We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website, and to track traffic and campaigns. If you continue to use this site, we’ll assume you’re cool with that. If you want to find out more about cookies, including how to disable them, please head on over to our cookie policy.

The Voco View on... Burnout

Voco Team

As we hurtle full speed into September, watching out for signs of burnout should be at the top of every HR professionals list this season.

With all the focus on wellbeing at work and flexible working, surely burnout is a thing of the past; reserved for those angry looking (mainly) men who shouted down phones on trading floors in 1980’s New York? If only…

In its recently published ‘State of the global workplace’ report, Gallup found that only 9% of the world's workforce are ‘engaged and thriving’ with the majority, 57%, ‘not engaged and not thriving’. Those who are in this latter category are 61% more likely to go into burnout.

But what is burnout and what can we do about it?

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and psychological exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to stress. According to the Gallop report it is chiefly caused by perceived unfair treatment at work, a lack of support from line managers, unrealistic workloads and unreasonable time pressure.

How to spot burnout

A commonality in nearly all cases of burnout is a perceived (or real) lack of control. People in this state feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities and become increasingly unable or unwilling to fulfil them.

You may notice lethargy, cynicism or even anger and irritability in those who are experiencing burnout. This may be a sudden out of character change but, for some, it may be a more constant state. It’s always worth challenging your assumptions about someone who is known to be ‘difficult’. Could it be that they are struggling at work and unable to self-diagnose or admit to burnout?

How to keep burnout at bay

Give managers the information, guidance and support they need to create healthy and realistic working practices in their teams. We know this stuff comes as standard but, because managers have such a big impact on their teams, it’s always worth a mention.

Here are a few more tips...

Create space

Encourage conversations about burnout; its effects and the potential for it in each team. Since a bad boss can be the main cause of burnout, consider creating opportunities for people to share their experiences and challenges with others, across the organisation.

All hands on deck

Whilst you might not control the hiring budgets, look for opportunities to use your influence and make sure that the teams you support are fully resourced. Often it’s an underestimation of the people power needed to complete a project that can put undue strain on a team.

Ear to the ground

When speaking to the people you support, listen out for any indication of burnout. This could be in the language they use, the way they behave, the way they refer to their work or their manager or even their unwillingness to engage with you. It’s rare for someone to own up to feeling this way, so it takes a professional ‘people person’ to notice when things aren’t quite right.

Open your door

Make sure that people know they can come to you with their concerns. These days people often see HR and senior management as one and the same; this can negatively affect the quality of the relationships you have. Strengthening connections with the teams you support will not only create more trust, it will make you an indispensable force against burnout.

More information

Report: State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, Gallup

Resource: Stress in the workplace fact sheet, CIPD

Resource: How to prevent employee burnout, Gallup

Article: Burnout levels are higher than ever - so why is no one listening, Refinery29

Article: How to tell if your close to burning out, BBC

Stay in touch

Subscribe to our newsletter to  find out more about harnessing  the power of peers to build a connected, inclusive learning culture in the new world of work.