The High Cost of Burnout and How Companies Can Avoid It

Working in a highly competitive space can push your employees to the limit. Part of our job as business owners is to identify the root cause of employee burnout and prevent setbacks that can affect productivity in the workplace.

Worse than Stress

Burnout is when your stress becomes unmanageable and like a computer short-circuiting,  your brain just stops functioning. In fact, some symptoms of burnout are strikingly similar to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to survey, burnout is affecting 95 percent of businesses and is attributed for nearly half of employee turnovers.

Loss of employee due to burnout can have enormous financial consequences. The average cost of finding a replacement is more or less half of the employee’s annual salary. Hiring a bad fit will cost the company twice as much. If left unfilled, it can result in a domino effect due to increased workload and more workers suffering from it.

How It All Starts

Burnout usually starts when employees fail to meet their goals, company standards, and expectations, which in turn forces them to work longer hours. Ironically, the more effort they put into it, the less work they’re able to do. Not having enough rest greatly affects their ability to concentrate, which makes them prone to commit errors and make poor decisions. This results in further loss of productivity.

Anger, frustration, and panic attacks sets in. Performance deteriorate despite working longer hours. They’re caught in a vicious cycle they can’t escape from. They start dreading the prospect of yet another tiresome and unrewarding day at work. It’s only a matter of time before they reach the breaking point – a full-on employee burnout.

Recovering from burnout can take weeks, months, or even a year. Burnout doesn’t go away on its own and might need appropriate medical intervention.

Stopping Burnout on its Tracks

As an employer, you need to check on your staff for stress, ensuring you apply enough pressure to get things done, but not too much that it affects business and your employees’ health. It’s a fine balancing act that can be difficult to gauge at times.

Let’s look at the major causes of employee burnout, and then come up with proactive solutions and strategies to keep them motivated.

Job mismatch. Employees are at risk of burnout when there’s a disconnect between their work experiences, qualifications and their occupation. Some factors include high unemployment rate and stiff competition in the job market. Job seekers are often left with no better option but to settle for low-paying jobs despite being overqualified, or take jobs which don’t fit with their own personality, educational background and work experience. Consider each hire as an investment where you acquire new assets to help grow your business. Spend some time identifying roles your company needs and creating job descriptions that match their work experiences and qualifications when looking for new hires.

Insufficient time and resource. Employees will experience burnout if they are given tasks without the wherewithal to accomplish them. Time is one of the overlooked factors when assigning tasks. Some employers give additional tasks but failed to consider the time element necessary to accomplish them. Each additional task will eat up some of the time intended for work and puts them at risk of falling behind schedule. Employers need to free up some of their time by investing in technology and innovation to help accomplish their tasks much faster, or, they can hire additional personnel. For growing businesses, this is more of a necessity than an option. Investing and communicating with new hires is far better than having to look for replacements to your employees who left their jobs due to burnout.

Inability to adjust to new circumstances. Changing times means your employees must be capable of adapting to modern ways of accomplishing their tasks and acquire 21st century skills. Training and seminars for employees can help attune your business to the recent changes in the industry, particularly with the use of modern technology. Some employees are reluctant to change and find it difficult to adjust to these new circumstances. As an employer, we might be faced with a hard decision of letting them go, or having other co-workers pick up their slack. This brings up the idea of hiring the best people for the job. Flexibility and willingness to adapt should be among the list of characteristics to look for when looking for new hires as they are more resilient to stress and are less likely to suffer burnout.

Lack of time management and work-life balance. One of the most obvious reason for burnout is overwork. The best solution has always been to manage their time well. Time management is one of the skill sets your employees should have to function optimally. Workers who constantly fall behind schedule could be in need of some help on managing their own time. It might be caused by several factors such as work overload, distractions from work, or difficulties adapting to new technology. Addressing these problems may help your employees to stay on task and be able to separate work from leisure.

Job Environment. Sometimes biggest cause of employee burnout isn’t the job or the the boss, but co-workers. If you don’t get along with the people in your office then it can be very difficult. It can be a personality clash, a lack of defined work rolls, a power struggle, or any number of issues.


Often stress leading to employee burnout can be fixed by having open communication with your employees and a willingness to problem solve. Taking time to understand them and where they’re coming from will allow your employees feel better while lowering their stress level.

Automating your day to day tasks can make work a lot easier for your employees and decrease workload and overall stress. Having the right knowledge and skills on the use of modern business applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is your first line of defence against employee burnout in a fast-paced environment.

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