to remember that fun can’t be forced, make sure that any activities are being well received by employees. Some easy ways of injecting a little bit of fun into a workplace could include setting up a weekly coffee for some socialising, sending out little trivia quizzes and encouraging people to answer for spot prizes, have fun competitions to encourage some healthy rivalry and banter. If all else fails, going for a beer or two after work generally goes down well!

Creating a healthier and happier workforce should be motivation in itself to ingrain health and wellbeing into a company culture but emphasising workplace wellbeing will have a hugely positive impact retention and reduce staff turnover, therefore saving money on recruitment and training. A win win, surely?

By Will Cracknell – Senior Consultant: Commercial


Seven are experts in FMCG, consumer and retail recruitment.

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