An online survey of Canadian managers and workers has found that the overwhelming majority of respondents reported experiencing some degree of burnout as a result of unmanageable workloads or constant interruptions.
The results of the survey released by staffing and consulting company Accountemps on Tuesday show that that nearly all senior managers in Canada (96 per cent) believe their team members are experiencing some degree of burnout.
In a separate survey, 95 per cent of Canadian workers said they are at least somewhat burned out.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
The study conducted by an independent research firm surveyed 600 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees and more than 400 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in office environments in Canada.
Researchers asked managers to rate the level of burnout among their employees on a scale of one (not at all burned out) to 10 (completely burned out). The study found that on average managers rated the burnout level of their employees at 5.7.
One in five respondents rated their team’s burnout level eight or higher. Workers cited an average burnout level of 5.6, with 22 per cent of respondents falling within the eight to 10 range.
‘A costly symptom’
However, managers and workers seem to disagree about what’s causing these burnout levels.
While workers ranked constant interruptions and putting out fires as the main reason contributing to their burnout, senior managers believed unmanageable workloads were the biggest contributing factor.
“Burnout can be a costly symptom of a workplace culture that doesn’t prioritize employee wellbeing,” said in a statement Koula Vasilopoulos, district president for Accountemps. “It’s detrimental to both the health of the individual and the business itself.”
Peter Smith, associate scientific director and senior scientist with the Institute for Work and Health, said the survey’s findings are consistent with the peer-reviewed literature in this area.
“In terms of the actual percentages presented in the report, it’s hard to compare them to what we know about burnout in the working population as very little information is provided about who the population is and how burnout was measured,” Smith said.
“Ideally, when it comes to reporting population prevalences we would want to know that the population who was surveyed is similar to the actual working population in certain attributes that are important. We’d also want to know that a valid and reliable measure was used to assess burnout.”
None of these details are presented in the info graphic or on the website, he added.
Companies need to proactively help their employees manage stress levels and prevent burnout, Vasilopoulos said.
“Frequent check-ins with staff to gauge workloads, flexibility with close deadlines and leading by example in encouraging staff to disengage from work after hours can help managers set the foundation for a more productive, positive and committed workforce,” Vasilopoulos said.
There are also things workers themselves can do to combat stress throughout the day, including energizing walks with colleagues or simple desk-side stretches, she added.
However, employees need to speak out if they feel the weight of mounting responsibilities has become overwhelming or unmanageable, Vasilopoulos said.
Smith said interventions to prevent burnout could be done at the individual or organisational level.
“Organisational interventions are likely more effective in the long term, but harder to implement,” Smith said.