Employee burnout: it’s back

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A recent study found people are more likely to experience burnout when they are exposed to continuous stress and feel they have no other work alternative.

According to Dr Tim Hill, consulting organizational and industrial psychologist, those with high ambition but a lack of stress management skills are also at risk for burnout.

“If you’ve got a new hire who has a real need to prove themselves in a position that has a relative degree of difficulty, desire to prove themselves can turn into a compulsion – they may lose work/life balance, neglecting their needs if they have obvious behavioural changes, something like depersonalization can be a strong indicator they’re on their way to burnout.”

Dr Hill also pointed to workplace bullying as a leading cause of workplace stress and burnout saying bullying often flies under the radar and workers sometimes feel reluctant to report it.

Causes of burnout:

  • continual job related stress
  • long hours
  • increased workload
  • poor stress or conflict management
  • workplace bullying

Warning signs:

  • increased absenteeism
  • increased workplace conflict
  • cynicism, isolation or detachment from others in the workplace

Your EAP is a good place to turn to if employees in your organization are suffering from stress related burnout but prevention is often more successful.

Addressing workplace stressors and expectations can prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed. Dr Hill says addressing employee’s ability to cope with stressors through stress management training can also be an excellent preventative measure.


  • set aside a dedicated relaxation space in the office that employees can use as a retreat when situations get stressful
  • have a policy to limit lengthy meetings
  • address bullying – see the fine line of bullying: What HR needs to know
  • feeling supported in the workplace can help prevent burnout so consider implementing social wellness programs such as a lunch-hour walking club
  • flexible, or reorganized work schedules
  • consider offering stressed-out, long serving employees with the opportunity to take paid sabbaticals to travel overseas and participate in charity work
  • offer counselling services and encourage employees to make use of them.
  • provide complimentary stress management training


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