Employee Burnout

Is employee burnout something that you’ve experienced or witnessed in the past? Is it something as a business owner you fear might be happening to you? This week HR Director magazine published the results of survey where more than 200 HR directors cited employee burnout for more than 30% of employees …

employee burnout is a major cause for concern amongst UK HR Directors

employee burnout is a major cause for concern amongst UK HR Directors


That’s nearly a third of the workforce! 67% of the HR Directors cited workload as the primary reason rising to 75% in large organisations and 73% in the public sector. Other reasons were overtime, long working hours, unachievable expectations, economic pressures and the inability to manage home and work life balance.

Phil Sheridan, Managing Director of Robert Half UK said that “employee burnout can happen from the top of the organisation to rank and file employees”.

He further reflected that “hiring temporary and interim professionals is proving an effecting and efficient way to alleviate pressure, since it allows companies to manage peaks and troughs without adding to the fixed labour costs and ensuring specialist skills are available when needed. And that this approach allows the companies to cope better with the unexpected and prevent employee burnout.”

Well, yes indeed, having extra resources available can reduce workload, but what is the overall impact on the staff? Apart from taking time to assist with orientation and so on, what does it really say to them?

Other recent studies have shown there is an increase in disengagement and disenfranchisement amongst junior managers and professionals because there is less movement in the labour market resulting in feelings of their career being stifled and that their skills aren’t being used to the fullest, which in turn is impacting on learning and gaining further and wider experience. All of which would be to the benefit of the organisation as well as the people. And after all, people are the organisations greatest asset.

And in bringing outside people into an organisation in these interim roles, is there skills transference? Are the others given opportunities to step up? What overall impact might it have on morale and confidence? How does this impact on both creativity and innovation? Potentially having a new ‘pair of ears and eyes’ to bounce ideas and solutions off will have benefits, but only if this is encouraged. Many organisations I have spoken to say the ideas and the creativity comes from the interim professional and so in the long term there is less benefit to the business. And employees share less and less, since there is less and less opportunity, or indeed encouragement.

And with that, a downward spiral can start with motivation, confidence, and engagement.

The other concern from many of the people within the organisation is that it’s all very well bringing in temporary resource during this peak, but what about the next one; and how far down do we have to go before that temporary resource is engaged?

Planning for the peaks and troughs better can assist with this, but also using the interim or temporary resource to perhaps do more of the day to day stuff, allowing the permanent employees to step up and start to work on better systems, processes and strategy so that these peaks and troughs can be handled more effectively and efficiently in the future.

And doesn’t HR have a greater role to play? If they are aware of this level of burnout and the reasons for it, what are they doing to not only support the people but in working with senior management teams on the areas where these pressures are being identified? With prevention being better than cure and all that? It, of course, is in part how the business both perceives and uses HR – they do have a very important role to play and they should have more of a voice at the table in many organisations.

However, if unachievable expectations is the third reason cited for burnout then what’s happening in businesses? Firstly one has to consider who is setting the unachievable expectations? And why? If it’s coming from the top of the organisation, then why are they so blind as to the overall impact? And why do they feel compelled to do this? Businesses that don’t leave their business ethics at the door and operate authentically would recognise and act accordingly.

However, many organisations seem to see that people are not achieving and exert more and more pressure in various ways; whether it’s through remuneration packages and withdrawing or reducing incentives where these unachievable expectations are not met, through to other ways of exerting pressure – whether it’s actual or perceived by the employee.

And we’ve all seen where messages filter down through the organisation and more and more pressure is ‘heaped’ on the next tier to achieve, since it reflects back up through the tiers. How is this really a way to run an organisation and for the employees – at every level, in every department – to be engaged and able to work at their optimum capacity and what I call ‘optimum flow rate’?

Losing triple A credit ratings, market pressures and economic pressures all impact on UK plc, but unless we take a step back and look at how we work in our businesses as well as on our businesses in each and every sector, then employee burnout is going to rise and how will that truly assist a sustainable and resilient organisation and essentially a sustainable and resilient economy?

If you’d like to find out more about anything I’ve mentioned here, then it may be a great idea to call me on +44 (0) 1296 681094, click here to ping me an email or even leave a comment below.

Until next time …

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