Get a head start on employee burnout by understanding these 5 causes

employees burning out

Employee burnout has a knock-on effect on business performance and profits. Employers and HR managers should be working alongside each other to prevent employee burnout. Spotting the signs and identifying causes of burnout is the first step to longer term prevention.

HR managers and employers may want to encourage these employees to take annual leave or in extreme cases time off on statutory sick pay, as ultimately the cure to burnout is rest and relaxation.

What does employee burnout mean?

Mayo clinic describes employee burnout as a type of work-related stress, that leads to a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that entails a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.

Employee burnout can occur for multiple reasons and employees themselves can fail to identify that they are experiencing burnout, causing them to push through simply hoping things will improve.  

‘Burnout’ is recognised by World Health Organisation (WHO) and seeks to place responsibility onto the employers to combat/prevent employee burnout. Interestingly the WHO have stated employees burning out is an occupational phenomenon rather than a medical condition.

Risk factors of employees burning out

Employers and managers need to know the risk factors and causes of employees burning out and evaluate these regularly, establishing the likelihood of employees becoming burnt out.

The risk factors and causes include:


Repeatedly working overtime due to overloading them with work and if without compensation causes employee burnout, decreasing productivity of staff. When productivity lowers, this impacts the business overall performance.


When managers micromanage, they are putting employees under a microscope, adding unnecessary pressures and creating a negative and unwelcoming culture within the business or their department.  Employees who experience micromanagement will also feel untrusted and inadequate leading them to burnout from management pressure or lack of appreciation.

Micromanagement can be rectified by giving employees a bit more control over their work and how they carry it out in order to meet acceptable outcomes. At weekly meetings managers can establish if the desired outcomes have been met, offer guidance to their employees and set the requirements for the coming week. The business deadlines are necessary but care must be taken to ensure that these are realistic.

Poor work-life balance

Employees who work long hours and weekends are unlikely to have a sufficient work-life balance. When a person works too much their social life is negatively impacted.  This can lead employees become fatigued, demotivated and ultimately to feel resentment towards their employer.

How can company encourage a better work-life balance for employees? Well, in recent times, we have seen some EU countries legislate a right to disconnect from work but rather than require legislation we believe there are simple practices employers can adopt.  These include implementing a strict no-emailing policies after 7pm during the week and no emails during the weekend. Ensuring overtime is worked, as much as possible, on a rota basis. Measuring employees commitment based on the quality of their outputs rather than for the hours they put in. Open communication with employees will also help, ensuring they know that quality responses are more valuable compared to a quick response.

Low wages with heavy workloads

Lower wages and heavy workloads lead to dissatisfied employees due to the high expectations for work and little reward. Money may not always be the biggest motivating factor but it still is a significant motivator for most employees. Lower wages can lead to employees feeling undervalued decreasing their drive to work and positive attitude towards the company.

Companies may not be in the position to offer higher wages, alternatively offering other benefits may be beneficial for decreasing the likelihood of employees burning out. These benefits could be additional holidays, hybrid working if possible or taking a more flexible approach including completely remote or hours employees can work i.e., core working hours 10am-4pm.

Repetitive work and tasks

Harvard business review  reported that a neurologist Dr Judy Willis found from research that repetitive or monotonous work impacts a person’s mental health negatively leading to employee burnout.  As employees become bored of their work it impacts how they control their emotions, changes their judgement, and lessens their ability to concentrate on tasks.

Impact of Employees burning out for your business

How does burnt out employees impact your business?

You will see a decrease in productivity of staff, with lower concentration levels and an inability to make effective decisions leading to employees becoming demotivated, dissatisfied, and disengaged. This impacts the real-time business and employee performance and can have a lasting impact on a company’s ability to retain current employees and recruit high calibre new ones.  In addition, those businesses providing a lower quality service will have their brand reputation negatively affected with less chance of customers referring your business to others.

Other knock-on impacts of employee burnout can include wasted time and money spent on recruitment exercises, onboarding new employees and developing existing employees.

The personal impact of employee burnout

  1. Excessive stress
  2. Fatigue
  3. Insomnia
  4. Sadness/anger/irritability
  5. Vulnerability to illness
  6. Alcohol/drug abuse
  7. Heart disease
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Type 2 diabetes

Employers have a duty of care to prevent their employees from becoming stressed, completion of a stress risk assessment is essential.

Contact us today for a health and safety consultation for stress in the workplace and for advice on employees burning out.

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