Loss of Productivity Due to Burnout
Updated: Feb 16
Harvard Business Review provided a simple definition of productivity:
So when burnout is thrown into the equation, it looks like employees’ work being produced at a lower level and/or it taking longer to produce their work. But, it’s not just that one employee who suffers. It’s everyone around the burnt-out employee and even the new people, once they leave. It’s a ripple effect. Let's start off with the middle of the ripple.
Current (Burnt-Out) Employee
This is usually the main focus of burnout topics, the individual experiencing the issue. Burnout has three components: exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. A burnt-out employee is tired and takes longer to complete their work. They have negative feelings towards their work and that negativity shows up in their final product. They think they can’t do the work and they’re right because their mindset has set them up for failure.
Before they leave. They are exhibiting the symptoms of burnout. They begin to show a decrease in productivity. Poor Service. Diminished work quality. Longer timelines.
Once they leave. Since burnout increases employee turnover, burnt-out employees are more likely to leave. This is the most noticeable loss in productivity because it goes to 0 when no one is in the position to do the work.
This is at least 4-6 months of diminished productivity and position vacancy directly related to employee burnout. Depending on the organization and the individual, getting to burnout can take months to a few years meaning a slowly decreasing level of productivity.
Co-workers of the Burnt-out Employee
When a team member begins to display these traits it impacts the workplace because of how well produce and long they take to do their work. So, co-workers who depend on that employee are now impacted too.
Before they leave. While the burnt-out employee is still there, their co-workers have to deal with the diminished productivity. Either they have to (1) fill in the gap for the burnt-out employee’s slow and/or diminished work OR (2) they just let the quality of the entire team/organization suffer. Depending on how interconnected the work is, a burnt-out employee’s lack of productivity could have compound effects.
Once they leave. Co-workers clearly have to pick up the slack of the vacant position. In many organizations, co-workers are expected to pick up the slack for the sake of the team/organization until the position is filled. This increased workload is a driver of burnout resulting in more burnt-out employees.
New Employee. The team must again work with someone not performing at their peak as they wait for the new employee to learn their new role, team and/or organization. It takes at least one year for a new employee to complete this on-boarding process and reach peak performance.
Co-workers bear the burden of filling in the gap for others’ lack of productivity causing them to have an increase in workload resulting in them being burnt out themselves. Now they become the burnt-out employee impacting others resulting in a constant revolving door of employees, an inability to maintain any organizational knowledge, and employees who are unable to master their role and make a significant impact.
New Employee (Replacement of Burnt-out Employee)
This new person’s productivity can vary based on their qualifications, experience, knowledge of the organization, skills being a team player, and critical nature of the position to the team’s and organization’s success. Since it takes at least one year for on-boarding, we are going to assume that year will not reach maximum productivity.
Side Note: Burnout is a symptom of cultural problems within an organization. There are individuals who are more prone to or more resilient from experiencing burnout than others. But if burnout and high turnover rates are a recurring theme in an organization, then it’s time to be honest and look at the organizational culture in the mirror. (Woohoo, 🚶♂️ MJ).
So when an organization is experiencing burnout, years of productive work are lost for each burnt-out employee that could have helped an organization move forward, pivot adequately, and/or generate substantial profits.
Working to engage employees will result in less burnout, less turnover and increased productivity.
Glad●ED Solutions is here to help organizations engage their workforce, achieve their mission, and ultimately increase their bottom line.
About the Author
Natalie Robinson Bruner helps organizations develop systems and implement strategies that engage their workforce by offering a three-stage process of training, planning and offering individualized consulting. By using research, experience, case studies, pragmatic solutions, humor, engaging activities and her own secret sauce; Natalie delivers a powerful message about engaging staff. In a fast-changing world, we need information that engages the organization resulting in realizing a purpose-driven mission, reducing turnover, and impacting the bottom line. Her clients include large to medium-sized businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations. Glad●ED Solutions develops succinct, research-based, experienced-informed training coupled with a pragmatic action plan for implementation. We are more than the fly-by-night training. Glad●ED Solutions offers creative solutions for personal and organizational development through corporate training, individual coaching and special events to support career advancement.