Health and Wellness

The Burnout Problem: EHS Pros Should Take Notice

Environment, health, and safety professionals should be aware of (and take steps to address) “burnout,” a term that has been frequently used as a catchall for multiple issues among employees, including stress, anxiety, and depression. Burnout gained a more specific definition when it was officially recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year.


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The WHO considers burnout to be an occupational phenomenon—that is, not a medical condition. Instead, it’s a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and is characterized by:

  • Feeling drained of energy
  • Distancing oneself mentally from his or her job and/or feeling negative or cynical toward one’s job
  • Experiencing a reduction in one’s ability to do his or her job

If those symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s because, statistically, you’ve probably experienced burnout. A recent study by Accountemps found that a stunning 96% of senior managers reported that their employees experience some degree of burnout.

Reported Causes of Burnout

That same survey ranked the major reasons for burnout from employees’ and managers’ perspectives. The chart below outlines the greatest burnout factors reported, sorted by descending impact.

Managers Workers
1. Unmanageable workload 1. Constant interruptions
2. Career stagnation 2. Career stagnation
3. Constant interruptions 3. Unmanageable workload
4. Toxic culture 4. Toxic culture
5. Dated technology 5. Dated technology


As indicated, managers and workers mostly agreed about the probable causes of worker burnout. There was, however, one vital difference: Managers felt an unmanageable workload was the primary cause of burnout, but workers felt it was constant interruptions.

Just How Burned Out Are We?

The same study sought to determine the difference between the magnitude of worker burnout versus managers’ perception of worker burnout. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being the least burned out), employees and managers both answered with an average of 5.6.

More Resources

The study invokes the question, What can be done about employee burnout? Our sister publication, the HR Daily Advisor, has tackled this topic a few times. Here are a few articles that might help: