BURNOUT: PHENOMENON OR REALITY?
One-quarter of the workforce in Switzerland believe they are in danger of suffering a burnout. That is equivalent to over 1 million people – with potentially tragic consequences for the individuals concerned, not to mention the major financial implications for the companies that employ them. This is because chronic stress and burnout cost the Swiss economy around CHF 5.6 billion each year.
When I give presentations to companies, I am often asked the question: Is there an increasing number of burnouts or do people simply talk about this more often? Is it perhaps just the case that there is now a greater awareness of this topic? The answer is clear: the number of cases of burnout has risen significantly in recent years. I am sure that most of you will know at least one person – either at work or among your friends or family – who has suffered a burnout. The figures speak for themselves:
46% of men and 36% of women in Switzerland say that they experience a high level of physical pressure or nervous tension in the workplace.
28% of these women and 21% of these men suffer from serious physical complaints.
24% of the workforce in Switzerland believe that they are at risk of experiencing a burnout.
According to the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), stress and burnout have massive financial implications – costing the Swiss economy an estimated CHF 5.6 billion per year. This estimate includes lost productivity, absences from work and the cost of illness. In Europe, as many as 60% of employees say that their work has a negative effect on their health. In Germany, the number of cases of burnout rose by 700% between 2004 and 2011, while the average number of days of illness doubled in each case. In the US, 60% of health problems are triggered by or associated with stress. It is estimated that this costs the US economy around USD 300 billion annually.
Severe consequences for individuals and companies
Chronic stress and burnout have a massive impact on individuals, their quality of life and their ability to function. They also have significant implications for companies. While firms clearly expect their people to deliver an excellent performance and to demonstrate a high level of commitment, the quality of work can actually suffer if employees are overly committed. Studies have shown that if employees work more than 55 hours per week, there is a clear decline in productivity.
In addition, employees are unable to concentrate and make more mistakes when they are exhausted. If individuals become demotivated – which is a typical sign that they may be on the verge of a burnout – they work less and the quality of their work deteriorates. When employees are absent from work for longer periods, or if they are unable to work altogether, this results in substantial costs for the company. And, last but not least: a bad atmosphere within the team – due to the need for colleagues to work extra hours and the social withdrawal of the individual concerned – leads to higher rates of staff turnover in the medium term. Hence, chronic stress and burnout result in a reduction in the quantity and quality of work performed, with increased costs for the company.
This does not need to be the case, however. In my next blog, I will describe the early warning signs of burnout and explain the steps that companies as a whole, as well as individual managers, can take to prevent their employees from suffering a burnout.
© Claudia Kraaz