Risk of burnout increased sharply during Covid-19 pandemic

Risk of burnout increased sharply during Covid-19 pandemic
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The risk of burnout among employees increased sharply during the pandemic, from 23.8% in 2019 to 28.5% in the autumn of 2021, according to a study by Securex in collaboration with KU Leuven.

The percentage represents non-absent employees who run an increased risk, as well as employees who are on the verge of burnout and can drop out at any moment. 13.4% of employees fall into the latter category, according to Securex.

This is an especially alarming increase compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic, as it means that the number of employees at serious risk of burnout increased by 61.4%.

"We now know the biggest triggers of burnout risk and we conclude that the Covid-19 crisis has weighed heavily on those triggers," Hans De Witte, Professor of Work Psychology at KU Leuven, said in a press release.

The researchers found that of the five crucial (work) characteristics that explain more than 40% of the risk of burnout symptoms, four triggers worsened in the past three years: the emotional workload (up from 32 to 40%), private stress factors (from 31 to 38%), job insecurity (from 23 to 27%) and high work intensity (from 27 to 32%).

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"Despite support measures, many employees struggled with higher job insecurity and with a heavier work intensity due to lower staffing levels and the drop-out of colleagues," he said, adding that they often also dealt with a higher emotional workload due to infections, financial insecurity or mental difficulties.

"This in turn leads to a heavier personal burden, reinforced by fewer exercise options and the combination of teleworking and family life," De Witte said.

The study also examined which profiles of employees are at increased risk and concluded that singles with young children have the highest risk. The risk, however, decreases with age. Still, "these background characteristics together explain a maximum of 5% of the risk of burnout and are therefore strongly subordinate to the work characteristics."

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