Why burnout keeps HR professionals awake at night

Burnout: It’s still a burning issue

You don’t need us to tell you that burnout is a big deal. While it’s clearly worst for the individual suffering through it, their colleagues and even the wider organization are often negatively impacted as well.

Kama Dodge, Senior Consultant for Cubiks USA

Kama Dodge

Senior Consultant, US


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Morale drops, engagement trails off, performance reduces – and the end result is a high risk of sick leave, absenteeism, and staff turnover. It’s easy to see why burnout is an HR nightmare.

A recent increase in posts about burnout on social media got me trawling the internet for new ideas and research on the subject. I wondered if this spike in interest had been prompted by the release of some ground-breaking new insight into the area. After some considerable searching, I came to the simpler conclusion that nothing new has cropped up, it’s just that the issues around burnout are really keeping HR professionals awake at night.

What is burnout?

The first thing I’d like to clarify is that while the terms, ‘stress’ and ‘burnout’ are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. We all encounter stress in our daily lives. It is a natural response to demanding situations and can provide us with the energy and drive we need to solve problems and get things done. Stress, in moderation, is not a bad thing.
Burnout, on the other hand, is a very bad thing. It occurs when stress is prolonged and accumulated. A person suffering burnout will likely start to feel as though they are constantly stressed and overwhelmed. Burnout is often accompanied by a sense of hopelessness in the face of the perceived myriad tasks that need to be completed. This in turn leads to demotivation and despondency; the notion that there is so much to do, and no possibility of getting through everything, so why bother trying?

Why are we all so worried about burnout?

Those working in talent management know that burnout can bring major challenges. There is no scenario in which burnout won’t cause a problem for your people and your organization.

The impact of burnout will be widespread

In the lead up to a person reaching the point of burnout, they’re likely to become detached, irritable, or distant. This deterioration could take place over many months, and it will inevitably affect those working with and close to the individual.
Further, anyone who is heading for burnout will eventually suffer a decline in productivity. As a person’s energy, motivation, and engagement fade with the exhaustion of burnout, there’s no way that their performance will be maintained. If nothing is done to address the issue, there are two likely conclusions; the individual will leave your organization, or they’ll need to take extended leave to recover.

Engagement and exhaustion sometimes go hand in hand

Engaged employees are happy, healthy, productive employees, right? It’s an assumption we’ve based a huge amount of HR effort and initiatives on in recent years, and rightly so. But what if I told you that your most engaged people might be those at highest risk of burnout? In a 2018 Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence study, 20% of employees reported high levels of engagement, while simultaneously reporting feeling highly burnout and having high turnover intentions.
When you’re at risk of losing your most engaged performers, there’s no doubt that you need to make sure you’re doing the best you can to tackle the possibility of burnout occurring.

In a 2018 Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence study, 20% of employees reported high levels of engagement, while simultaneously reporting feeling highly burnout and having high turnover intentions.

Burnout creates attrition

In today’s candidate led labor market, you are highly likely to lose talent if your people are not happy within your organization. Employees know that if their working conditions aren’t meeting their expectations, they can find better opportunities elsewhere. This can have a real impact, particularly when it is so much more cost-effective to retain good people than having to replace them once burnout has led to turnover. Interrupting the burnout process is key to tackling this issue and making sure that the best performers stay healthy and motivated working for you. With such far-reaching consequences, burnout is a problem that no talent management team can afford to ignore. But the purpose of this article wasn’t to extend that burnout to HR professionals by making them worry about burnout!

Now that we’ve covered some of the key topics connected to this issue, I want to offer complete reassurance that there is plenty you can do to protect against and start to remedy burnout. Stay tuned for my next article, in which I’ll share some practical solutions and answers to the challenges of tackling burnout.

If you’d like some advice on how to handle burnout in your organization, and are looking to Develop a Successful Workforce, your local Cubiks team will be more than happy to help.

Get in contact! Call us on +44 1483 544 200 or fill in the form below.

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