How to Avoid Worker Burnout

“The way we’re working isn’t working” says Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath, authors of New York Times article “Why You Hate Work” .

“Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep.”

Worker burnout is a very common sensation among the majority of the professional world and it is particularly common among those in managerial and sales roles. According to a Gallup report, only 30% of employees in America feel engaged at work. “Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.”

Why is this happening?

One major reason is that we are drained.  As we are increasingly connected to our work, our time for ourselves is becoming more and more scarce. We are practically on the clock from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, answering emails and phone calls. And weekends…huh, what weekends? Many employees are continuing to check email into Saturday and Sunday. The rise of digital technology has made our lives simpler in so many ways, yet complicated and convoluted in many other ways. We feel obligated to be accessible to our jobs at all times because, thanks to technology, we are technically accessible around the clock via our electronic devices. We are exposed to an extensive downpour of information and requests that we feel obligated to be responsive to and it has, in fact, had an adverse reaction and created a disengaged, counterproductive workforce.

So how can we make our employees more engaged?

Well, we can start by measuring engagement and factors that affect it. We know that employee engagement is influenced by a wide variety of factors, including

  • job autonomy (are workers given significant freedom in how they carry out their work?)
  • task variety (are workers utilizing and developing a variety of skills and talents through performing their job?)
  • task significance (do workers feel that their work impacts people’s lives?)
  • feedback (are workers given clear, detailed behavior-based feedback about their job performance?)
  • and so on.

These job characteristics have been shown to improve employees’ satisfaction, motivation, quality and quantity of work.[i] [ii] When organizational leaders can pinpoint the specific job features that diminish employee engagement (the “pain points”), they can introduce effective changes. And, once the change has been implemented, it is important to keep a consistent pulse of worker engagement through surveys and focus groups. The Energy Project, a company that works with organizations and their leaders to improve employee engagement and more sustainable performance, teamed up with Harvard Business Review and surveyed over 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries. Across the various demographics of the 12,000 employees, it was clear that employees are more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met:

  • Physical – “through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work”
  • Emotional – “by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions”
  • Mental – “when the have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get there work done”
  • Spiritual – “by doing what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work”

High employee engagement, which can be defined as “involvement, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, focused effort and energy,” has been widely correlated to having a higher company performance. According to Gallup, a meta-analysis of 263 research studies across 192 companies found that companies in the top quartile for engaged employees, compared with the bottom quartile, had 22 percent higher profitability, 10 percent higher customer ratings, 28 percent less theft and 48 percent fewer safety incidents.

When the above four core needs are met by the organization and leaders in the organization, employees are much more likely to experience “engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress. When employees have one need met, compared with none, all of their performance variables improve. The more needs met, the more positive the impact”says authors Tony and Christine.

To read the full New York Times Article “Why You Hate Work” click here

Learn more about Workforce Wellness Solutions here. 

Learn more about Change Effectiveness here. 


[i] Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work redesign. Reading Mass: Addison-Wesley.

[ii] Fried Y., & Ferris G R. (1987). The validity of the Job Characteristics Model: A review andmeta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 40, 287-322.

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