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By October 8, 2019No Comments

By Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Worker burnout is a bummer for both employees and employers. So, anything you can do to spot impending burnout, and then take steps to avoid it, will help your nonprofit.

A recent Gallup study found that 23% of the 7,500 full-time employees studied reported feeling work burnout “very often” or “always.” An additional 44% “sometimes” feel burnout.

Burnout fallout is substantial for both workers and employers, the Gallup study found. Burned-out employees are:

  • 23% more likely to visit an emergency room
  • 63% more likely to take a sick day
  • 6 times more likely to be actively looking for another job
  • 13% less confident in their work performance
  • 50% less likely to talk about performance goals with managers.

An article in the journal Management Science stated that the way management treats its workers accounts for 120,000 worker deaths per year and about 5% to 8% of annual healthcare costs.

Clearly, the physical and emotional consequences of job burnout are significant. The Mayo Clinic says burnout consequences also include:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse

What causes worker burnout?

The Management Science article sited 10 main workplace stressors that can lead to burnout.

  • Unemployment
  • Lack of health insurance
  • Exposure to shift work
  • Long working hours
  • Job insecurity
  • Work-family conflict
  • Low job control
  • High job demands
  • Low social support at work
  • Low organizational justice

“Our results suggest that more attention should be paid to management practices as important contributors to health outcomes and costs in the United States,” the article says.

Here are signs of employee burnout

Everybody occasionally has a bad day at work or sometimes feels their work/life balance is out of whack. But burnout is different.

The Mayo Clinic defines job burnout as, “A state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

In a perfect world, employees have enough self-knowledge to spot burnout before it cripples their ability to do their jobs well. However, that’s often not the case, leaving it to managers to spot these signs of job burnout.

Reduced energy, motivation and productivity
Your normally energetic and optimistic employee now seems fatigued, unmotivated and struggling to complete assignments on time. They may be working more but accomplishing less.

Increased errors
A burned-out employee is often distracted and less focused on work. The results are more errors in work that used to be flawless.

External stress often is internalized causing physical symptoms like headaches.

Increased irritability, frustration and suspiciousness
Sometimes burnout is written all over an employee’s face. Your normally happy camper has become easily frustrated, irritated, negative, and suspicious of you and other employees.

Here’s what you can do reduce job burnout

You won’t be able to prevent every employee from working too hard, worrying too much, and other personal coping strategies that can lead to burnout.

But you can rethink your workplace culture to reduce, if not totally eliminate, job burnout.

Workplace Strategies, a Canadian initiative to understand and educate people about workplace psychological health and safety, offers these measures to prevent burnout.

  1. Clarify job expectations, and make sure employees understand what you want and when you want it.
  2. Provide all the necessary resources so employees can succeed at their tasks.
  3. Sponsor ongoing training so employees can continue to do a good job and advance in their careers.
  4. Let employees know that your organization appreciates their contributions to company goals.
  5. Set reasonable boundaries around work hours to help employees maintain a healthy work/life balance.
  6. If an employee is working long hours, reassess their workload to make sure your expectations for their productivity are fair and reasonable.
  7. Insist on workplace respect for all employees.
  8. Encourage breaks and physical exercise during the workday, which reduces stress.
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