Causes of Workplace Burnout

in Business Management
Workplace Burnout

Avoid Burnout to Increase Job Satisfaction and Business Productivity

Workplace burnout is a major factor impacting employee well-being and business productivity in a time of economic change and disappearing work-leisure boundaries.

Burnout occurs when the reality of work fails to met expectations, and it is a main reason employee job satisfaction can drop in the workplace.

Workplace burnout’s victims usually begin with the best of intentions. Sufferers come from the ranks of teachers, social workers and others looking to make a difference, but no one is immune.

United States workers get less time off (an average 15 days plus holidays) than most industrialized nations, so with so much time spent on the job, unhappiness at work carries over to all aspects of life.

Sources of low job satisfaction and workplace burnout typically include:

  • Problems with workload;
  • how much control a worker has over his or her job duties;
  • the kind of recognition or reward given for the job;
  • how well relationships with coworkers are going;
  • whether a worker feels he or she is being treated fairly; and
  • whether important values for a worker are supported by the work done.

A great resource for information on the universal causes of workplace burnout is the work of Christina Maslach, Professor Emerita of Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley and workplace burnout expert.

Trends Impacting Job Satisfaction

While understanding the general causes is a starting point, two big trends in today’s workplaces have added pressure — the move to a 24-7 culture and the tightening bottom lines of companies dealing with a slower economic climate.

When people are available to work 24-7, the boundary between work and personal time dissolves.

If problems with work arise or if people feel they are no longer being adequately rewarded for their long hours of sacrifice, then work-leisure boundaries erode and a serious case of workplace burnout can result.

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Companies with an eye on increasing business productivity by accomplishing more work with fewer employees are collapsing positions, eliminating people and adding more work to each position.

Globalization has also put pressure on everyone in the U.S. economy to increase productivity. It has created job insecurity as the risk of the work you do suddenly being done a lot cheaper somewhere else increases.

Competing against the world pushes organizations to perform at a high, consistent level for a low cost. To make this possible people must work harder, faster and longer than before.

Workplace burnout does not occur instantaneously, but if people feel under-rewarded long enough they will realize that the investment they’re making in their job isn’t producing the results they want.

From an organizational standpoint, pushing employees for all they’ve got may only increase profits short term but not foster long-term business productivity.

The energy they have available for investing in whatever the organization is hoping they’ll do starts to decline. And as a person burns out they may begin to infect their workplace with negativity and increase unhappiness at work.

Employers aren’t solely to be blamed. Some of the burnout is self-inflicted by employees who like the idea of being indispensable.

Ways to Prevent Workplace Burnout

The more burnt out a person feels, the less empowered and able to change things he or she becomes.

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If nothing changes, workplace burnout can escalate to depression or other health problems, so understanding the solutions is vital.

Options for increasing job satisfaction include:

  • finding jobs that better mesh with employees’ needs;
  • focusing on the work to be done, the coworkers, the management, the values and the company culture before taking a position; and
  • realize it is okay to leave a job that is a poor fit.

Totally changing one’s career isn’t the right choice for everyone, so for those who want to stay at their jobs, there are steps they can take.

  • Have personal time separate from work;
  • Do regular exercise and take care of your body;
  • Take part in mind calming activities like meditation and yoga; and
  • Examine the reasons you feel overwhelmed and ask employers for what you need to increase engagement and motivation at work.

Workers have some control over their work experience, but ultimately organizations have the responsibility over how they treat workers. Business productivity is determined by the choices of the organization.

Investing in people can make work more attractive for them, creating better, more motivated employees with higher job satisfaction.


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