Are your employees feeling burned out? Here are 5 reasons why

Posted by Laura Turbay on Jul 6, 2022 2:36:49 PM
Laura Turbay

Based on Using Behavioral Science to Improve Employee Well-Being 


If someone were to ask you if you liked job, right now, what would you say?  

Would you answer eagerly and without a moment’s thought, ‘I love it!’. Or would you tilt your head slightly, shrug your shoulders, and say ‘yeah, it’s alright’ with a disheartened sigh.  

06. Employee-1

If you shrug your shoulders and sigh when asked how you feel about your job, or about your feelings in general, odds are, you are not alright. 

We all have a tendency not to talk about our negative feelings, especially when it has to do with our job. In doing so, we are blocking the very avenues that can help bring meaningful change to our work life.

As employers, we may want to know when our employees have concerns or are struggling, but under-estimate how hard that can be for employees to share. Speaking up and saying “I’m feeling overworked” or “I’m feeling disconnected from the organization” can be extremely difficult and perceived as risky by employees. This misguided, yet common assumption, to not speak openly about job-related concerns out of fear of getting in trouble, is ironically, what employers should be encouraging to improve employee satisfaction in the first place.

Employee well-being is not only good for employees, but for the company as a whole. Companies that make employee well-being a priority (including both material and emotional support) typically see higher job satisfaction, employee retention, and productivity at work. 

02. Employees

One example of employee stress-related costs is burnout. Employee burnout costs between $125 - $190 billion a year in U.S. healthcare spending and Forbes states that the cost of a disengaged employee can total up to 34% of their annual salary. This is especially dangerous if employee dissatisfaction goes unaddressed and escalates throughout the organization, leading to stress and demotivation.

In fact, companies’ sub-optimal management of employees leads to more than 120,000 deaths per year in the U.S. from stress-related health failures such as strokes. Our work has shown that companies want happy, healthy employees, and are willing to invest in them. The barriers arise when companies just don’t know how to achieve this level of employee well-being. 

This might come as a surprise to some, but the way to an employee’s heart does not lie in Ping-Pong tables or free beer during work hours, nor is it a direct output of the snazzy office decor. Employee well-being encompasses both physical and non-physical needs, which means prioritizing areas that are often overlooked, such as social connectivity and intrinsic motivation. Based on our research in behavioral science, employee well-being is defined as having one’s basic needs met (e.g., economic stability, physical health), feeling that one has a purpose (expressed by intrinsic interest), feeling connected (through supportive relationships), and feeling happy (high satisfaction). 

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the traditional views on work productivity, forcing workers to turn dining room tables into office desks and bedrooms into daycares. Despite the initial shock of the work-from-home transition, people have adapted surprisingly well, with employers now finding it hard to fill office spaces and questioning whether they need one at all. 

03. FlexibilityA survey by Deloitte, found that out of 1,000 U.S. professionals, 94% said they would benefit from work flexibility, with top gains being less stress/improved mental health, and better integration of work and personal life. These findings support a trend in the gradual shift towards flexible work environments. In order to reconcile maintaining a collaborative office culture that boasts as a creative hub with adapting to changing employee preferences, companies must begin by understanding what the underlying factors influencing employee well-being really are. 

In 2020, we conducted a research study with data from over 277 employees to create a Workplace Design Toolkit, highlighting the five psychological factors critical to employee wellness and workplace success, with a special focus on the work-from-home environment. 

Here are the five factors for employee well-being. 

         1. Trust 

Employees want the certainty that they can trust their colleagues, leadership, and organization as a whole. One thing that is particularly worrisome to employees is the feeling of being monitored, which they feel is a cause of distrust from employers towards employees. 

         2. Creativity 

Creativity is described as being able to have alone time, flexibility, and a supportive work culture, all of which are necessary for the birth of ideas and innovation. 

         3. Collaboration

A collaborative work culture is characterized by a shared understanding of goals and objectives, as well as the ease of communication with colleagues on how best to achieve these. 

         4. Connection

The importance of social connection is described as having designated downtime, and other workplace features that allow employees to overcome isolation and social disconnection. Essentially, allowing people to form meaningful relationships with colleagues outside of the strict work/deadline environment so that they feel they are part of a community. 

          5. Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is the freedom to express work-related concerns and to feel it is OK for them to speak up about it. It is also being able to detach from work (especially in the work-from-home environment) and achieve autonomy in their jobs.  

Although these may seem intuitive at first, things are easier said than done; and employees experiencing burnout, or other forms of work-related stress, may feel that their jobs are lacking in one, or several of these factors.  

So how does a company improve their employee well-being? One way is to build psychological resilience in employees. 

04. Resilience

05. Psychological Resilience

Think about ER doctors or frontline workers who have no choice but to face daily distress, many of whom later suffer from stress-related health problems. Work-related stress is common even in our own lives or social circles. We all have that one friend who has to have their work phone near them at all times in case their boss calls, like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. Or have a spouse or partner who is rarely at the dinner table, because they got ‘held up at work’. Any job can become emotionally draining, leading to burnout and the progressive deterioration of mental health. 

To build psychological resilience in employees, BEworks has developed resilience training based on clinical psychology literature. Our training consists of three pillars: individual mindset, physical health, and interpersonal skills. In our training program, we have guided activities to help individuals create their own resilience plan based on their unique stressors and coping mechanisms. Fortifying resilience is key for employees to be able to manage job-related stress and enhance their well-being, as well as their productivity. 

We all have different things that make us tick or drive us to ‘beat the odds’. Understanding what and why this is, is our specialty at BEworks. We go beyond standard survey testing and dig deep into the true behavioral drivers of employees, as people. 



👉Want to learn about our approach to employee well-being?

Download our guide to improving employee well-being


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About BEworks

Founded in 2010, BEworks is the first management consulting firm dedicated to the practice of applying behavioral science to strategy, marketing, operations, and policy challenges. This is our blog.

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