Burnout: Biggest Threat to Employee Engagement | California Benefits Agents

The biggest challenge to employee engagement is burnout, according to the more than 400 respondents to the HR Exchange Network State of HR survey. Burnout, with 23% of the vote, was the top concern for motivating employees.


Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job, according to the National Institutes of Health. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Knowing this definition of burnout makes the second biggest challenge to employee engagement all the more interesting. In the same State of HR survey, 20% of respondents said the blurring of work and life was the biggest threat to employee engagement.

Clearly, HR professionals are aware that people feel overworked and overburdened by their job. More than 75% of surveyed HR leaders reported an increase in employees identifying as being burned out, which was up from 42% in September 2020, according to a Conference Board survey in 2022.

Although the concept of burnout dates back to the 1970s, the World Health Organization (WHO) only first recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its Revision of the Classification of Diseases in 2019. This led the WHO developing suggestions for workplace well-being, which HR Exchange Network recently outlined for readers.


Judging from the State of HR responses, addressing burnout is vital to any effective employee engagement strategy. The problem is that the same survey showed that HR professionals are concerned about the possibiity of recession, budget cuts, and other consequences requiring they do more with less. This economic downturn makes the workplace ripe for burnout.

Still, prioritizing mental health and wellness is evident in the survey responses, too. While 55% of respondents said medical, dental, and vision insurance was the top benefit being offered or under consideration, wellness programs (53%), employee assistance programs (45%), and mental health coaching (38%) came in second, third, and fourth place on that list.

Also, 22% of respondents to the State of HR survey said retaining top talent was the biggest challenge they faced as they confront the future of work. In other words, keeping people healthy and at the company is of the utmost importance at a time when demographic shifts are causing a labor shortage, companies are laying off some workers, and everyone is grappling with the arrival of advanced artificial intelligence that is transforming the workplace.

Indeed, Human Resources professionals and employers are recognizing that mental health and wellness of employees directly relates to their success, engagement, and retention. As HR creates human-centric organizations that rely on people first to carry out the vision of an organization’s leaders, it must contend with the fact that humans must be healthy to perform to their full potential. While burnout is happening just about everywhere, HR is taking on the burden of fighting it. In fact, it’s a matter of aligning business objectives with talent management.

By Francesca DiMeglio

Originally posted on HR Exchange Network