Employee mental health has been at the epicenter of discussions on the future of work for many years, with the COVID-19 pandemic only intensifying this focus. As a result, employee engagement, stress, and burnout have begun to dominate reports on the state of the workplace.
With the spotlight on the importance of creating a workplace that supports employee wellbeing shining brighter than ever before, it’s clear that managers need to take action. But how prevalent is burnout? And what impact does it have on businesses and their employees?
In this article, we’ve collated the most up-to-date statistics on burnout and stress in the workplace, exploring its frequency, causes, and implications.
What is burnout?
The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ While it’s not a medical condition, the characteristics of burnout can lead to poor mental and physical health. These characteristics include:
- Energy depletion and exhaustion
- Negative feelings towards your job, including frustration or a lost sense of purpose
- A reduction in efficacy at work.
The types of burnout
In a 2010 report, BMC Public Health identified three types of employee burnout: frenetic, under-challenged, and worn-out. Let’s look at the definition of each:
Frenetic burnout impacts individuals who overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion. They go above and beyond to achieve their goals and view their unrivaled work ethic as a point of pride, though it negatively impacts their health in other ways.
Under-challenged burnout is typified by a loss of purpose or disengagement from work. These workers find their jobs understimulating due to general dissatisfaction, a lack of acknowledgment, or an absence of development opportunities.
Worn-out burnout is experienced by workers who have disengaged from their jobs due to negative feelings. Worn-out burnout builds up over time due to consistent poor management or a sense that contributions are undervalued.
While it’s normal to have days when you experience low energy or feel unmotivated at work, feelings of burnout are consistent. Burnout can impact workers at any level, industry, and country; it does not discriminate and manifests differently for different people.
Burnout statistics: How common is employee burnout?
While it can be easy to imagine news reports and social media conversions on burnout exaggerate its prevalence, this is unfortunately not the case. The exact percentage of workers struggling with burnout differs from report to report, but it’s evident that burnout is increasingly common in the modern workplace. Let’s look at some of the most compelling statistics on how many employees experience burnout.
- According to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey, 3 in 5 workers reported experiencing negative mental and physical impacts due to work-related stress. 26% noted a lack of interest, motivation, or energy, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and 44% noted high levels of physical fatigue.
- Indeed revealed that while more than half (52%) of workers reported feeling burned out, there is a disconnect between the age groups. While only 31% of baby boomers identified as feeling burned out, 59% of millennials and 58% of Gen Z respondents felt the same.
- Research by Deloitte found that 77% of workers have experienced burnout at their current job, and the top driver of burnout is a lack of support and recognition from leadership.
- In 2021, Mental Health UK revealed that 46% of workers felt ‘more prone to extreme levels of stress’ compared to the year before, while a massive 1 in 5 reported feeling ‘unable to manage stress and pressure in the workplace.’
- A 2022 survey of 15,000 workers across 15 countries by McKinsey Health found that a quarter of employees experienced burnout symptoms.
- 76% of respondents in a Mental Health America and FlexJobs study agreed that workplace stress affects their mental health, and 75% experienced burnout.
- Qualtrics found that 79% of workers across 26 countries felt “at or beyond workload capacity” in 2020.
- Interestingly, a higher percentage of women leaders (43%) report feeling burned out compared to men at their level (31%).
Is job burnout improving, and how can we fix it?
Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report has suggested that, while the world is recovering from the impact of the pandemic, employees are still experiencing record-high stress levels. 44% of respondents said they experienced a lot of stress the day prior, showing no change from the previous year. In 2012, only 36% of employees reported experiencing a lot of stress the day before. This is far from the only report uncovering a trend of unmanageable stress levels; Google search data revealed that searches for ‘signs of burnout’ increased by 24% in 2020 compared to the past year.
So, what are businesses doing to alleviate burnout and create a psychologically safe environment for their teams?
A 2022 survey by the APA into work and well-being is particularly enlightening. It found that employer-provided support for mental health has increased overall, with 71% of employees reporting that their employer is now more concerned about the mental health of employees. Yet, only 31% believed that mental health and safety initiatives had improved following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In terms of how employers can support employee well being, respondents identified the most popular offers as flexible working hours (41%), a workplace culture that respects time off (34%), the ability to work remotely (33%), and a four-day work week (31%). Plus, a huge 95% of workers with access to flexible work schedules and remote work options said they found these effective supports.
Here are the findings from other reports:
- McKinsey found that 80% of employees believe their managers have been proactive in protecting the health and safety of their teams.
- While more employers are providing access to mental health services, 67% of employees with mental illness struggle to access these services. This points to a disconnect between employers’ perceptions and employees’ realities; the same report discovered 71% of employers with frontline employees reported supporting mental health well or very well, whereas only 27% of their employees agreed.
