The Silent Workplace Killer... and what you can do about it

There is a silent killer in the workplace. It kills employee engagement, productivity, and happiness. It can even lead to actual death. The name? Burnout.

Burnout is a serious issue in the workplace. A Deloitte survey found that 77% of respondents have experienced burnout at their current job. More than half of these workers reported feeling burnt out repeatedly.1 Not only does burnout affect workers physically and mentally, but it can also affect your company negatively through increased healthcare costs, absenteeism, and trouble with employee retention. Recognizing burnout is just the start. Once you determine the extent of burnout in your employees, you must take steps to combat it and change workplace culture `to avoid it in the future.
How do we recognize burnout?
Burnout is characterized by exhaustion leading to a lack of engagement. Employees may be physically tired or mentally tired. Workers may begin to withdraw from being social with coworkers. Attitudes could easily turn negative and a burnt out or disgruntled employee may become a naysayer, affecting the morale in your office. Engagement will decrease and company loyalty along with it.

Burnout can also manifest in physical signs and symptoms. Many burnt out employees develop lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, chronic back troubles, and more. Mental anguish from burnout can also lead to symptoms of depression or anxiety. Physical symptoms stemming from mental stress may get so bad that they lead to life-ending events such as heart attacks and strokes.
What are the consequences of burnout?
The consequences of burnout affect your company in very real ways. Exhaustion results in a lack of concentration, slowed productivity, and decreased accuracy. Physical manifestations of burnout lead to increased visits to the doctor, which means absences from work and increased healthcare costs. In fact, physical and psychological problems associated with burnout cost employers an estimated $190 billion each year in healthcare costs.2

Whether through choice or necessity, eventually, your burnt out employees will leave, which results in high turnover rates. HR managers in companies with 100 to 500 employees cite burnout as the cause of 10% of their turnover, and this number jumps to 50% in companies with more than 2500 employees.3 All of these problems affect your company’s bottom line.
How do we fix burnout?
Solving burnout is much easier said than done. Burnout results from increased stress over time, which means time spent away from the stressors of work is the best way to combat it. Taking rests, breaks, and especially vacations can reduce burnout significantly by promoting work recovery time. But employees are not reaping the important, burnout-combating benefits of vacationing for many reasons.

First, employees are taking less and less vacation. Over 52% of workers left 705 million vacation days on the table in 2017.4 This can be attributed to many things. Vacation policies could be confusing, leaving workers at a loss for how to request their days off. Even if they know how, one-third of employees reported feeling uncomfortable taking time off.5 This could be due to a feeling of being shamed into staying by coworkers or their own feelings that they have too much work to do and cannot leave because they will never catch up.

Employees may also believe that avoiding vacation shows loyalty and will lead to raises or promotions. (Even though this has been proven false.) In order to fix this, you need to make changes to your company culture. Make sure your vacation policies are clear and have managers, HR representatives, and bosses actively encourage workers to take vacations. A minimum-vacation policy can also encourage workers to use their vacation days.

Another important reason employees aren’t taking vacations is money. A 2017 survey showed that half of American households were living paycheck to paycheck and 49% of respondents cited feeling “concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being.”6 With student loans, mortgages, and credit card debt looming over them, saving money for vacation becomes a very low priority. To promote travel and combat burnout, consider adding a travel benefit program like Taab. Taab allows employees to automatically save for vacation and boosts the value of what they put away with employer contributions.

Burnout is a serious issue that is affecting your company more than you know. The best way to combat it is to encourage disconnecting from work for rest and relaxation. Employees who go on vacation come back energized, productive, and happy. A happy employee is less likely to have health problems stemming from burnout and is a low risk for turnover. Vacations are the best way to combat burnout.