Predicting burnout before it happens

Have you ever had really low energy in life? Were you feeling detached from things, like you were drifting? When it was happening, did you struggle to focus and feel your productivity at work had dropped?

Predicting burnout before it happens

If so, you were probably suffering from burnout. Burnout can be mild, where we continue to function but just not as well, all the way up to full on, where we simply can’t carry on. If you have had full on burnout, or know someone who has, then you’ll know it is a very serious condition that takes time to recover from.

Ideally, we’d all avoid getting to the point of burnout completely.

It is surprisingly hard to put a figure on how many people suffer from burnout. One large US study found that estimates could vary between 3% and 91%! However, they concluded that the most useful definition was that about 43% of people experienced regular symptoms. These figures dovetail well with the results I have found in the recent surveys I have conducted. In early 2023, in a representative sample of UK workers, I found that 60% of people reported having experienced burnout in the last few months and 14% had had severe symptoms.

Not only are the rates of burnout hard to measure, it is also hard to predict, even for the people themselves. We can try to push ourselves harder and work even more hours, just to try and keep up. Often it’s actually the people around us, our family and friends, who spot the symptoms first. But often we don’t listen to them, and we continue to plough on.

At Friday Pulse we help organisations track and look after employee happiness. This data and our research data means that I could see if our surveys could predict organisational risks, such as the potential of future burnout. To this end we added a one-off extra research module into some of our clients’ surveys (with their permission of course!). I was then able to look back at our research data gathered to see if there were predictive signs of future burnout.

A few factors stood out, and for burnout, two in particular were really important:

  • Work-life balance, and
  • Sense of appreciation

If employees scored low on both of these variables – both low work-life balance and a lack of appreciation - then they were over 3.5x more likely to have severe burnout than other respondents, and nearly all of them reported at least moderate symptoms.

Obviously work is sometimes intense, but if you are a senior or team leader then committing to look after your own and your teams’ work life balance really is critical. And if it is a particularly busy time, then make sure you regularly show your appreciation for everyone’s hard work, and encourage others to show appreciation too. That way you will help minimise the risks of people getting burnout.

If you’re interested in measuring work-life balance, appreciation, and other key drivers of workplace happiness, sign up for a demo with our team today.