The six most important factors behind stress and burnout


One of the major threats against building strong employee engagement is burnout. According to a study by Kronos Incorporated nearly half (46%) of the approximately 600 HR chiefs in the study said that burnout and heavy stress are the cause of up to 50% of their staff turnover.

Stress can sometimes be caused by factors away from work and by factors related to personality, but it is very often problems at work that contribute to the most tangible and negative stress. An article in World Psychiatry highlights six main risk areas that cause major stress and burnout among employees. It has never been more important to keep an eye on these areas and to understand how they can be managed in an appropriate way.

Workload contributes to high stress and burnout by reducing the individual’s ability to fulfil the requirements of the job. When the high workload becomes chronic there is no opportunity to rest, recharge one’s batteries and regain some kind of balance. Conversely, according to the study a well balanced and manageable workload has the effect of producing greater efficiency and the opportunity to refine and develop new skills and competencies.

There is a clear connection between lack of control and high stress. When employees feel that they can have an influence on decisions concerning their job, that they can work independently and that they have the resources they need, they become more productive and the likelihood of a high level of engagement increases markedly. Most companies have defined reward systems in place, more or less expressly to shape behaviour (financial rewards, feedback culture, promotions etc.). Insufficient rewards, (financial or other) increase the chance of stress among the staff members as this functions as “devaluing” both the job and the employee. If, on the other hand, the employee feels appropriately rewarded for the job they do, a feeling of meaningfulness is created and the likelihood of high levels of engagement increases.

Context has to do with the work related relationships the employees has with those around him/her at work. When these relationships are characterised by a lack of support and trust or by conflict the risk of stress increases. If, conversely, the relationships between employees and groups function well, productivity increases significantly along with engagement.

Fairness, the decisions taken are seen as an issue of fairness. Employees use the decision making process and how they are treated within this as a gauge of their own standing in the organisation. Cynicism, anger and hostility arise when employees feel unfairly treated, while a fair, respectful treatment of employees lays the ground for strong employee engagement and loyalty.

Finally, values are the ideals that attracted them to their job in the first place. This is the link between the employees and the company that goes beyond the basic exchange of time for salary. When there is a conflict of values at work, and thus a gap between the values of the individual and those of the organisation, the employee will feel that they are compromising on either the job they want to do or the job they feel they should be doing, and this leads to greater risk of stress and burnout.
Even though according to the study high stress levels and burnout effects larger organisation to a greater extent than smaller ones, the problem is experienced in all companies.

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