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Employee burnout is more than just feeling tired – it’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress. Every year, depression and anxiety cause a staggering loss of 12 billion workdays globally and this translates to an estimated $1 trillion in lost productivity annually (World Health Organization, 2022). That is because burned-out employees are less productive, more likely to miss work, and at a higher risk of health problems.

What are the signs of employee burnout?

  • Emotional exhaustion: Feeling constantly drained and unable to cope with work demands.
  • Cynicism and detachment: Feeling cynical about your job and detached from colleagues.
  • Reduced effectiveness: Decreased work quality, increased errors, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Physical symptoms: Headaches, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite.

What causes employee burnout?

The World Health Organization classified burnout as a non-medical disease. However, experts like Christina Maslach, a leading burnout researcher, argue this approach misses the mark. They believe the WHO’s categorization wrongly focuses on individual problems, as stated by Maslach: “Categorizing burnout as a disease was an attempt by the WHO to provide definitions for what is wrong with people, instead of what is wrong with companies.” (Moss, 2019). This shift in focus, they argue, ignores the potential role of workplace factors in causing burnout such as:

  • Work overload: Having too much work to do within a set timeframe.
  • Lack of control: Feeling like you have little or no control over your workload or work environment.
  • Unclear expectations: Not understanding what’s expected of you in your role.
  • Lack of recognition: Feeling like your contributions go unnoticed or unappreciated.
  • Poor work-life balance: Difficulty disconnecting from work outside of office hours.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics: Toxic relationships with colleagues or a lack of manager support.

How can businesses prevent employee burnout?

Here’s the thing, employee burnout is not just your enemy. It goes hand-in-hand with employee disengagement. So, while that Friday Pizza or that routine stress management seminar sounds like a good idea, your organizational focus should be fostering a preventive culture.

In a nutshell, these are some options you can start with:

  • Promote work-life balance: Encourage employees to take breaks, use their paid time off, and disconnect from work outside office hours.
  • Set clear expectations: Clearly define roles and responsibilities to avoid confusion and frustration.
  • Offer opportunities for growth and development: Provide employees with opportunities to learn new skills and advance their careers.
  • Recognize and reward achievements: Acknowledge and appreciate employee contributions to boost morale and motivation.
  • Encourage open communication: Create a safe space for employees to voice concerns and offer feedback.
  • Promote a healthy work environment: Foster a culture of collaboration, respect, and support.
  • Offer flexible work arrangements: Consider offering flexible work schedules or remote work options to give employees more control over their work lives.
  • Invest in employee well-being programs: Provide access to programs that promote physical and mental health, such as stress management workshops or mental health resources.

By taking proactive steps to prevent employee burnout, businesses can create a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.

At Wellfit Consultancy, we offer a comprehensive suite of services to help businesses create a culture of well-being and prevent employee burnout and disengagement. We can help you develop and implement effective employee engagement strategies and connect you with valuable resources.


World Health Organization. (2022, September 28). Mental health at work. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-at-work

Moss, J. (2019, December 11). Burnout Is About Your Workplace, Not Your People. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/12/burnout-is-about-your-workplace-not-your-people

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