Employee burnout at record levels, research suggests

Analysis of staff reviews finds many workers are ‘disillusioned’, with only three in five making use of their full holiday entitlement

Credit: Larry Williams/Getty Images

Reports of burnout among UK workers have almost doubled over the past year – hitting record levels, research has revealed.

New analysis conducted by Glassdoor’s economic research team, which studied more than 382,000 anonymous employee reviews between 1 June 2021 and 30 May 2022, has found that negative discussion about burnout is on the up, increasing by 48 per cent.

Glassdoor economist Lauren Thomas said workplaces were “extremely understaffed and workers disillusioned” after Covid, with employers initially feeling pressure to ‘build back better’ but being caught short by disruption. 

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Thomas encouraged employers to “place employee experience at the heart of company recruitment and retention strategies”, suggesting this would “slow the upward trend of burnout we’ve seen over the past year and ultimately make workplaces healthier and more productive".

A separate Glassdoor survey, which polled 2,000 Britons, found that nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of those in full-time employment between 14 and 17 June 2022 viewed annual leave as an effective way to minimise burnout, but many employees did not make full use of their holiday allocation.

Only three in five (60 per cent) workers had used their full holiday entitlement in the past year and nearly one in five (18 per cent) under-25s admitted to taking zero annual leave over the previous 12 months.

In the poll only a third of employees (34 per cent) said their employer encouraged them to take the total amount of annual leave available to them. 

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Exploring the reasons staff did not use all their holiday, the survey found that 13 per cent saw their workload as too heavy to take time off; 9 per cent felt pressure from their employer to limit their holiday use; and 8 per cent could not afford time off financially.

Furthermore, with the rise in remote working, half (50 per cent) of the workers surveyed said it was easier for them to forget to take annual leave when working from home.

Another trend identified was, of the employees who used at least some of their holiday allocation, nearly half (47 per cent) found it ‘impossible’ to fully disconnect from work. This was down to one in five workers (21 per cent) feeling the need to keep on top of what was happening in the office, and a similar proportion (20 per cent) worrying about unfinished work they would leave behind.

A further 18 per cent said they could not switch off knowing they were contactable by work, while 16 per cent said their home and work lives were too intertwined to relax when on leave. 

While suggesting that people value being needed, which creates a huge ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) when they disconnect, Jane Sparrow, co-founder and director of The Culture Builders, advised that this is exactly where the role of the team should come into play.

“Actively encourage your people to plan for covering co-workers’ tasks when absent. If a team member is in a position of some responsibility, delegation can be tricky. Here, it is common for leaders to share the details of a trusted someone who could be contacted in case of emergency to pass the message on,” Sparrow said.

For this reason, she emphasised that, where FOMO is an issue, workers need to be reminded that “we miss out in the long term if we burn out”. 

As an option for helping more workers disconnect and relax, the survey delved into the idea of unlimited holiday: while just 5 per cent of workers currently received unlimited holiday from their company, discussions citing 'unlimited paid time off' have gone up 48 per cent in the last 12 months in employee reviews on Glassdoor.

Of those surveyed, nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of employees believed employers should offer more time off, and the majority (55 per cent) felt unlimited annual leave would positively impact on mental health.