Where Does Burnout Come From? Understanding and Overcoming This Modern Epidemic

published on 02 May 2023

Introduction to Burnout and Its Prevalence in Modern Society

Burnout, a term that has become increasingly common in recent years, has evolved from being a buzzword to a genuine concern in modern society. Characterized by chronic emotional and mental exhaustion, burnout is a state of complete physical and emotional depletion resulting from prolonged exposure to workplace stress. Its prevalence has grown exponentially, with more and more people feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of their jobs.

The expectation to be constantly "on" and available, exarcebated by the shift to hybrid and remote working, has created an atmosphere where employees are more prone to experiencing burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon, highlighting its relevance and impact on the well-being of individuals and organizations.

In this article, we will delve into understanding the signs and symptoms of burnout, its relationship with workplace stress, and the common root causes behind it. We will also explore the impact of burnout on individuals and organizations, and discuss practical strategies for managing and preventing workplace stress, creating a healthier work-life balance, and implementing workplace initiatives to reduce burnout and promote well-being.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

The first step in addressing burnout is recognizing its signs and symptoms, which can manifest in various ways. Some common signs of burnout include:

  • Emotional exhaustion: This is the feeling of being completely drained and unable to muster the energy to face daily challenges. Emotional exhaustion can be accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Physical fatigue: Burnout can take a significant toll on the body, manifesting as chronic fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches. This constant state of exhaustion can also weaken the immune system, leading to frequent illness. 
  • Cognitive decline: Burnout can affect an individual's ability to concentrate, make decisions, and solve problems effectively. This cognitive decline can lead to decreased productivity and performance at work.
  • Detachment: As burnout progresses, individuals may begin to withdraw from their responsibilities and personal relationships. This detachment can result in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
  • Decreased job satisfaction: Burned-out individuals often experience a loss of enthusiasm for their work, leading to a decline in job satisfaction and overall happiness.

By understanding these signs and symptoms, one can begin to identify whether they, or those around them, may be experiencing burnout.

The Relationship Between Workplace Stress and Burnout

Workplace stress is a significant contributor to the development of burnout. While stress is a normal part of life and can sometimes be beneficial, chronic exposure to stressors in the workplace can lead to burnout. Below are some factors that contribute to workplace stress:

  • High job demands: Jobs with consistently high workloads, tight deadlines, and unrealistic expectations can create a constant state of stress for employees, which can lead to burnout.
  • Lack of control: Employees who feel they have little control over their work environment, decision-making, or the direction of their career may experience increased stress, which can contribute to burnout.
  • Poor work-life balance: A lack of balance between work and personal life can exacerbate stress levels, making it harder for individuals to recharge and recover from workplace stressors.
  • Toxic work culture: A work environment characterized by a lack of support, poor communication, and unhealthy competition can create a breeding ground for stress and ultimately lead to burnout.

Understanding the relationship between workplace stress and burnout can help organizations and individuals identify potential sources of stress and work towards mitigating them.

Common Root Causes of Burnout

There are several root causes of burnout, which can vary depending on individual circumstances and work environments. Ambr allows organizations to proactively monitor for these risk factors and receive notifications if there are concerning trends. Identifying these root causes can aid in developing targeted strategies to prevent and manage burnout. Some common root causes include:

a. Unsustainable Workload

An unsustainable workload is a primary cause of burnout. Employees who are consistently overworked without adequate support or resources may find it impossible to keep up with the demands of their job, leading to chronic stress and eventual burnout.

b. Erosion of Time Boundaries

The erosion of time boundaries, particularly with the rise of hybrid and remote work, can contribute to burnout. With the lines between work and personal life becoming increasingly blurred, employees may feel pressured to be available and working at all hours, leading to an inability to switch off and recharge.

c. Poor Relationships

Poor relationships with colleagues or supervisors can contribute to a toxic work environment and increase the likelihood of burnout. When employees feel unsupported, undervalued, or bullied, their stress levels can rise, leading to emotional exhaustion.

d. No Autonomy

A lack of autonomy in the workplace can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration. When employees are not given the opportunity to make decisions or have control over their work, they may feel powerless, which can contribute to burnout.

e. Lack of Recognition

A lack of recognition for hard work and achievements can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration. When employees feel their efforts go unnoticed, they may become disengaged and lose motivation, increasing the risk of burnout.

The Impact of Burnout on Individuals and Organizations

Burnout can have severe consequences for both individuals and organizations. On an individual level, burnout can lead to physical and mental health issues. Burnout can also cause strain on personal relationships, as individuals may withdraw from friends and family due to emotional exhaustion.

Organizations can suffer from the effects of burnout among their employees through decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher staff turnover rates. The costs associated with these issues can be significant, including financial losses and damage to the organization's reputation.

Calculate the cost of burnout to your organization

Addressing burnout is crucial for the well-being of both individuals and organizations, as it promotes healthier, more productive work environments and happier, more engaged employees.

Strategies for Managing and Preventing Workplace Stress

Preventing and managing workplace stress is essential in combating burnout. Below are some strategies that can help:

  • Set realistic expectations: Ensure that workloads are manageable and that expectations are clear and achievable. This will help employees feel less overwhelmed and more in control of their work. 
  • Encourage open communication: Promote a culture of open communication, where employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns and challenges with supervisors and colleagues.
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance: Encourage employees to set boundaries between work and personal life and to prioritize self-care and downtime.

Workplace Initiatives to Reduce Burnout

Organizations can play a crucial role in addressing burnout by implementing initiatives that promote employee well-being. Some of these initiatives may include:

  • Flexible work arrangements: Offer employees the option to work remotely or create flexible schedules that allow for better work-life balance.
  • Professional development opportunities: Provide opportunities for employees to develop new skills and advance their careers, fostering a sense of personal growth and satisfaction.
  • Recognition and rewards: Acknowledge employees' hard work and achievements through recognition programs and rewards, which can boost morale and motivation.

Learn how Ambr can help you tackle workplace stress and prevent burnout.


Burnout is a pervasive issue in modern society, fueled by chronic workplace stress. By understanding the signs, symptoms, and root causes of burnout, individuals and organizations can work together to develop strategies and initiatives to prevent and manage workplace stress and promote a healthier work-life balance. In doing so, we can create environments that foster well-being, engagement, and long-term success.

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