Are your employees engaged or just plain ol’ exhausted? According to Robert Half, 96 percent of senior-level executives—or nearly all of the 2,800 senior managers who participated in a study conducted by the human resource consulting firm—say their employees are experiencing burnout, at least to some degree. In this same study, when asked to rate the average level of burnout, employees and managers provided the same response of 5.6, though an additional 28 percent of employees rated their feelings of burnout between eight and 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 is considered burnout at its highest degree. With the country operating at nearly full employment, extreme levels of reported burnout remain—and it’s serious.

The increasing prevalence of burnout in the United States and worldwide has led the World Health Organization to characterize it as a non-medical occupational phenomenon in its International Classification of Diseases. Defined, burnout is a condition caused by enduring stress in the workplace that has not been absolved or relieved, and is characterized by three key factors: feeling fatigued and overtired; feelings of being distant (mentally) between an individual and his or her job, or feelings of pessimism or disparagement related to their job; and lower proficiency. What leads to burnout? According to a survey by Gallup, the five major reasons include: unfair treatment, unmanageable workload, lack of role clarity, lack of communication and manager support and unreasonable time pressure. But just as the employee suffers, the company does, too. According to this survey, employees who experience burnout very often or daily are 63 percent more likely to take sick days, 50 percent less likely to discuss performance goals with their managers, 206 percent more likely to leave their current employer and 13 percent less confident in their professional performance.

But despite a fluid understanding of what burnout is and what it stems from, according to a study by Deloitte most companies aren't helping to lower it. In a study of 1,000 full-time workers employed in corporate environments, 69 percent of professionals stated their employers do not do enough to reduce burnout and 21 percent said their employees do not offer any programs or initiatives to combat or relieve burnout. Further, the study revealed the top three ways to prevent or alleviate burnout, on behalf of employers, are to offer flexible work options, health and wellness programs, and paid time off for mental health or recuperation. Realistically, the study by Deloitte revealed that only 32 percent of companies offer paid family leave, 30 percent offer flexible work options and 28 percent provide employee assistance programs.

So, how do you eradicate—or at least reduce—burnout? The Society for Human Resource Management suggests thinking outside the box. Here’s three ideas to share with your team to get started:

  1. Hold walk-and-talk meetings with staff.
  2. Encourage employees to take mental health days and use allotted vacation days.
  3. Experiment with “work-from-home-Wednesdays.”


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.