The Truth About Employee Burnout

Many knew they were at burnout stage long before the pandemic rushed in and turned their lives upside down. They were exhausted, some depressed, concentration was difficult; others were easy to anger. Not to mention rising for work was painful; the mere thought of another day in the work rat-race and they were worn out.

That said – it was thought burnout would fade once employees worked from home; relaxed a little, spent time with family. Performing work would be easier; they would be more productive yet less stressed out.

Unsurprisingly it didn’t happen. And burnout is still the word of the day when it comes to describing what many work from home employees are experiencing.

Technically – what is burnout?

“According to the World Health Organization, occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, with symptoms characterized by “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.”

More than 44% of individuals in a recent Robert Half survey confirmed they were burned out; up from 34% in the 2020 poll. Also, nearly 49% blame increased fatigue on a heavier workload during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, burnout is not currently considered a health issue nor a mental disorder, says WHO. And while it could influence an employee’s health – and be a reason to visit one’s doctor…

Burnout”, says WHO, “specifically refers to the phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

In fact, says the Mayo Clinic, researchers believe depression is behind burnout. Plus burnout, they tell us, also revolves around a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity; which can all point to depression. Prevent an employee from performing optimally.

Job burnout can be the result of a variety of causes. Here are 5 possible causes of employee burnout say Mayo researchers:

1) Lack of control – inability to influence decisions such as your schedule, assignments and workload.

2) Unclear job expectations – Not sure about the degree of authority you have? Researchers say you are likely to feel uncomfortable at work.

3) Dysfunctional workplace dynamics – Are you working with people, or someone, who brings out the worst in you? For example – someone who constantly insults you; is there someone – your boss – who undermines you? If so it’s highly likely you aren’t performing up to par. Perhaps depressed.

4) Activity Extremes – Are you working like a maniac one moment then told to slow it down; are projects flipped from one hour to the next and you’re required to switch gears, to something entirely different?

5) Long hours – The unrelenting stretch of work hours, day after day, can quickly bring on burnout. Not only can this bring on fatigue, but high blood pressure, irritability, and anger. None of which can or will help an employee perform to their best ability. Not to mention long hours can easily bring about on-the-job injuries.

Total Brain’s Mental Health Index has been tracking employee’s mental health state since the beginning of the pandemic. And discovered employees are dealing with “soaring rates of depression, anxiety and lack of focus”. Those dire stats have finally begun to push employee mental health to the forefront and causing companies like LinkedIn, Cisco, SAP, and Google to institute company-wide mental health days.

While company mental health days aren’t nearly enough to help the problem, it’s finally the beginning of companies taking mental health seriously. And hopefully the easing into full-scale mental health benefits for all.

Heaven knows we need them.


Jean L. Serio
Jean L. Serio
JEAN is a certified Human Resources professional with more than twenty-five years of experience in recruitment, interviewing, job training and development, resume, and LinkedIn Profile writing and review. The last 5 as a Certified Interview Success Coach, CEIC. With a passion for training, she guides others in first understanding their skills and strengths and how to best present themselves during an interview to help them secure the job. Her skills and expertise are also utilized to optimally prepare clients for confidently engaging with HR, hiring pros and decision-makers, and guiding them in how to enthusiastically and professionally respond during an interview rather than fearing the process. Her solid experience, coupled with expertise in the unspoken workings of the interview and hiring process, helps individuals prepare to present their achievements, skills, and expertise not only in a professional but compelling, way using stories of achievements which help the interviewee engage the interviewer or hiring a pro to effectively respond to questions to help raise their get-hired opportunities. Jean has been featured in Forbes;; BLR-Daily HR Advisor; ERE’s Daily HR Advisor; Next Ave. division of PBS; Medium; Entrepreneur HQ Magazine; Self Growth; beBee International, CBS, and NBC online and more. Her past has also included workshop trainings for HR, hosting hiring forums, speaking at job conferences for both job seekers and hiring pros, and more.

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  1. I commend the big companies who understand that their employees need time to recharge. Some even pay for their employees mental therapists as they pay for their physical therapists.

    But it seems that the vary same companies employ at least the same number of contractors, either directly or through an agency, for whom these perks – it is sad that not getting bun out should be considered a perk – don’t exist.

  2. Jean, excellent post and good information. I’ve watched this progress since the 70s, when work had, at least, a little balance with life. It has gotten progressively worse and we are approaching the tipping point quickly. I saw first-hand burnout at the corporate level but when I hear a server at a local restaurant talk about burn-out, it gets my attention. Like the boiled frog (, we’ve been sitting in warming water for decades and I worry that we no longer have the capability of jumping out of the pot. Something will change eventually – just not sure what.

  3. I posted a comment, but it is missing

    This is a very informative article on burnout Jean L. Serio CEIC, CPC, CeMA, CSEOP.

    Reading your post twice and focusing on “In fact, says the Mayo Clinic, researchers believe depression is behind burnout. Plus burnout, they tell us, also revolves around a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity; which can all point to depression” explains why burnout did not disappear even working from home.

    The loss of personal identity, activity extremes and lack of control are personality-dependent regardless where we work. Even if the workplace is not stressful these personal attributes remain and cause burnout.

    An excellent post to digest. Thank you Dennis Pitocco for sharing it