Workplace burnout: Today’s new normal?

Employees can’t grow if they are burning out

By Richard Ellis

I know — we are all burned out by talking about workplace burnout. But it’s an important and timely discussion. Today business leaders are preoccupied with one key question – how to spot workplace burnout and what to do about it.

We’ve all seen the research — today’s workers are experiencing workplace burnout at alarming rates. This is, of course, a direct result of the global health pandemic. Meanwhile, the working world continues to place more and more value on the exact things that cause burnout in the first place – today’s “always-on” business culture, a lack of personal and professional boundaries, prioritizing work over home life, and always saying yes to new demands. 

As the pandemic continues, the “great resignation” – or is it a great reawakening? – has seen millions of workers re-evaluate their priorities and leave the workforce. As a result, employers are left struggling with employee retention, filling vacancies and employee (re)engagement. 

What causes burnout?

We tend to think of burnout as an individual employee issue, but research shows it’s actually the organization that creates the conditions that result in burnout. Making it even more complicated, the causes of workplace burnout are as many and varied as the individuals who experience it:

  • Social isolation
  • Unrealistic workloads
  • 24/7, “always-on” working culture
  • Weakened team dynamics 
  • Lack of employee rewards and recognition
  • An underlying feeling of being treated unfairly
  • Lack of alignment between individual and organizational values
  • Overly complex decision-making processes
  • Lack of employee control over their work environments

Of course, all of this is made worse by remote working, underlying family stresses, unfulfilling personal relationships, lack of sleep and the over-reliance on technology to bridge the gaps.

Can you fix burnout?

Yes, you can! Several strategies can help address burnout in the workplace and lessen its impact on individuals and the organization. First, leaders must recognize and acknowledge burnout exists within their organization. Then they can:

  • Create a culture of open discussion and empathy
  • Help teams prioritize, pace and sequence work
  • Instill a culture where it’s okay to say no to new workplace demands
  • Encourage self-care
  • Recognize successes – big ones and small ones — and celebrate them
  • Learn from others’ burnout coping mechanisms – and steal them shamelessly
  • Focus on employee training, learning and development
  • Create a more inclusive and accepting workplace culture
  • Encourage networking and mentoring
  • Create a team charter – outlining how your team will work together
  • Focus on individual and collective purpose and values 

Addressing the multitude of issues associated with workplace burnout isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely necessary – and achievable – if you want to create and sustain a truly resilient organization and reach your collective goals. Remember, what’s good for the individual employee is ultimately good for the organization as a whole. 

Now, let’s get on with it – let’s extinguish workplace burnout once and for all!


Richard Ellis is the founder of Ellis Strategy Group, a global leadership consultancy. With more than 30 years of international business experience, he is an accomplished executive coach, high-impact business strategist and noted communications expert. Find out more about Richard at ellisstrategygroup.com

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