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9 ways to prevent burnout in your organisation

Illustration of woman working at laptop with piles of paper and files, and papers blowing about. Woman is holding hand to head, representing burnout. Designed by pch.vector / Freepik
Suzanne Locke 9 May 2023
Some 84 percent of HR directors agree that burnout – which was only officially recognised four years ago – needs to be addressed in their organisation (Clear Review, 2022). We suggest ways organisations can help prevent this stressful workplace syndrome.
It’s now considered legacy thinking to put all the responsibility for wellbeing on the individual: forward-thinking organisations make wellbeing a shared responsibility, with work a core component.

WHO’s definition

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognised burnout in 2019. It calls burnout an ‘occupational phenomenon’ rather than a medical condition.
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:
  1. feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. reduced professional efficacy.
Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

GCC burnout, in numbers

  • 15 percent of the GCC population suffers mental health issues in any given year
  • Untreated mental illness in the GCC results in at least 37.5 million lost productive hours
  • The cost to the GCC economy is up to $3.5 billion
Source: PwC, 2022
  • One in three GCC respondents report burnout symptoms
  • The figure is higher for those locally born than for expatriate workers
  • Burnout employees in the GCC are four times more likely to leave company within six months
  • Toxic behaviour makes GCC employees seven times more likely to experience burnout
  • 55 percent of GCC employees reported high levels of distress (a possibly precursor to burnout),  compared to 32 percent globally

Burnout checklist

  1. Make wellbeing an organisational priority. This starts from the top – you could ask your CEO to ‘walk a mile’ in others’ shoes by shadowing diverse employees for a day.
  2. Take regular pulse checks. This includes regular employee engagement surveys, exit interviews and monitoring sick leave and vacation. Segment data: the highest burnout levels are reported in finance and by women managers.
  3. Destigmatise mental health issues. Publicly share leadership stories about burnout, and teach managers to spot the signs in staff.
  4. Align values. Employees are 11 times more likely to experience burnout when they feel less connected to their organisation’s purpose (OC Tanner Institute, 2021). And 80 percent of Generation Z want to work for companies whose values align with their own (LinkedIn, 2022).
  5. Ban toxic behaviour. Leaders need to encourage inclusive meetings where anyone feels free to speak, and to address behaviour such as blame, shame and bias.
  6. Free up time. Weekly meetings increased by 148 percent from 2020-2021, and the number of emails by 40.6 billion (Microsoft). Limit the number and length of meetings. Create a culture where immediate responses are not expected – especially once work is over. In France, employees have a legal ‘right to disconnect’.
  7. Create a culture of recognition. It doesn’t have to be monetary: recognising work anniversaries and gratitude notes from managers are appreciated gestures. While managers are taught to praise in public, do ask employees – some prefer even praise to be private.
  8. Make colleague relationships count. It’s good for teams to do exercises in working styles and strengths, and to share preferences.
  9. Make roles clear. Quarterly reviews provide regular check-ins and job descriptions should be up-to-date. Project management training for managers can help them resource well to avoid overload and tight deadlines.
Download this blog post as an infographic checklist (PDF format) to share in your organisation. Aurora50 is a DEI impact agency – contact us to discuss your organisation’s DEI needs.