You may have heard about an epidemic affecting workers across the globe–it’s called burnout and it has some seriously negative consequences for your business. Burnout is defined as a “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.” Signs of burnout range from exhaustion to irritability to apathy and more. No matter how it manifests, burnout can result in very negative consequences such as absenteeism, high employee turnover, and financial liability due to unused PTO.
Burnout can cause major changes in mood and behavior among employees; eventually resulting in depression and anxiety. After enough stress has set in, psychosomatic symptoms may manifest. “Somatization is defined as the tendency to experience psychological distress in the form of physical symptoms.”1 This could appear as constant colds, headaches, nausea, chronic pain, or any number of other issues. Employees will need time off to visit doctors and end up away from the office for days to recover. Doctors estimate that between 75 and 90% of all patient visits are for stress-related problems.2 Unfortunately, unless the underlying cause of their symptoms (aka burnout) is corrected, the vicious cycle of stress and illness will continue and lead to chronic absenteeism.
Burnout is also a major contributor to your employee turnover rate. In fact, half of all HR managers cite burnout as a contributing factor to over 50% of their turnover.3 Imagine how much time, energy, productivity, and money can be saved by reducing your turnover by half. Businesses spend greater than 20% of a quitting employee’s annual salary on finding, hiring, and training new recruits. For positions requiring advanced degrees or experience, the cost of turnover may be as high as 200% of that employee’s salary. But perhaps the worst part of turnover resulting from burnout is its choice of victims. The best and brightest who are always giving 110% of themselves are the ones who suffer first. Not only are you losing workers, but you are also losing your best workers.
As mental and physical health decline, so will productivity. Memory is impaired, work is slow, and accuracy decreases. You may be thinking “all they need to do is take a vacation and relax,” but burnt out employees are the least likely to take time off. Burnt out employees will continue their frenzied work pace without pause until the day they leave your company. When employees leave unused PTO on your books, it becomes a financial liability to your bottom line. The average liability is almost $1900 per employee; that’s $224 billion across the US.4 Burnt out employees are taking less and less vacation, creating a negative impact on your company finances.
While the effects of burnout may seem insurmountable, there are ways to reduce burnout and the corresponding negative results. Investing in your employees can actually reduce the costs and headaches associated with absenteeism, unused PTO, and turnover, all relating to burnout. You should also work to create an office culture that promotes travel and time off; this can improve employee well-being immensely.