Burnout culture: What is it costing businesses?

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report looks at the link between employee engagement and wellbeing, and how it is impacting businesses

Women in the US and Canada have been found to be the most stressed employees globally, according to the State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report from Gallup.

This is largely due to domestic and childcare burdens that still fall on women as well as company cultures that do not support women trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance. 

However, ‘burnout culture’ has become somewhat of a buzzword over the past few years, with businesses throwing more pizza parties in an attempt to create a culture that supports employees and eases the burden placed on women.

The link between engagement and wellbeing

The State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report explains the close link between engagement and wellbeing, stating that the idea that engagement happens in the workplace and wellbeing happens outside the workplace is wrong, and needs to be corrected. 

The study also found that individuals who often feel burnout at work are more likely to struggle managing family responsibilities, highlighting that employees' workplace wellbeing, therefore, has a major impact on their outside lives. They are also 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.

Employees that are ‘thriving’ at work were also found to be less stressed, less angry and with fewer health problems, compared to those who are ‘engaged but not thriving’. 

Robin Abrahams, Research Associate at Harvard Business School, highlights that even with hybrid working models, many employers operate a “business as usual” strategy which doesn’t take into consideration the various challenges that women face. 

She also mentions that toxic workplace cultures that do not prioritise employee wellbeing are the number one reason why women choose to leave the workplace. 

She adds: "People are just not operating at full capacity right now. They've had to do too much cognitive work for too long and still are. We say we've moved on - no, we haven't. A standard of perfection or behaviour that was reasonable three years ago may not be reasonable now."

What burnout costs companies 

The message is clear: burnout culture leads to employee unhappiness. But the issue is much deeper, causing problems for businesses on a variety of levels. 

The report states that just some of the costs of poor employee wellbeing include: 

  • US$20mn of additional lost opportunity for every 10,000 workers due to struggling or suffering employees
  • 75% of medical costs accrued mostly due to preventable conditions
  • $322 billion of turnover and lost productivity cost globally due to employee burnout
  • 15% to 20% of total payroll in voluntary turnover costs, on average, due to burnout

In sum, Gallup’s research of 112,312 businesses across 96 countries, found a strong link between engagement and performance outcomes, such as retention, productivity, safety and profitability.

For businesses to retain staff, lower outgoings and improve productivity, they need to ensure the correct support mechanisms are in place to help employees thrive.


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