A Common Trend: Europe Also Experiencing High Employee Burnout
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, so did its after-effects. Employees globally are suffering its consequences, and a common trend seems to be burnout. Much like America, employee burnout in Europe is increasing and impacting people in numbers not seen before.
Employee Burnout on the Rise
As we know, burnout is more than being stressed, overworked, and under-recognised. It entails being depleted of energy or physically and mentally exhausted, distancing oneself from their job or having cynical feelings toward the work, and reduced professional efficacy. And while all markets, industries, and employees are candidates for burnout, not everyone is impacted the same way. Burnout is very individualised and affects people and organisations differently.
We do know that European countries are significantly impacted, with healthcare being one of the hardest hit, just like their American counterparts. A recent study in the UK found that more than 50% of ambulance staff were experiencing some level of burnout (Beldon & Garside, 2022). Additionally, another study found that 43% of Spanish healthcare workers were experiencing burnout. When it looked specifically at COVID-19 frontline workers, the number rose to 49% (Torrente et al., 2021). Interestingly, the demographic breakdown of workers who were impacted by burnout differed from the UK to Spain. The Spanish study found that significantly more women than men were experiencing burnout, which was not seen in the UK study.
Of course, these effects aren’t limited to healthcare. Amazingly, only 1% of British employees say they’ve never experienced workplace stress, yet that doesn’t equate fully to burnout as the same study found that the UK ranks 14th in levels of burnout across Europe. Another 2021 study by Statista found that Poland tops the list for burnout with 66% of those surveyed admitting to feeling burnt out or on the verge of it. Czechia was second with 59%. The UK and France were at the bottom of the list. However, they still had 46% and 45% of respondents, respectively, reporting burnout. So even at the low end of European employee burnout, it is nearly half the workforce.
While these numbers are alarming, what does it mean for the organisations as well as the employees? Are they suffering negative consequences?
Negative Impact of Burnout
The impact of burnout can be incredibly negative – for employees and their organisations. At an individual level, burnout has been associated with many damaging health concerns, from increased risk of heart disease (Toker et al., 2012) to increased depressive symptoms and life dissatisfaction (Hakanen & Schaufeli, 2012). At an organisational level, the impacts can vary hugely, but they are almost never positive. At a leadership level, research in Sweden found that higher levels of leadership burnout were associated with worse organisational performance (Sirén et al., 2018). While at a front-line level, workers experiencing burnout were more likely to display absenteeism and have poorer work performance (Dyrbye et al., 2019), which, of course, also impacts the bottom line, engagement, and the overall culture of the organization.
What Should Organizations Do About Employee Burnout?
Since all European organisations are vastly different as are the cultures across countries, there is no one-size-fits-all fix to burnout. In actuality, there are as many potential solutions as there are causes. However, a study by Lepaya found that employees across Europe expect their employers to help combat burnout and say they are not doing enough currently.
The research found that, on average, 56% of respondents believe there is shared responsibility for dealing with high levels of stress and burnout. Employees believe they are partially responsible, but that responsibility is shared with their organisation. For more clarity, the Dutch have the highest percentage of people who believe the employer should find a solution to burnout with 71%. Furthermore, 67% of employees in Belgium, 65% in the UK, and 57% in Germany believe that they need more help from their employers in combating work stress.
But any attempt to prevent or solve burnout in the workplace needs to start by understanding the employee experience and finding the source of the stress for each group of workers. The pain points for workers on the assembly line may be very different to those that work in a creative role, so it’s important that any action is targeted appropriately. A companywide level action might be limited to making sure all employees are aware of the available assistance programs, while the action for an individual team might be changing shift patterns and hiring new workers.
However, one thing we know for certain is that increasing the level of autonomy workers have over their job has been found to reduce levels of burnout (Hätinen et al., 2007). So, by giving employees a level of flexibility over their schedule, work location, tasks, decision-making, and more, your organisation can help lower the risk of burnout.
How Perceptyx Can Help
It can be relatively easy at an individual level to assess burnout by considering the levels of exhaustion, cynicism, and job performance employees experience. However, this becomes a lot harder at an organisational scale.
By using survey data, Perceptyx can look at items relating to well-being, stress, and workload and then use these to assess areas of the business where perceptions are more negative than others. Our hotspot (crosstab) reports make it easy to see areas that fall significantly below the organization’s scores as a whole.
While this is not a clinical diagnosis for burnout, by measuring areas where job demands are outstripping the resources available to workers, we can begin to identify groups at risk of burnout. Reach out to Perceptyx to schedule a demo and learn more about how data can help identify employees at risk of burnout.
Beldon, R., & Garside, J. (2022). Burnout in frontline ambulance staff. Journal of Paramedic Practice, 14(1), 6-14. Journal of Paramedic Practice
Hakanen, J. J., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2012). Do burnout and work engagement predict depressive symptoms and life satisfaction? A three-wave seven-year prospective study. Journal of affective disorders, 141(2-3), 415-424.
Hätinen, M., Kinnunen, U., Pekkonen, M., & Kalimo, R. (2007). Comparing two burnout interventions: Perceived job control mediates decreases in burnout. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(3), 227.
Sirén, C., Patel, P. C., Örtqvist, D., & Wincent, J. (2018). CEO burnout, managerial discretion, and firm performance: The role of CEO locus of control, structural power, and organizational factors. Long Range Planning, 51(6), 953-971.
Toker, S., Melamed, S., Berliner, S., Zeltser, D., & Shapira, I. (2012). Burnout and risk of coronary heart disease: a prospective study of 8838 employees. Psychosomatic Medicine, 74(8), 840-847.
Torrente, M., Sousa, P. A., Sánchez-Ramos, A., Pimentao, J., Royuela, A., Franco, F., ... & Provencio, M. (2021). To burn-out or not to burn-out: A cross-sectional study in healthcare professionals in Spain during COVID-19 pandemic. BMJ open, 11(2), e044945.