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3/5/2017 FeelingBurnedOutatWork?

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MANAGEMENT & CAREERS

Feeling Burned Out at Work? Join the


Club
The problem appears to be worsening, resulting in steep turnover and health costs

By RACHEL FEINTZEIG
Feb. 28, 2017 8:00 a.m. ET

Workers who used to take the lead on projects grow taciturn during meetings. Top
performers start coming in late, leaving early and watch their careers stall. Others
struggle to get out of bed in the morning, feeling that they just cant do one more thing.

Burnout is claiming victims at work, and companies arent ready to cope, say psychology
and human-resources experts. An always-on work culture, combined with feelings of job
insecurity and directives to do more with lesseven when business is boominghas
driven workers to the breaking point, they say. And the problem appears to be
worsening, resulting in steep turnover and health costs.

Stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of the calls placed to phone-counseling lines at
Workplace Options, a provider of employee-assistance programs; in 2014, 50% of callers
complained of those feelings. Total calls to those counseling lines reached 42,500 last
month, an 18% increase from 2016s average.

Gallups most recent large-scale survey about burnout in the U.S., conducted in 2012,
found that more than 40% of workers were so stressed at work they felt burned out. A
more recent survey of German workers, conducted in 2015, found that nearly a quarter
felt burned out.

During the financial crisis, companies held back on hiring plans and asked existing staff
to do more while times were tough. Nearly a decade on, the lack of certainty and
stability appears to have become a permanent fixture of the workplace, said Alan King,
Workplace Options president and chief operating officer.

Workers arent assertive about their boundaries


MORE because they fear for their jobs, said Alden Cass, a
HowtoTellIfYouAreBurnedOut Manhattan-based clinical psychologist who treats
patients with high-stress jobs. Burnout begins when a
worker feels overwhelmed for a sustained period of time,
then apathetic and ultimately numb, he said.

Those feelingshistorically more common in professions such as medical resident and


litigator, jobs known for round-the-clock schedules and high pressureare growing
widespread. Everyones job is now an extreme job, said Jeanne Meister, a consultant
who advises Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. on workplace issues.

Executives who largely shrugged off burnout complaints five years ago are starting to
acknowledge the toll that stress is taking on their businessesin part because theyre
suffering from it, too, said Mr. King.

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3/5/2017 FeelingBurnedOutatWork?JointheClubWSJ
Health-care costs related to work stress range from an estimated $125 billion to $190
billion annually, according to a 2016 paper from researchers at Harvard Business School
and Stanford Universitys Graduate School of Business.

Long hours and heavy work loads are fueling turnover, too. In a survey conducted last
November by software company Kronos Inc. and Future Workplace LLC, nearly half of
HR professionals said burnout was driving up to 50% of annual turnover; for a smaller
number, burnout was responsible for more than 50% of employee exits.

Folks are thinking, Well, if I


could just go somewhere else;
maybe this feeling, this
burnout feeling, is going to go
away, said Kim Davis, an
executive vice president at
insurance broker and
consultant NFP Corp., which
advises companies on
burnout.

A rising demand for American


whiskey forced workers at the
Clermont, Ky., Beam Suntory
Inc. distillery to log
mandatory overtime,
sometimes enduring 12-hour
shifts for as much as a week at
a time, said Janelle Mudd,
president of the local union.

Some employees chose to


sleep in their cars rather than
go home for the break
between shifts, said Ms. Mudd.
Co-workers felt tired and
hopeless, unable to really
focus, she said. The bourbon business was doing great, but we were suffering the whole
time, she said.

After a worker strike last October, the company agreed to hire more full-time employees
and limit mandatory overtime. Ms. Mudd and a company executive said things have
improved.

Weve put in place a new leadership team at [two] plants and hired 23 new full-time
employees, David Hunter, Beam Suntorys chief supply-chain officer, said in a
statement. Productivity is up, overtime is down, and the culture continues to improve
at these facilities.

Bringing workers back from the burnout zone takes effort. Companies must first
figure out why workers are overwhelmed, said Christina Maslach, a professor
emerita at University of California, Berkeley who researches burnout.

Most companies remain resistant to even talking about burnout, Dr. Maslach said,
fearing it will be wildly expensive to fix, requiring expensive programs or new hires.
Some firms add yoga or mindfulness to calm frazzled nerves, efforts Dr. Maslach called
window dressing. This is not a solution for the stress problems were having on the job.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at rachel.feintzeig@wsj.com

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