4 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout

Hint: It’s all about your workplace culture  

Recently, the World Health organization classified burnout as a syndrome of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” In the past, burnout was a term used for healthcare workers that worked too many hours in incredibly stressful conditions. Today, burnout can happen to any employee, working any type of job, in any industry.

According to the 2020 Global Culture Report, 79% of employees are experiencing mild, moderate, or severe burnout. Burnout can be contribute to:

• 120,000 deaths per year
• $190 billion in healthcare spending
• 23% more likely to visit the emergency room
• Increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, high cholesterol
• 220% decrease in the probability of highly engaged employees
• 210% decrease in odds an employee will be a promoter of the organization
• 247% decrease in probability of great work happening
• 1/2 of annual employee turnover

The Wall Street Journal: The Hidden Cost of Stressed-Out Workers
Gallup, Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes
O.C. Tanner Global Culture Report

Employee burnout is a potential issue every organization should pay attention to.

Why do employees burn out?

Let’s talk first about what does NOT cause burnout. While certain jobs and industries might lend themselves to higher levels of physical or mental exhaustion, the type of job or number of hours worked is not the cause of burnout. Research shows that burnout occurs in both white collar and blue collar jobs*, and Millennials are just as likely as older generations to suffer burnout. Burnout can happen to anyone. So what does cause burnout? Chronic, unresolved culture issues in the workplace.

How can workplace culture cause burnout?

Poor workplace cultures lead to a 157% increase in moderate to severe burnout. Our research has found there are 6 essential elements of workplace culture, and when companies don’t do these 6 things well, the chance of burnout skyrockets.

1. Purpose. A lack of purpose or having an uninspiring purpose leads to a 39% increased odds of burnout.
2. Opportunity. A lack of opportunities to learn, grow, and develop increases odds of burnout by 16%.
3. Success. When employees believe their companies think the bottom line is more important than people, there is 185% increased odds of burnout.
4. Recognition. Not receiving adequate recognition for great work increases odds of burnout by 48%.
5. Leadership. A decreased trust in leaders leads to increased odds of burnout by 29%.
6. Wellbeing. A lack of connection and decreased sense of belonging increases risk of burnout by 56%.

When companies have poor employee experiences around these 6 essential areas, employees are more likely to feel exhaustion, avoidance, and futility in their jobs. Over time, all of this leads to burnout.


Exhaustion- physical and mental exhaustion measured in the reporting of both aspects. Futility- cynicism and a perception the employee cannot produce a useful result. Avoidance - intentional distance between the employee and their work; includes dread, absenteeism, avoiding every day situations


4 Tools to prevent burnout.

What can companies do to prevent employee burnout? Focus on creating positive employee experiences that address the 6 essential elements of workplace culture. But these can’t be generic, top-down, company programs and initiatives. True culture change starts with the employees and their everyday interactions and experiences. Use these 4 tools to start improving your workplace culture and mitigate the cultural issues that lead to burnout:


Leadership is no longer about telling employees how to work and what to work on. The modern workforce demands leaders who inspire, not micromanage. They want leaders who will mentor, coach, and advocate for them.

Great leaders focus on connecting their people to 3 things—purpose, accomplishment, and one another:

• When leaders help employees feel a sense of purpose in their individual roles, there is a 49% reduction in burnout.
• Leaders who connect their employees to accomplishment by recognizing and broadcasting successes see a 46% reduction in burnout.
• Leaders who help employees network and connect with their team members, peers, and other leaders in the company see a 43% reduction in burnout.

When leaders do all three, burnout is reduced by 56%. Leadership’s role has changed, and leaders play a big part in preventing employee burnout.


One-to-ones are more than just a time for an employee and leader to catch up—they are a point of connection and a way to identify issues that might lead to burnout.

Leaders should have ongoing one-to-ones with every member of their teams. These conversations should be co-created and focus not just on the employee’s current projects, but also include mentorship and coaching, identify opportunities for growth and development, have time for praise and recognition, and check in on the employee’s wellbeing. What can the leader, or company, do to help employees feel more connected and less likely to burnout?

Monthly one-to-ones decrease burnout by 39% and having them weekly leads to a 47% decrease in the odds of burnout. Regular one-to-ones can improve several of the 6 essential elements of workplace culture and help prevent and reduce burnout early.


Thriving teams are ones where employees feel psychologically safe and empowered to do great work. Foster a strong sense of team identity and purpose they can work together towards, reducing the likelihood of burnout.

Create a safe environment where teams can share ideas, opinions, and feedback without fear. Give them the flexibility and freedom to create and innovate. Use tools like peer-topeers— conversations between individual team members where they provide feedback, share ideas, learn new skills, and network. Best practice teams had 57% lower odds of moderate to severe burnout, and those that also used peer-to-peer conversations had 67% lower odds of burnout.

Thriving teams feel a strong sense of purpose, opportunity, appreciation, and success—all of which can help employees feel less stressed and more like they are doing meaningful work.


Active listening is different than just hearing your employees. Too often companies utilize annual surveys and pulse surveys to get employee feedback and then do nothing with the information. Employees don’t feel listened to and believe their opinions don’t matter, a major contributor to burnout.

Active listening means soliciting employee feedback, listening to what it says, and actively making and communicating changes and improvements. It shows employees what they feel and say matters.



Simply having a multi-method listening strategy (including focus groups, surveys, town halls, suggestion boxes, one-to-ones, etc.) decreases burnout by 28%. Using multiple methods of communication and action based on the feedback decreases the odds of moderate to severe burnout by 54%. Communicate results in email, posters, department and company meetings, and during one-to-ones. Employees will feel heard AND listened to, and companies can flag causes of potential burnout early and fix them quickly.

Employees are more burned out than ever. Use these 4 tools to change how your organization and leaders interact with your people, and you can prevent many of the issues that cause employee burnout. Your employees will be healthier, more engaged, and inspired to do incredible work.

Thriving workplace cultures can prevent employee burnout. Check out how in the 2020 Global Culture Report.