Burnout at work: what’s causing it and how to cope
January 2023   COMPANY NEWS

Burnout at work: what’s causing it and how to cope

Burnout at work reaches an all-time high, especially among younger professionals, according to new research by global healthcare provider, Cigna International Health.
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With a whole host of causes, including the cost of living crisis, Dr Anne Lepetit, Medical Director at Cigna International has identified five major symptoms of burnout that employers should watch out for, as part of the healthcare provider’s movement to reduce burnout in the workplace. These include: 

  1. Feeling Overwhelmed: You may feel like you have too much on your plate
  2. Feeling Helpless: Oftenlosing your sense of direction
  3. Self-Doubt: Lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities
  4. Negative Thinking: A pattern of thinking negatively about yourself and your surroundings
  5. Exhaustion: Can be both physical or mental 

Dr. Anne Lepetit, Medical Director at Cigna International, said: “Burnout is a very real issue for everyone, particularly in the workplace. People often went into autopilot ‘survival mode’ during the pandemic and muddled through. Now, almost three years later the mental exhaustion linked to the pandemic is causing people to quite literally crash and burn. 

“It's important we all understand what burnout is, particularly if you are responsible for managing or leading people in the workplace. Burnout is the feeling of being overwhelmed, it’s not a disease and it remains classed as a syndrome, but if left untreated it can lead to other serious mental health conditions, and physical problems including heart disease and high blood pressure”. 

This comes as new global research from Cigna reveals it has seen a 31% increase in mental health claims by workers in 2022, with an astonishing 98% of 18–24-year-old employees displaying signs of burnout.

More than 3,000 professionals and globally mobile workers around the world took part in Cigna International’s annual 360 Global Well-Being Survey which shows that while 40% of employees are now looking for mental health support from their employer, only 24% actually provide it. 

The cost of living crisis is identified as one of the main stressors amongst those surveyed, with over a third (36%) reporting the rising cost of living as the leading cause of their stress, highlighting how financial worries are affecting the health of people across the nation and beyond in ways employers may not be aware of.  

The research also highlights a lack of understanding about the subtle ways burnout can impact well-being beyond a general feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion. The report found many people misunderstand what they are experiencing and how their health is being affected, and often try to ‘muddle through’ leading to further problems and burnout.

Managing burnout

Cigna International works with employers to help them manage burnout among their teams. Dr. Anne Lepetit advises the following checklist to help handle and alleviate workplace burnout: 

1. Management training

There’s no ‘one-size fits all’ approach: employees in leadership positions need to be trained on how to actively listen, even if it is for five minutes a day. Regularly checking in and assessing is extremely important and needs to be organised quickly if burnout is detected. This can have a positive impact on staff performance if carried out correctly, as people feel more valued if they are being listened to. 

2. Set daily goals

Setting small daily goals that involve minimal effort can have a huge impact on a person’s daily mood, for example spending 20 minutes each day away from the screen to read, or going for a walk at lunchtime, can have a positive impact on your mood. 

3. Purpose

Leaders and team managers should regularly provide feedback to employees when they have done a good job, and never miss an opportunity to praise a colleague or team member. This can make a huge difference to their day and helps to provide them with purpose within their work. 

4. Positive mindset

People spend most of their day in the workplace, and it can be a very influential environment when it comes to mental health. A positive mindset must come from the top and filter through to all employees. 

5. Exercise

Introducing exercise to the daily routine can improve employees’ moods, releasing serotonin the ‘happy hormone’. Taking the time for a self-care activity can be vital to avoiding burnout and achieve the feeling of accomplishment. 

Dr. Lepetit added: "Burnout can be difficult to detect for many and people react to it in different ways, so we need to be mindful that team leaders and managers aren’t perfect - they need to be coached to listen to employees and to recognise the warning signs. We all know that prevention is always better than cure, but it does not happen overnight. We must all get better at recognising the symptoms of burnout, as the earlier they’re detected the better the prognosis can be”.

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