Burnout is a ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress’. It affects people, employees, teams, companies and profits. It affects the person and all those around them at home, in their communities and at work. It is a loss to people and society on so many levels. In 2015, 60% of lost days at work were stress related in Ireland. 75 to 90% of visits to GPs are stress related.
Being ‘busy’ is deemed as a good thing. And overall while it is probably better for health and wellbeing to be occupied much of the time, we all need time to relax, recharge and rejuvenate. We have an ability to handle so much stress but too much is counter-productive. With so many of us ‘busy, being busy’, it is increasingly easy to cross the line from busy to burnout.
It is not just millionaires and entrepreneurs that get burned-out. It can affect anyone from students to people of any age in the work place up to retirement.
A European Agency for Safety and Health at Work study reports that stress is the second most frequently reported work-related health problem in Europe, after musculoskeletal disorders.
A certain level of stress is to be expected at work. This is part of learning new skills and is inevitable as we take on new challenges. Healthy stress helps us to grow and be, do and feel better. We feel satisfied when we get the result we have been working hard to achieve and reach new milestones. However, when high pressure is consistent, it can push us into dangerous territory. This is exacerbated when areas outside of work have a lot of stress and little joy and satisfaction attached to them in terms of how we experience and look at them daily. If people don’t have support or don’t take action to reduce toxic stress, health issues can easily arise.
It is better to take a preventative approach. This is where wellbeing comes in.
When people have too much stress, they will do one of two things. They will reach out for positive resources to reduce stress and bring their lives into balance. Or they will get worse which can happen through continuing along the path to over-stress and burnout and or using unhealthy resources like sugary foods, coffee or addictive substances and unhealthy habits (e.g. lack of sleep) to give comfort and keep the show on the road. This accelerates the path to bad health and burnout.
Individuals and their loved ones suffer because of poor-health and reduced happiness and joy. Companies can be affected by reduced overall business performance, absenteeism, and even increased accident and injury rates. Colleagues are under pressure when team members are stressed and or absent. The Global Challenge report says that ‘presenteeism is costing employers ten times more than absenteeism’.
At a minimum, employers should strive to ensure that work and workplace factors are not adding to the problems of employees and teams. Research by IBEC in 2017, showed that 6 out of 10 employees were more likely to stay long-term with an employer that showed concern for them, while almost half of employees surveyed said they would leave a job where an employer did not care about their well-being.
Having an employee wellbeing programme – that prioritises employee wellbeing throughout the year is important for employers for many reasons. A well-thought-out and relevant targeted programme will prevent burnout and boost wellbeing, focus, performance, profits and results. It will empower employees to take care of their wellbeing and be their best. It will also enable employers to attract, retain and grow the right people.
An understanding of burnout at personal level is also key. It is important to tune into your needs (not necessarily your wants) to ensure they are being met daily – at all levels.