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Job burnout doubles in New Zealand workforce

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Staff Reporter

13 May 2024, 2:01 AM

Job burnout doubles in New Zealand workforceMassey Business School’s research reveals concerning trends.

The ongoing Wellbeing@Work research, led by Professor Jarrod Haar of Massey Business School, delves into the challenges of job burnout in New Zealand.

The study, which tracks burnout rates every four months, identifies emotional exhaustion, mental distancing, cognitive impairment, and emotional impairment as key dimensions of burnout.

Since 2020, Professor Haar has surveyed over 1000 representative New Zealand employees in each wave of the study.

Recent data from April 2024 paints a worrying picture.

It indicates a significant rise in burnout rates, with one in two employees, or 57 per cent of the workforce, now falling into the high burnout risk category.

This represents a doubling since December 2023, when the rate stood at 25 per cent, surpassing the previous high of 43 per cent recorded in November 2021.

Professor Haar highlights the severity of the situation, describing the doubling of burnout risk as both shocking and perilous for individuals and employers alike.

Burnout not only increases the likelihood of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression but also leads to higher rates of insomnia.

Moreover, burnt-out workers are significantly more inclined to contemplate quitting their jobs and engaging in poor work behaviours, which can incur substantial costs for employers.

The research also unveils disparities across professions.

Clerical workers (87.9 per cent), educational professionals (86.6 per cent), office managers (70.7 per cent), and health professionals (63.5 per cent) report the highest levels of burnout.

Conversely, business professionals (22.2 per cent), salespeople (23.1 per cent), office support workers (23.3 per cent), and information and communication technology professionals (25 per cent) experience lower rates.

The primary driver behind the surge in burnout is identified as the escalation of job insecurity.

The perception of job threat has surged from 22 per cent in December 2023 to 48.4 per cent in April 2024.

Professor Haar underscores the profound impact of this trend on the workforce, with those in the high job insecurity group being 14.5 times more likely to be at risk of burnout.

In a noteworthy shift, employees now exhibit higher burnout rates than managers, with both groups reaching alarming levels according to Professor Haar.

While no gender differences were observed, significant variations emerged across sectors, with the private sector leading at 59.8 per cent, followed by the public sector at 48.7 per cent, and the not-for-profit sector at 40 per cent.

Regional discrepancies are evident, with the South Island reporting the lowest burnout numbers (Nelson at 14.3 per cent, West Coast and Otago both at 33.3 per cent), while Gisborne recorded the highest at 81.1 per cent, followed by Bay of Plenty at 71.9 per cent and Waikato at 67 per cent.

Ethnicity also plays a role, with Pākehā at 65.1 per cent, Māori at 43.3 per cent, and Asian at 17.6 per cent reporting varying levels of burnout.

Moreover, differences in working environments contribute to burnout rates, with full-time home workers reporting the lowest levels (15.4 per cent), followed by full-time office workers (31.8 per cent), and hybrid workers, who experience the highest productivity levels but also the highest burnout rate at 72.4 per cent.

Professor Haar emphasises the urgent need for action from employers and leaders to address these concerning trends.

Clearer and faster job restructures, coupled with empathetic communication, are essential steps to alleviate worker stressors and mitigate burnout risks.

The rising prevalence of job burnout underscores the importance of proactive measures to safeguard the wellbeing of employees and maintain a healthy workforce.