Employee burnout common in nearly a third of UK companies, say HR directors

Robert Half research highlights employee burnout as a concern for UK businesses.

  • Two thirds (67%) of UK HR directors cite ‘workload’ as the primary reason for employee burnout
  • One in five HR directors hire interim staff to prevent employee burnout
  • Robert Half highlights warning signs that your employees may be running on empty

London, 25 February 2013 – Three out of ten (30%) UK HR directors say employee burnout is common within their organisation, according to new research from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half UK. However, this figure rises to more than a third (35%) for those in London and the South East and publicly listed companies. The issue may be particularly challenging for accounting professionals as the fiscal year-end is fast approaching, bringing a barrage of additional workload and stress.

The research also reveals that two thirds (67%) of UK HR directors cite ‘workload’ as the primary reason for employee burnout, although this figure rises to three quarters (75%) for large and 73% for public sector companies. More than half (56%) cite ‘overtime / long working hours’ as the secondary reason, followed by ‘unachievable expectations (35%), ‘economic pressures’ (32%) and ‘inability to balance personal and professional commitments’ (27%).

Phil Sheridan, Managing Director, Robert Half UK said: “Employee burnout can affect almost any professional, from top boss to rank and file employee. Many employees who have been tackling increased workloads while putting in long hours are beginning to lose their motivation at work and this is particularly challenging for accounting teams as they prepare for fiscal year-end.”

Research conducted by Robert Half UK last year, showed that nearly one in three (29%) UK HR directors cited work-life balance as the primary motivation for employees leaving their company for other opportunities. With eight in ten (80%) executives concerned about losing top performers over the course of the year, employee burnout and work-life balance should be primary considerations in an organisation’s retention strategy.

When asked if any initiatives had been implemented to prevent employee burnout, HR directors said they are promoting a teamwork-based environment (50%), reviewing/restructuring job functions and tasks (45%), encouraging team–building activities (34%), providing flexible working options (34%) and encouraging employees to take time off (31%).  One in five businesses (19%) plan to hire additional temporary / interim staff to help manage burnout.

Phil Sheridan continues: “In today’s economy, many businesses are managing heavier workloads with less staff, so hiring temporary or interim professionals is proving an effective and efficient way to alleviate pressure, especially as accounting and finance departments prepare for fiscal year-end. This allows companies to manage workload peaks and troughs without incurring fixed labour costs, while ensuring specialist technical skills are available as and when needed. Companies who adopt this approach have been able to cope better with the unexpected, prevent employee burnout and avoid reduced morale and increased costs.”

HR directors in London and the South East experience employee burnout within their organisation more than any other region, with an average of 35% who said it was a common occurrence, followed by 31% in the Midlands, 29% in the North and Scotland and 22% in the South West and Wales.

200 UK HR Directors were asked, 'What three factors contribute most to employee burnout?' Their responses:



Overtime / long work hours


Unachievable expectations


Economic pressures


Inability to balance personal and professional commitments


Lack of recognition


Bad relationship with manager and/or colleagues


Lack of positive and timely feedback from management


Lack of clear and defined business / departmental strategy


Operational inefficiencies



Robert Half UK highlights the following warning signs that your employee may be “running on empty”:

  • Frequently late for work
  • Less productive
  • Frequently disagrees with managers or colleagues
  • Disconnected from work
  • Increased amount of sick leave
  • Negativity and emotional outburst

- ENDS -

Notes to editors

About the Survey

1. The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 200 HR directors across the UK. The survey was conducted in December 2012.

2. The survey was conducted in January 2012.

3. The survey was conducted in December 2012.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at roberthalf.co.uk and twitter.com/roberthalfuk.