Why Should I Even Care About Burnout?

Every year, we collect so much data through our Community Surveys that it is impossible to touch on everything in one report. This is the second in a series of quick dives into our 2021 Workplace Well-Being Report data to discuss interesting findings that caught our eye and deserve some of the spotlight, but didn't quite find their way into the final report.

Leaders Should Care About Burnout Because Well-Being Matters

Before diving in, I want to make an important disclaimer: Our team at YMCA WorkWell firmly believes that the only reason leaders should need to care about employee burnout is because employee well-being matters and people deserve to be cared for.


With that said, I can also appreciate that life isn’t always so cut and dry. Perhaps you’re a leader struggling to manage competing budgets and priorities and you just need that little push to understand why burnout deserves to be addressed in the face of so many other challenges; maybe you’re the leader of a not-for-profit trying to help your board understand why the well-being of your staff deserves adequate funding; or perhaps you’re a concerned employee looking for some information to help convince your executive team why they should take burnout more seriously.

Whatever your reason, this Short Report is meant to highlight some of the important ways that burnout can affect your organization and your bottom line – because that does matter too.


If You Care About Turnover, You Should Care About Burnout

One of the clearest takeaways from our 2021 Workplace Well-Being Report was the considerable rise of burnout in our communities.

Specifically, when asked how frequently they have experienced burnout, 73% of respondents reported that they have experienced burnout at least sometimes in the last three months, and only 11% of respondents reported that they have not experienced burnout at all. These numbers are considerably higher than anything we had seen before the pandemic, but how can we make sense of the impact of these numbers? Well, applying these numbers to a well-understood challenge can provide a new and valuable context to how this is affecting organizations.

The Great Resignation.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now, but one of the biggest challenges facing organizations right now is the “Great Resignation”, with employees leaving their jobs in record numbers. Organizations are losing talent at unparalleled rates and struggling to replace talent, with teams continually left to do more with less. This is a costly problem for organizations - research suggests that the cost of losing just one employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to over twice the employee’s annual salary. Because of this, organizations are doing everything they can to address their talent management challenges.

This trend was front and centre in our community data. 34% of respondents had started a new job during COVID-19, and another 25% of those in their pre-pandemic jobs were either expecting to leave or open to leaving their job in the next six months.

So where does burnout fit into all of this? Well, strap in. We examined responses from the 1,221 respondents that had not changed jobs during the pandemic looking to understand the relationship between burnout and the percentage of employees considering leaving their job. We got our answer in Figure 2.

Really take the time to internalize that graph because it is staggering. Only 8% of respondents not experiencing burnout were considering leaving their job in the next six months. Once you move to the burnt out, however, things change drastically. Almost 30% of respondents experiencing burnout “often” and 48% of respondents experiencing burnout “extremely often” were considering leaving their job in the next six months. That is every second employee! And when you consider that 37% of respondents were experiencing burnout “often” or “extremely often”, it highlights the true magnitude of this challenge.

The Great Resignation is one of the most significant challenges that organizations will be facing in the coming years, and all of the predictions indicate that these challenges will persist long after the pandemic has subsided. But this data suggests that we can’t effectively address turnover without addressing burnout too.

In fact, when we asked respondents why they were considering leaving their job, more than half identified a reason linked to improving their personal well-being – feeling burnt out, feeling overworked, or feeling under-appreciated. It was far and away the most common theme.


This is a critical takeaway. Many leaders approach employee well-being and turnover as if they are two distinct and separate issues, but our data suggests that they are inextricably linked. And if this data is anything to go by, it’s possible that supporting employees’ well-being and preventing burnout is one clear strategy to help retain top talent.


If You Care About Your Reputation, You Should Care About Burnout

So, we’ve outlined how burnout is tied to talent management, but our data also demonstrates that burnout can be strongly linked to an organization’s reputation as well. Specifically, we examined the relationship between burnout and employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) – a measure of how likely an employee is to recommend their organization to others as a great place to work.

If you’d like a more in-depth summary of eNPS and how it’s measured, check out our first report in this series of YMCA Short Reports, but for the purposes of this report, let’s just consider how it is scored:

eNPS is scored from -100 to 100, with higher scores indicating that an organization has a higher percentage of employees talking openly and positively about their organization. An eNPS below zero, however, is considered a concerning score, as it indicates that an organization has more employees openly disparaging their organization than it has employees promoting their organization.

Now, how does eNPS relate to burnout?

This data is very telling – Net Promoter Scores of -34 and -52 are very low, indicating that there are significantly more employees actively talking negatively in their community about their experiences at their organization than there are positive.

What does this all mean in simple language? It means that not only does burnout play a role in employees’ experiences of their work, it also plays a substantial role in how employees talk about their work experiences in their community. And in a world where organizations are actively fighting to attract talent, that reputation matters. And if the majority of people seeking new opportunities are looking for roles that will better support their well-being, that reputation matters even more.

So, if an organization cares about its reputation and its ability to attract talent, it should be caring about managing and preventing employee burnout.


So Where Can You Start?

We believe that data is only meaningful if it leads to meaningful action. So where can we start? We believe that leaders should care about burnout simply because their employees deserve it. Employees spend approximately half of their waking hours at work; they deserve to have their well-being supported by their organizations. But our data suggests that burnout can have a real and tangible impact on organizations’ longevity as well. Here are some ways to take it seriously, regardless of why it matters to you:

  1. Measure Burnout in Your Organization. Collecting feedback from your employees might be the most important place to start in addressing burnout in your organization. Our community data suggests that burnout has hit all-time highs in the workplace, but it is important to understand the extent to which it exists in your own organization and the areas that your employees need the most support to feel healthy at work. Our team at YMCA WorkWell has developed a new 5-question Burnout Pulse Survey that can be added to our standard Insights Survey or used as a stand-alone pulse survey. If you feel as though you don’t have an accurate understanding of burnout in your organization and/or how best to support your employees, contact us. We would love to help.

  2. Take Workload Seriously. One clear trend in our 2021 Workplace Well-Being Report was that unmanageable workloads are currently the most significant contributor to burnout in our communities. In fact, reduced workloads were identified as the number one thing that employees were asking for to support their mental health at work. We know that workload is often considered an “untouchable” challenge – one that simply can’t be touched. But if we want to take burnout seriously, we need to find new approaches to take workload seriously as well. Getting crystal clear on priorities, reducing work that doesn’t add clear value, improving inefficient processes – these are the changes that can lead to more sustainable changes that will set your organization and your teams up for healthy, long-term success.


Posted by

Dave Whiteside

As the Director of Insights at YMCA WorkWell and with a Ph.D in Organizational Behaviour, Dave is all about the data and how it can be used to drive action and impact. Through the Employee Insights Survey and our annual WorkWell Community Surveys, his focus is on helping organizations gain a deeper understanding of where organizations, teams, and individuals are and what actions need to be taken to create healthier cultures.

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