Examining Employee Burnout Cost, Cause, and Culture

When a new person joins the office, you might view them to be someone full of enthusiasm and wanting to fulfill every task that comes their way to the best of their abilities. But over time, you might notice a drop in their energy levels and an inability in them to be able to complete even the smallest of responsibilities.

Well, what you’ve been observing is someone becoming prey to a widespread epidemic called ‘employee burnout’.

What is employee burnout?

Employee burnout is a mental, emotional, and physical state of exhaustion that someone goes through after experiencing prolonged exposure to stress due to several work-related issues. Feelings of hollowness, frustration, irritation, cynicism, and exhaustion prevail in the employee’s life. And these feelings are not limited to their professional life; they seep into almost every aspect of their day.

A study conducted by Gallup on over 7500 full-time employees revealed that 44% of these participants reported feeling burned out sometimes and an additional 23% reported feeling burned out at office very often or always. From this, one can infer that about two-thirds of full-time workers experienced burnout on the job.

Does it cause financial loss to the employer?

The above-mentioned study also demonstrated how employee burnout is not only a loss for the employee but also the employer. Turns out, burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a leave and 2.6% to be actively looking for another job. They also exhibit 13% lower confidence in their performance.

Joel Goh and colleagues at Harvard Business School estimated that work-related burnout in the U.S. resulted in 1,20,000 deaths per year. Workplace stress also led to an additional expense of anywhere between $125 to $190 billion a year which is 5-8% of national spending on health care.

What kind of work culture causes employee burnout?

A work culture with the following characteristics can accelerate the pace of this phenomenon:

1.Unfair Treatment

When employees experience unfair treatment – bias, favoritism, ill-treatment, unfair compensation – at work, the psychological bond of trust with peers and superiors is broken. This leaves a lasting impact on the individual.

2.Overwhelming Workload

When employees are forced to bite off more than they can chew for a long time, feeling exhausted is a natural reaction on their end. Repeatedly not being able to perform well can further fuel their feelings of frustration and hopelessness, making things even worse.

3.Absence of Role Clarity

Many employees can undergo a feeling of uncertainty when it comes to their work profile. Every day new tasks are thrown their way in the name of “exposure” and “dynamic responsibilities”. Such constant pressure to acquire new information and skills can easily take over a person’s well-being. After all, some certainty is needed to be able to thrive in the workplace.

4.Lack of support from superiors

Having the support of a manager can act as a punching bag to help relieve one’s stress. Knowing that they have your back at the end of the day can come as a huge relief. But when an employee is devoid of such care because of confrontational or manipulative behavior on the part of their managers, it can lead to feeling like they are sinking and no one is coming to save them. This makes them feel isolated in their suffering.

5.Rigid and Unfair Timelines

Yes, there are certain professions where each second counts. But unreasonable time restrictions are implemented in other professions where those at the top do not understand the time needed to deliver quality results.

Is employee burnout inevitable?

No! Here are some measures that you can take to reduce burnout in your organization:


If you notice an employee not acting like their usual self, invite them for a cup of coffee. Have a friendly conversation with them and understand if work is bothering them. With mutual efforts, help them resolve their concerns.

2.Maintain Balance

Ensure that you treat all your employees equally. Let them know that they will have your support, not only for the good days but also for the bad ones. Identify their strengths and make these more visible by being openly appreciative of them. Coming from a place of strength can help someone achieve better results when compared to coming from a place of deficits. Such actions on your end can help foster trust and motivation in your employees.

3.Offer Control

When you offer some control to your employees over the nature of their tasks and the time needed to complete the same, it helps them know that you trust them. This can help boost their confidence. That said, too much freedom can make the employee feel unguided. Some structure is necessary from your end to keep things balanced.

4.Tackle the Stress

Stress can be tackled through regular measures. You can let your employees take breaks in-between work, in the form of power naps, strolls, listening to music, or watching something online. Take them out for a monthly lunch and talk about anything but work; get to know them better. Discourage working overtime or for long hours at a stretch. Provide clear goals and aims to your employees.

Lastly, you need to create an environment that genuinely cares about those who form it. To be able to do this, you need to reflect carefully on your work-life balance as well. After all, humans learn more quickly by observing as compared to being lectured to.