Can organisations stem employee burnout?

Attention must be placed on office environments to stop employee burnout, new research by Monash University shows.

  • Attention must be placed on office environments to stop employee burnout.
  • Businesses are apathetic to organisational change based on employee productivity. Individuals are responsible for their own workplace stress relief.
  • World Health Organisation has declared burnout an occupational phenomenon.

To stop the flow of employee burnout, attention must be placed on environmental habits that normalise workplace exhaustion, according to new research by Monash University.

In the modern era, where smartphones and emails keep people occupied 24/7, it’s become increasingly difficult for people to ‘switch off’ from their working lives. The issue is so critical that the World Health Organization recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon.

Margaret Lee, a PhD researcher in the Monash Business School, believes organisational changes are the key to preventing the growing number of workers with chronic workplace stress.

Her research links both individual and environmental changes in order to design jobs where workers have more control over their output. According to Ms Lee, the key is to turn business apathy towards reorganisation into motivation for change.

“Despite the rise of digital nomads and increasingly flexible work practices, many organisations still remain wedded to the idea that a present worker is a productive worker. Many multinationals are slashing their work-from-home policies citing a lack of productivity,” Ms Lee said.  

“People who are burnt out are not just physically exhausted; they become withdrawn, cynical and no longer believe in their ability to set and achieve goals. This is the real impact of workplace productivity, not work-from-home strategies.

“Workplace stress is inevitable and, in some cases, can be healthy and motivating. However, burnout represents a state of persistent stress that slowly degrades an individual’s resources – their resilience, identity and self-belief to the point of harm.”

Ms Lee says that burnout and exhaustion don’t arise solely from excessive workload or office hours. Other factors include:

  • Job autonomy
  • The fairness of how decisions are made within one’s team and workplace
  • Social support in the office
  • Reward or recognition for efforts
  • Belief in organisational values

The burden of repair is also placed on individuals to manage their own stress through small lifestyle changes, well-timed holidays, and exercise and mindfulness interventions.

“Burnout doesn’t discriminate, therefore it’s essentially important that interventions are put in place by businesses nationally to boost professional self-belief and prevent burnout from becoming a national epidemic,” Ms Lee said.

For more information, please visit the Monash Business School’s Impact.