A cartoon of a single match that has been burned. The top is shaped like a head with smoke coming from it, symbolising burnout.
Image: © Nithya/Stock.adobe.com

In the new world of work, burnout is still a problem

2 Aug 2023

Whether you are remote, hybrid or in the office, burnout continues to negatively affect employees and needs to be taken seriously.

Burnout has been an issue in the workplace for years. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent remote working revolution brought with it a whole new iteration of workplace burnout.

The emotionally demanding situation of the pandemic mixed with the anxiety that comes with uncertainty left many feeling burnt out. And in the months that followed, surveys showed signs of overworking and being unable to switch off as the lines between home and work became blurred.

But three years later, having settled into the new world of work and (hopefully) with a new level of flexibility that wasn’t there before, has burnout gotten any better? Reports say not so much.

In October 2022, research carried out by Gallup and HR tech unicorn Workhuman found that three in 10 Irish employees surveyed reported that they felt burnt out “very often” or “always”.

As well as burnout and stress, the majority of employees in Ireland surveyed were unlikely to feel strong connections with their colleagues or feel a sense of belonging in their workplace.

More recently, Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workforce survey estimated that just 23pc of global employees are engaged in the work that they do. In Europe, this average drops to 13pc while in Ireland, it drops to 11pc.

The Gallup report found that 59pc of global employees are quiet quitting. “These employees are filling a seat and watching the clock. They put in the minimum effort required, and they are psychologically disconnected from their employer,” the report stated.

“Although they are minimally productive, they are more likely to be stressed and burnt out than engaged workers because they feel lost and disconnected from their workplace.”

What employers need to think about

Over the past three years there have been many discussions about remote work and its relationship with burnout. Are those blurred lines really the root cause? Is it about the expectations that have been put upon employees? Or is it just a case of adjusting to the new way in which we work and live?

The truth is there are many factors that can contribute to burnout, some are external factors such as the pandemic or, as the Gallup report points out, the increasing inflation levels in many countries. But some are personal reasons such as family situations, illness or other sudden upheavals.

Then there are the workplace factors. It might not be that remote working doesn’t suit people but the way in which remote working is executed and the workplace culture as a whole. Gallup’s report pointed to this too, claiming that employee engagement has almost four times as much influence on employee stress as where they actually work.

“Leaders need to ask if poor remote work performance or poor hybrid work performance is a location problem or a management problem. No location can fix poor management and the office alone has no magic to create a great organisational culture,” the report stated.

And while remote might not work for everyone and neither does fully back in the office, the mere push-and-pull that’s currently happening in terms of returning to the office appears to be worsening the burnout problem.

Sadly, burnout continues to be a workplace challenge and it seems to be getting worse, not better and there is no silver bullet, either at home or in the office. But recognising the problem as a culture issue is the first step in knowing how to fix it.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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