17 million working days were lost in 2021/22, according to the Health and Safety Executive’s report, “Work-related stress, anxiety, or depression statistics in Great Britain,” published in November 2022. Employee burnout has long been a problem for businesses, but during the epidemic, cases skyrocketed as people tried to cope with lockdowns, balance job, and caring duties, and get used to a new style of working. Following the epidemic, many firms have maintained some level of remote working in an effort to enhance employee work-life balance, support mental health and wellness, boost productivity, and lower staff turnover.
Unfortunately, despite this innovative method of working, an increasing percentage of employees continue to report feeling burned out, indicating that the epidemic may not be the only cause of this rise. Employers must therefore be conscious of both their duties to their employees and the hazards involved in improperly addressing and minimizing organizational employee burnout.
What is Employee burnout?
The World Health Organisation has classified burnout, which is defined as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” as a medical illness in and of itself 2020. Fatigue, sleeplessness, headaches, irritability, palpitations, and panic attacks are among the common symptoms, as are combinations of these and other symptoms. These symptoms can become anxiety and sadness if they are not treated, which will have an effect on employee experience and one’s physical health.
Long work hours are frequently blamed for burnout, but this is rarely the main cause. Difficult interpersonal connections at work, unrealistic expectations, worries about job security, and a sense of being underappreciated all frequently play a role. Burnout in employees is typically caused by a combination of several of these variables as well as other reasons.
How to reduce burnout and improve employee mental health?
1 Be proactive, not reactive for burnout prevention
Every employer is required by law to take all reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. This duty involves safeguarding mental health. Employers should approach burnout the same way they would any other workplace issue. By creating a supportive work atmosphere and fostering open communication, burnout can be managed and prevented.
Since prevention is better than treatment when it comes to burnout and other workplace issues, employers should ensure managers obtain the necessary training so they can recognise the early warning signs of burnout. If normally motivated and productive workers start to show signs of exhaustion, disengagement, and decreasing production, they may be approaching burnout. Managers should review workloads when burnout signs are apparent and take any necessary action. By adopting a cordial and helpful attitude towards demands for flexible working hours, employer fatigue can be avoided. Choosing how and when to work can help people maintain a better work-life balance.
2 Monitor working hours and employee engagement
Employers should exercise caution and are not allowed to require employees to work excessive hours in situations where doing so would pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to the health, safety, and well-being of the employee or others. Employees may agree to “opt-out” of the 48-hour limit specified in the Working Time Regulations of 1998. Employees cannot be coerced to opt-out or be victimised in any other way for refusing to work excessive hours. Employers who put employees under such pressure run the risk of being accused in an employment tribunal. An employee’s choice to opt-out may be withdrawn at any time with written notification. When putting in a lot of overtime, paying employees who experience burnout should be considered.
3 Policies and procedures to prevent burnout in the workplace
A full suite of policies and procedures dealing with health & safety and mental health & wellbeing should be put in place to monitor wellbeing and support staff. Staff should also be encouraged to take annual leave and adequate time away from work, with no expectation to regularly check and respond to emails out with working hours.
Cost of employee burnout
Burnout is quite prevalent in some cultures, which can pose considerable problems and expenditures. Burnt-out workers are more prone to use sick days or look for other work, which can increase turnover, cause revenue to be lost, and raise hiring and training costs.
Severe burnout among employees may give rise to claims against their company for disability discrimination and/or constructive dismissal. Both financial and non-financial losses, which might be significant, may be compensated for.
The problem of burnout is more widespread than ever, but businesses may take steps to safeguard themselves and their workers from its start and impacts. While there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to the problem, firms will be able to find a solution through transparency, communication, and training.
Prevent employee burnout at work: Contact us
If you’d like to discuss how best to minimize the potential for burnout or any aspects of employee well-being in the workplace, please get in touch with our specialist employment law team at 0808 178 7292