We are all still feeling it. Burnout. It’s echoing across Industry. While it’s being felt by many across organisations, research is showing that together we can overcome it.

At our recent COVID Workforce Resilience event we heard from Associate Professor Gordon Parker AO, co-author of Burnout: A Guide to Identifying Burnout and Pathways to Recovery.

He shared a lot of helpful information and solutions that have been tested and proven. A big takeaway was that Industry needs to take the time to think about workplace approaches to burnout.

In this blog we bring you insights from the event that you can use today to start a conversation about burnout in your workplace.

The impact of burnout on your organisation

Gordon took us on a fascinating journey through the history of burnout, early definitions and his research findings.

We heard that burnout is impacting bottom lines globally. In the 2016 World Economic Forum burnout was estimated to cost $332 billion/year. This is the cost of absenteeism, presenteeism (where people turn up to work but they can’t turn their brain on), and turnover.

What does burnout look like?

It’s important to know that burnout is not depression but a stress reaction and it’s often due to work.

For most people, there’s a slow build-up of burnout. Some report an exhaustion phase initially but usually the following physical and mental symptoms occur at the same time.

  • Compromised immune function leading to more infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleep problems
  • Low motivation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Incontinence
  • Not being able to get out of bed for weeks
  • A sense of overwhelm
  • A tendency to scan and skim rather than being able to take in information
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Lack of pleasure or joie de vivre
  • Becoming insular or asocial due to a lack of pleasure in being with people.

We learnt that people with burnout are more likely to be reliable, dutiful, diligent, work-focused people, if not perfectionistic. And it’s often those working in people focused roles such as carers or in care-giving industries that experience burnout (sounds familiar doesn’t it!).

Steps you can take in your organisation to support people experiencing burnout

The good news is that almost all people who suffer burnout can completely recover and get back their full vitality.

Gordon shared stories about what people experiencing burnout found to be most helpful in the workplace.

Having a discussion with a colleague who’s supportive, taking time off work, exercise, meditation and mindfulness topped the list in his research.

We heard about the model Gordon employs – address the trigger, employ de-stressing strategies such as meditation and mindfulness, and then address the predisposing personality style. It sounds complicated but there are tools available to go through this process in Gordon’s book.

The top take-away of the session is to get a group of employees to form a think tank for bottom-up feedback. Get them to discuss and present what they think would make the work environment optimal. Build in review periods to make sure that it’s all ticking along.

But this process needs to avoid just addressing one individual’s concerns. That’s why the think tank is critical. A group of six to 20 people generating the healthy ingredients for a burnout free workplace is much better than just doing a single one-off exercise.

 

Watch the full event recording to hear more about the history of burnout, real-life examples and what you can do today to support your workforce.