- Research by Mental Health America and FlexJobs suggested that just one in five (21%) of workers feel able to have open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout, with just 56% saying their HR departments don’t encourage conversations about burnout.
How does burnout impact turnover?
There is a clear connection between employee engagement and workplace burnout, with research by Gallup showing that burned-out employees are 13% less confident in their performance. But is there a correlation between high burnout and high employee turnover that HR managers should be aware of?
The short answer is yes; there is a connection:
- Burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking a different job.
- A recent survey by Westfield Health showed that 59% of employees view their mental health as a key driver for seeking a new role.
- Unsurprisingly, physicians experienced high levels of burnout during the pandemic, with over half surveyed by the American Medical Association describing feeling burned out in 2021.
- Many physicians identified burnout as one contributor to their desire to quit or reduce their working hours; turnover and decreased clinic time are estimated to cost $4.6 billion annually in the US.
- According to one paper on the relationship between occupational stress, burnout, and turnover intention, a lack of job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion are strong predictors of an intention to leave one’s current job.
- A report by Gallup and Workhuman discovered turnover and lost productivity due to employee burnout cost businesses around $322bn globally, with the cost of voluntary turnover due to burnout alone being 15% to 20% of the payroll budget each year.
- One APA survey found that 81% of employees will seek out workplaces that support mental health when exploring future roles, highlighting the importance of mental health benefits on employee retention.
How does burnout vary by industry?
Burnout statistics have revealed exceptionally high rates over the previous three years due in part to the pandemic, but are there any industry variances to explore?
- Research by Workday into how levels of burnout risk changed between 2021 and 2022 found that some industries suffered more than others. The industries experiencing an increase in burnout risk included transportation (16%) and government (10%), and healthcare (4%), whereas manufacturing, professional and business services, and financial services saw a decline.
- When asked by the APA if mental health and safety initiatives improved compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic, responses varied depending on the respondents’ work context. While approximately a third of office workers (34%) and customer service workers (32%) agreed they had improved, only a quarter (25%) of manual laborers agreed.
- High consulting hours are known to contribute to poor mental health, with 70+ hour weeks eating into workers’ weekends and damaging energy levels, as identified by the Journal of Human Resource Management.
How does burnout affect mental and physical health?
We’ve touched on how burnout can impact turnover and engagement, but what do we know about its effects on mental and physical health?
- 79% of respondents in a CIPD survey identified stress-related absences in their organization over the last year. This number was higher for large organizations, at 90%.
- According to the HSE, 17.9 million working days were lost to stress, anxiety, or depression in 2019-2020.
- A report from WHO and International Labour Organization found that working long hours contributed to the deaths of 745,000 people from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, with rates increasing 29% from 2000.
- Burned-out US workers are 63% more likely to take a sick day than happy, engaged employees, according to Gallup.
- Burnout syndrome accounts for 8% of all occupational illness cases, according to a 2017 report.
- The link between burnout and poor health is well-established, with findings from numerous reports collated by the APA showing employees who experience true workplace burnout have a 57% increased risk of workplace absence, a 180% increased risk of developing depressive disorders, an 84% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and a 40% increased risk of hypertension.
- Employees who identify as experiencing burnout are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
Does remote work affect employee burnout?
Remote work can offer endless benefits for employees and can reduce burnout for those who desire it. However, flexible arrangements can have drawbacks — when risks aren’t managed effectively.
Remote workers and their managers can experience many challenges, including feelings of isolation, a breakdown of work-life balance, and difficulty identifying when workers are struggling. Let’s review some remote work burnout statistics:
- 72% of HR workers see themselves as providing new or better support to employees working from home. However, the same study found that there has been a decrease in the proportion of organizations working to identify poor mental health among remote workers, dropping from 41% in 2021 to 27% in 2022.
- According to Mental Health UK, almost half of professionals feel working from home could contribute to burnout, and 77% agree that feelings of isolation could contribute to burnout.
- NordVPN Teams revealed that remote workers are spending 2.5 additional hours logged on each day, leaving them vulnerable to workplace burnout.
- 38% of employees who worked from home during the pandemic felt pressure from management to work more hours, and 61% found it difficult to unplug after work, according to Indeed.
- Nearly half (48%) of remote workers say they lack emotional support.
Thankfully, you can help remote workers avoid burnout with proper support, effective communication, and a culture that discourages overworking.
Employee burnout statistics: what's next?
The bad news is that burnout statistics reveal that employee burnout rates continue to rise post-pandemic. The good news is that team leaders and HR managers can reduce stress levels and prevent burnout with the right engagement programs and mental support initiatives.
By understanding burnout data and discussing what is and isn’t working at your business, you can overcome the disconnect between employers and employees, create a better working environment for your team, and combat burnout.