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New Surveys Show Burnout Is An International Crisis
Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Crisis Management Expert
Washington, DC
Thursday, October 27, 2022



Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Bestselling Author of the Award-Winning Book "Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies" (Nicholas Brealey, 2020)   

New surveys underscore an essential reality about today's workplace and workforce: Burnout is an equal-opportunity international crisis that strikes companies, organizations, and the people who work for, manage or own them.

For businesses, burnout can impact productivity, the bottom line and the ability to make the best and timely decisions when confronted by a disaster, scandal or other emergency.

Burnout Without Borders

New studies show how prevalent the burnout crisis is in different parts of the world.

Global Impact

Microsoft polled 20,000 people in 11 countries around the globe. The research, which was conducted in July and August, found that almost 50% of employees and 53% of managers said they were burned out at work.

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm, Edelman Data and Intelligence, among 20,006 full-time employed or self-employed knowledge workers in 11 countries between July 7 and August 2.

The survey had broad representation across several industries; the countries included Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada and the United States.

Ireland Leads Europe

Research conducted by Gallup and HR tech company Workhuman found that three in 10 Irish employees surveyed reported that they felt burnt out "very often" or "always," Silicon Republic reported.

The study of 12,000 employees in 11 European countries showed that employees in Ireland are suffering from burnout and stress more often than those in other European nations. They were also the least likely to be "thriving," according to Irish Tech News.

Female And Frontline Workers In Asia Hit Hardest

Meanwhile, a study by McKinsey & Company found that almost one in three employees in Asia were experiencing symptoms of burnout.

"Female employees and frontline workers in the region report higher levels of burnout, symptoms of depression, and distress than their global counterparts (along with higher levels of symptoms of depression and distress than male employees, a common phenomenon worldwide).

"With more than a quarter of employees reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety, it's clear that a real and pressing workplace challenge faces the region," according to McKinsey's report about the survey.

The research was conducted from February to April 2022 by the McKinsey Health Institute. Respondents included 15,000 employees and 1,000 human resource decision-makers in 15 countries. India, Japan, Australia, and China.

Small Business Owners In U.S. Continue To Suffer

Another new survey drilled down to see to what extent a major segment of the corporate community in the U.S.—small business owners—are suffering from burnout.

It found that 48% of small business owners said they had experienced burnout in the past month. That's according to a survey released this week by Capital One and the Capital One Insights Center.

The poll found that "Business owners who also identify as caregivers are more likely to say they have experienced burnout in the past month (53%) than other business owners. Similarly, female business owners (53%) are more likely to say they have experienced burnout in the past month than their male counterparts (41%).

The Capital One survey was conducted between August 25 and September 9, 2022, among a sample of 1,295 small business owners, including 115 small business owners who started their business at least two years ago but after the World Health Organization declared Covid pandemic on March 11, 2020. Small businesses are defined as those with total annual revenues of less than $20 million. 

Results from the small business owners have a margin of error of plus or min 3%. Results from the small business owners who started their business near the beginning of the pandemic have a margin of error of +/ 9%.


A Steady Trendline

Capital One first surveyed business owners about burnout and work-life balance in November 2021, and some of those questions have been asked in subsequent surveys fielded in March 2022 and August/September 2022, a company spokesperson said via email.

For better or worse, the results have not changed much since Capital One has been conducting the survey. "Since the March 2022 report, business owner burnout levels haven't improved," the company noted in their report.

Burnout Clues

"There will always be a segment of small business owners [who] suffer from burnout," Janice Litvin, author of the Banish Burnout Toolkit, said via email.

"Small business owners are often very committed to and passionate about their work, so burnout can creep up without them even noticing," she pointed out.

"When people ask 'how can I tell if I'm burning out,' my answer is to look at the micro clues, such as negative thoughts, like 'I'm getting overwhelmed with all my emails,'" she told me earlier this year.

"Avoidance clues are a sure sign of burnout. They include thoughts like, 'I wish I could stay in bed till noon today.' The most obvious clue is an angry outburst at a loved one. That is a telltale sign that something else is bothering you," Litvin observed.

"Other clues include problems sleeping, feelings of resentment, or digestive issues," she concluded.

A Short History Of Burnout

Burnout is a decades-old problem, which the Washington Post traced back to the 1970s.

"At the dawn of the 1980s, burnout became a key term to describe the condition of frazzled, defeated American workers," the newspaper noted. It recalled a 1980 book by Herbert J Freudenberger, Burn-Out: The High Cost of High Achievement, which became a popular self-help guide.

"In 1981, the president of the air traffic controllers union cited "early burnout" as the first reason union members were going on strike for higher wages and a shorter workweek," according to the Washington Post.

Bottom Line

The challenges, problems and pressures that workers and their employers face today—and the new difficulties and issues they may face tomorrow and beyond—means there is not much hope that the international burnout crisis will end anytime soon.



Edward Segal is a crisis management expert, consultant and the bestselling author of the award-winning Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey). Order the book at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0827JK83Q/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Segal is a Leadership Strategy Senior Contributor for Forbes.com where he covers crisis-related news, topics and issues. Read his recent articles at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/?sh=3c1da3e568c5.

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