Burnout. Most of us have probably felt it at some point. It’s getting more recognition as an issue we need to address and deal with in recent years. Many employers and business owners now recognise that their employees becoming burned out will negatively impact productivity as burnout can be a contributing factor to procrastination.
How do we define “burnout?”
The WHO defines burnout as:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
The WHO goes on to then elaborate on some characteristics associated with burnout:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from your job
- Negativity or cynicism towards your job
- Reduced professional efficiency
Who is Most Affected by Burnout?
A study published in June 2018 found:
- Women aged 20 to 35 and women aged 55 and over are the likeliest to be impacted by burnout.
- For men, on the other hand, getting older is largely associated with less chance of burnout with low rates amongst those over 55
In a separate study, Researchers from the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences in Spain determined that:
- Those who work more than 40 hours a week a 6 times as likely as those who do not to develop burnout
How Common is Burnout?
So just how many people are affected?
Our survey back in September 2020 of 1,000 adults in the UK suggests 22% have experienced job related burnout, with a slightly higher prevalence amongst men.
In December 2022, there were there were approximately 32,800,000 people employed in the UK, suggesting that it is quite possible that more than 7 million employees have experienced burnout in their work.
Occupational Burnout - Google Searches
We very often turn to Google in times we want help in understanding, well, anything! And burnout is no different.
If we look at global searches in Google for “occupational burnout” (as obtained through KWFinder.com) we can see significant growth over time
- Globally, just 210 people searched for “occupational burnout” in August 2015.
- By August 2020 that figure had risen to 5,400
- There have been between 3,000 and 5,000 searches for “occupational burnout each month since April 2020.
- Comparing August 2020 (5,400) with August 2019 (1,900), searches for “occupation burnout” increased by 184%
- The increase in monthly coincided very closely with the introduction of Covid-19 lockdowns in the UK and US. However the searches have not reduced since the lockdowns were removed.
- September 2015 saw 4,400 people globally search for “burnout symptoms,” up to a remarkably high of 90,500 searches in March and May 2022.
- Again, the increase in monthly searches tended to coincide with the beginning of Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, but they have since not reduced in number and continued to increase throughout 2022 and the beginning of 2023.
Burnout - UK Trends and Statistics
But what about the picture just here in the UK? Here’s what we found when looking at burnout statistics in the UK.
- Searches for “burnout symptoms” in the UK rose from 1,000 in August 2016 to 3,600 in August 2020 to 12,100 in both of August 2021 and August 2022.
- This represents a 260% increase from 2016 to 2020 and a further 260% increase between 2020 and 2021!
- Searches for “recovering from burnout” rose from 320 to 1,330 between August 2016 and August 2022 (315% increase)
Burnout and Working Hours
With previous studies having found a direct correlation between burnout and excessive working hours, we looked into working hours within the UK.
Latest Data from the OECD (from 2021) shows UK workers work an average of 1,497 hours per year.
But this data doesn’t take into account Bank Holidays, annual leave and so forth.
So let’s make an assumption that in the UK we have 28 days off (statutory minimum days of annual leave) and a 5 day working week (this varies based on whether you’re part-time or full-time of course). That would suggest the average worker (including all full and part-time workers in the country) works around 32 hours per week.
Burnout on the Rise?
Of course we cannot say for sure an increase in searches is an increase in prevalence. People search just out of interest, not because they themselves are necessarily suffering burnout.
But we could argue that it stands to reason that our always-connected society is likely to result in more burnout. It’s harder than ever to switch off. We check our emails and check in with work even when we’re not in the office. So this is likely to be, in my view, an issue that grows over time.
If it’s something you believe you’re suffering with, you can get more help and advice from the following resources: