Employee management

Burnout 101: What It Is, Why It’s Bad, and How You Can Help

February 13, 2020

Look just about anywhere online and you’ll read about burnout in the workplace. You’ll read that it’s widespread and getting worse. You’ll read that it affects people in every industry and at every level of responsibility. You might even find people referring to it like a public health crisis, using words like ‘epidemic’ to describe the issue’s severity. A recent survey from Robert Half found that 96% of senior managers in Canada believe their employees are feeling some degree of burnout, and nearly 95% of workers agreed.

The most prevalent definition of burnout is a feeling of depletion, exhaustion, and negativity arising from chronic workplace stress, and its consequences can be devastating to any organization. Common responses to burnout focus on what employees can do to mitigate feelings and effects of burnout in the workplace, but employers have a greater role to play. An employee’s influence over the conditions of their workplace is necessarily quite small, but an employer can dramatically alter things to address burnout on a larger scale.


Without intervention, burnt out employees make more mistakes, work less effectively, take more sick days, deliver worse service, and resign sooner. These are all costly issues for employers and employees alike, and the toll on employees both personally and professionally from feeling so terrible all the time is enormous. Because burnout arises from persistent workplace stressors, common suggestions like vacation or other time off are generally ineffective; such measures only act on the symptoms of burnout, not its causes. Even the most restorative break won’t help in the long term if the conditions that necessitated the break remain when the employee returns.

The only way to permanently and meaningfully fix burnout in the workplace is to figure out why it’s happening and then intervene at the source. Check out our Burnout 101 Guide for advice on how you can detect and address burnout in your workplace

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