Insights – 4 min read

Burnout is a wildfire

June 19, 2019
By Dr. Mark Whittington

According to at least two new independent reports an alarming and rapidly increasing number of Australians are planning to change jobs. Research and advisory firm Gartner released its 2019 Global talent Monitor which surveyed 1,909 Australian professionals. It found that in the first three months of 2019 only 30 per cent of respondents had a high intention of staying in their current roles (a drop of 8 per cent since last quarter) and almost half were actively seeking new jobs (an increase of 5 per cent).

The reason?  Burnout. So, what can organisations do to stem this rising tide?

RETURNING TO WORK FOLLOWING A MENTAL-HEALTH RELATED INJURY TAKES THREE TIMES LONGER THAN IT DOES RETURNING AFTER A PHYSICAL INJURY.

So it is vital that businesses implement simple organisation-wide solutions to mental health and burnout problems in order to keep retention and productivity rates high. This is more important than ever because new reports show people are job searching more and organisations have high turnover rates.

According to recruitment firm Hays, 40 per cent of Australians will be seeking a new job in the next 12 months and another 28 per cent haven’t decided whether to stay in their current role or look elsewhere. This comes from the company’s 2019/2020 (HSG) which surveyed 1,600 professionals across 25 industries (including HR). It also found that the average staff turnover rate is at 33 per cent.

Hays isn’t alone in trying to track employee behaviour.

Why are there movements?

According to the HSG, there are a few reasons professionals are thinking or planning on leaving their current roles:

Gartner’s information suggests that this last reason is probably far worse than it appears on the surface. It found that one of the top reasons people are job seeking right now is because many are on the brink of burnout!

Occupational Phenomenon?

Burnout is a very real and serious issue that is only becoming more prevalent, just recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) included burnout on its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

The organisation found the most prominent symptoms of burnout are “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout should be a real concern to businesses as the condition affects productivity, particularly if it escalates to the point where it becomes a psychological injury.

A common cause of burnout is obvious enough – working overtime. The HSG says in the last 12 months, 31 per cent of survey respondents indicated an increase in overtime or extra hours spent working at their organisations. Fifty-seven per cent said they weren’t paid for the hours they worked overtime.

The GTM shows that employees are aware of expectations to work overtime but the “workforce simply cannot give anymore.” It shows that Australia’s workforce discretionary efforts (the willingness and ability to work overtime) are at the lowest point since 2014, coming in at 15.7 per cent.

What jumped out as alarming is that workers have hit a wall and that has showed up in January, February and March – not at the end of the year. Organisations have stripped the fat in every area of operations as they look to drive efficiencies and move their business into the future.

Growth targets are high, and for years, organisations have expected their workers to do more with less and achieve continuous results against a backdrop of constant change and increasing complexity.

Super Simple Solutions

To counter the effect on attraction and retention, employers will need to reinvest in training, offer career development pathways, think beyond staggered start and finish times to offer genuine work-life balance initiatives and give diversity policies more than mere lip service.

Implementing small changes with care require little effort but yield great results. It’s quite simple really — organisations need to declutter, reducing unnecessary tasks that slow employees down.

Another solution is implementing an Employee Value Proposition that focuses on what employees value most, and that value is respect.

Being nice costs nothing. Empathy costs nothing. Being considerate costs nothing. Look at your workforce. Recognise and respect the effort that they are putting in and acknowledge the sacrifices they are making. If organisations are serious about competing in the future then they can’t just attract the ‘right talent’ – they need to foster a culture than enables them to care for it and to keep it.

About the author

Dr. Mark Whittington

A graduate of the distinguished Otago Medical School, Dr Mark Whittington has more than 30 years’ experience working at the clinical coalface as a Consultant Psychiatrist.


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