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Understanding Burnout - A Modern Workplace Hazard

At Insync Workplace Solutions, we consistently hear from individuals and organisations that they and their teams are struggling with feeling overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted, and physically drained. While it's common to experience periods of fatigue or dissatisfaction at work, persistent emotional exhaustion, a lack of care, or an inability to function can indicate a deeper issue: BURNOUT.

Research reported by suggests that around 18% of employees globally are experiencing significant burnout. This condition is characterised by emotional exhaustion, a profound sense of underachievement, and a steady decline in both workplace productivity and personal well-being. These statistics are alarming—they underscore that burnout is not just a personal challenge but a critical organisational concern that demands immediate attention and action.

What is burnout.'

‘Burnout’ is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation. 

Burnout isn't something that happens overnight - it's usually caused by a build-up of stressful things happening inside (and sometimes outside) of work. When you reach the point of burnouyou'll’typyou'll'll experience some of the following symptoms:

Stress vs Burnout?

While stress is one of the main causes of burnout, the two are quite different. Most people experience stress as being too full of tension, pressure, or anxiety. whereas burnout feels like being extremely 'empty' of energy, motivation, or hope. 

When you are stressed:

  • Your emotions are heightened

  • You become more active

  • You feel anxious

  • Your work seems meaningful

When you are burned out:

  • Your emotions are dulled

  • You become more withdrawn

  • You feel low

  • Your work seems meaningless

Identifying Burnout

Identifying if you are stressed or experiencing burnout is key to addressing the issue. Burnout can be difficult to notice, as its signs can be subtle and often develop gradually. It can also look and feel like depression.

Signs or symptoms of burnout can include:

  • Reduced performance and productivity

  • Alienation from work-related activities

  • Increased cynicism at work

  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands

Am I Burned Out?

Answering the questions below (courtesy of can give you an idea of whether it is worth arranging a professional assessment.

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you may be struggling with burnout. You might find it helpful to speak to your family doctor or a mental health professional about how you are feeling.

What causes burnout?

Burnout stems from various sources in both the professional environment (at work) and personal life.

  • Work-related causes: These can include excessive workload, lack of control, insufficient rewards for effort, a lack of a supportive community, and unfair treatment.

  • Personal causes: External pressures from family or relationships can also contribute to burnout. Additionally, personality traits such as perfectionism, lack of resilience, or pessimistic views of oneself and the world can exacerbate susceptibility to burnout.

Burnout and Its Impact on Psychosocial Health and Safety

Burnout affects individuals and poses significant psychosocial health and safety risks within the workplace that organisations must actively manage. This underscores the critical need for organisations to understand and adopt a proactive approach to identifying and mitigating these risks.

Understanding Psychosocial Risks

Psychosocial risks in the workplace can arise from a number of factors that generally relate to the design or management of work. Examples include:

  • Job demands

  • Low job control

  • Poor Support

  • Low role clarity

  • Poor organiational change management

  • Inadequate reward and recognition

  • Poor organisational justic

  • Traumatic events or material

  • Remote or isolated work

  • Poor physical environment

  • Violence and aggression

  • Bullying

  • Harassment, including sexual and gender-based harassment, and

  • Conflict or poor workplace relationships and interaction.

Psychosocial hazards can create stress which can cause psychological or physical harm.

NOTE: It is important to note that in Australia, under Work Health and Safety Legislation, PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) must manage psychosocial risks in the same way they manage physical hazards and risks.

The Link Between Burnout and Psychosocial Risks

While stress itself is not an injury, if workers are stressed often, over an extended period of time, or the level of stress is high, it can cause harm, including burnout.

Burnout is both a symptom and a cause of psychosocial risks. When employees experience burnout, they are more likely to report a range of psychosocial problems, including:

  • Increased anxiety and depression: Emotional exhaustion, a core component of burnout, can heighten the risk of developing these mental health issues.

  • Decreased job satisfaction and engagement: Burnout can diminish employees' motivation and satisfaction, leading to disengagement, which negatively impacts team dynamics and overall workplace morale.

  • Higher absenteeism and turnover rates: Exhausted and disengaged employees are more likely to take sick days and look for new jobs, which can disrupt workflow and increase recruitment and training costs.

Organisational Role in Mitigating Psychosocial Risks

Organisations play a crucial role in reducing these risks through various strategies:

  • Risk Assessment: Regularly evaluate the workplace for psychosocial risks through surveys, focus groups, or employee consultations.

  • Enhancing Job Design: Modify work patterns to ensure a balance between job demands and job control, providing employees with more autonomy and clearer roles.

  • Supportive Work Environment: Develop a supportive, inclusive culture where employees feel valued. This includes effective communication, promoting teamwork, and providing adequate resources for employees to perform their duties.

  • Mental Health Resources: Offer resources such as counselling services, stress management training, and resilience-building workshops to help employees cope with job-related stress.

  • Leadership Training: Train leaders and managers to recognise the signs of burnout and understand their role in managing psychosocial risks. Effective leadership can mitigate factors that contribute to burnout and foster a supportive work environment.

Role of Leadership in Combating Burnout

Leadership plays a pivotal role in managing workplace burnout. Effective leaders are instrumental in:

  • Recognising Signs of Burnout: Training for leaders to detect early signs of burnout can facilitate timely intervention.

  • Fostering a Supportive Culture: Leaders set the tone for the workplace environment. Their commitment to open communication and empathy can significantly alleviate stress and prevent burnout.

  • Implementing Strategies: Leaders are key in executing organisational strategies that address both the symptoms and underlying causes of burnout.

Final Thoughts

Burnout transcends individual challenges to become a significant organisational concern that demands a comprehensive strategy for prevention and management. By addressing the root causes of burnout and its associated psychosocial risks, organisations can enhance overall effectiveness and create more inclusive, physically and psychologically safer work environments.

How we can help

At Insync Workplace Solutions, we go beyond merely identifying symptoms to actively transforming the workplace into a supportive environment that promotes well-being and safety. Our comprehensive assessments and tailored interventions target the fundamental causes of burnout, helping organisations not only identify potential hazards but also implement strategies that enhance job design and foster a supportive culture.

In addition, our Centre for Human-Centred Leadership is dedicated to cultivating effective and empathetic leaders. Strong leadership is essential for combating workplace burnout and ensuring that employees are not only productive but also engaged and satisfied.

Together, we provide a holistic suite of services designed to meet modern workplace challenges. From leadership training and risk assessments to strategic advisory services, our goal is to educate, enable and empower individuals and organisations worldwide to build high-performing, inclusive, physically and psychologically safe workplaces where diversity, including diversity of thought, is embraced and where everyone can bring and be their authentic selves at work. Feel valued, have a sense of purpose and belonging, thrive and go home safe, well and fulfilled every day.

Join us in rehumanising workplaces and redefining workplace health and safety. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organisation on its journey to a healthier, more productive future.

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