As well as the emotional toll on people, there's a very real financial cost to burnout
Burnout is a kind of emotional exhaustion caused by chronic stress in the workplace. It can affect workers in different ways, but it amounts to feeling hopeless or overwhelmed in situations that you would have been able to handle with ease before. With classic symptoms like fatigue, negativity and ineffectiveness, the human costs of burnout are painfully clear. But from a business perspective, what’s the damage?
Someone suffering from burnout simply doesn’t have the energy or the motivation to perform at their best, or their speediest. Unavoidably, some work will be left untouched.
Burnt-out workers will find it harder to concentrate and communicate with their team, and they’re likely to feel mentally distracted all day, every day. They may be running on little sleep, and innovation will also take a backseat. When your brain is running in survival mode, there’s no space for creativity. Which is especially problematic for professional creative types.
Showing up to work but not being able to perform at full capacity is known as presenteeism, and Deloitte estimates that mental health-related presenteeism cost UK employers between £24-£28 billion in 2021 alone.
Sick leave due to poor mental health was the top cause of time off work in the UK in 2021. And according to a 2022 study by MetLife, more than 40% of workers have called in sick due to feeling exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed.
61% of people who have recently left or are actively planning to leave their jobs cite mental health as a reason. And the cost of replacing valuable team members really adds up – from recruitment costs to training and negotiating a new recruit’s salary, you can expect to pay around 20% of a worker’s salary to replace them, if they’re in a mid-range position.
A 2022 study by Deloitte added up the cost of presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover due to poor mental health for businesses in the UK. They found that an employee with poor mental health costs their employer an average of £2,646 in a single year. (This figure is based on the ‘professional services’ industry, but flexes up to £3,710 if you’re in finance or insurance, and down to £1,122 for retail businesses.)
More than you might think. A recent report by Indeed found that 52% of all workers feel burned out, which was up +9% since the Covid-19 pandemic shook up the working world. Back in 2021, we surveyed 1,460 employees across the UK ourselves, and found that a scary proportion of them (79%) often felt close to burnout at work. This rose to an alarming 82% of workers in the tech industry. And some workers are disproportionately affected, too. Research has shown that women and working parents are generally at higher risk of burning out.
The causes of burnout are psychologically complex. But the chance of feeling emotionally exhausted by work is exacerbated by a reluctance to take time off to reset. Legally, taking a day off for your mental health should be treated the same as any other sick day by employers, but the idea of rolling out mental health days as a preventative measure for burnout is only just starting to gain traction. Stigma is sticky. And sadly, 43% of employees still feel unable to talk to their managers about their mental health at all.
Luckily, there’s loads you can do as a responsible employer to look after your team’s mental health and help them feel safe, valued and motivated at work. Learn how to spot the signs of employee burnout, build a robust burnout recovery plan, or think about ways to prevent entrenched exhaustion by improving employee wellbeing more holistically in your company.
Spill cuts the cost of burnout in your company by giving employees access to next-day therapy sessions with burnout specialists. Learn more about how Spill works.