Career Moves



Career Moves HR

Employee Wellbeing: Measuring and Preventing Burnout

  • by Career Moves HR
  • 23 Oct 2018

The burnout phenomena rolled through the United States in the 1970’s. Our working culture is infused with wellbeing initiatives, mindfulness retreats, and ‘pop psychology’ attempting to solve the effects of professional ‘burnout’.

From the beginning, burnout was studied as an insight into the individual’s relational transactions in the workplace. This interpersonal context emphasises attention on a worker’s emotions, and on the underlying motives and values within the workspace.

Commonality throughout the psychological understandings of burnout, provided the base for some initial agreement about the key aspects of ‘burnout’. Christina Maslach’s research identifies that it is an internal psychological experience involving feeling, motives, expectations and attitudes. Conclusively, it is a negative experience for the individual, that evokes distress, discomfort, dysfunction, and negative consequences.

Burnout is now defined as a psychological syndrome in response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. Burnout is defined in three key metrics:

  • Emotional Fatigue
    The end-state experienced by an individual following their work is recorded to be a result of excessive demands on one’s energy and resources. The result of emotional fatigue, or exhaustion, accompanies the proceeding workplace emotional conflicts as either a coping mechanism, or as the end-product of intense involvement within the working environment.
  • Depersonalisation
    Moderation of one’s compassion for clients, people, and colleagues by emotional distance has been identified as a coping mechanism for individuals working in people service roles. This depersonalisation has been detailed to evolve into cynicism and emotional distance towards work that often results in an unwillingness to perform the job.
  • Personal Fulfilment
    Working environments with chronic, overwhelming demands that lead to an individual’s sense of effectiveness will often result in a difficulty to achieve a sense of accomplishment. The resulting efficacy is somewhat more independent from the other two aspects of burnout as in some degree, it appears to be a result of either exhaustion or cynicism, or a combination of the both. Yet may also be the catalyst to both exhaustion and cynicism.

The combined experience of exhaustion, cynicism, and efficacy construct the distinct term of ‘burnout’. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) functions through an analysis of the identified aspects through breaking down each cluster term and rating on a frequency scale between 1 and 6.

0 = Never
1 = A few times a year or less
2 = Once a month or less
3 = A few times a month
4 = Once a week
5 = A few times a week
6 = Everyday

Maslach Burnout Inventory

Question Number


Rating 0-6

Emotional Fatigue


I feel emotionally drained from my work



I feel used up at the end of the work day



I feel fatigued when I get up in the morning and have to face another day on the job



I feel frustrated by my job



Working with people directly puts too much stress on me



I feel very energetic



I can easily create a relaxed atmosphere with people



I have accomplished many worthwhile things in the job



I worry that this job is hardening me emotionally




I feel burned out from my work



I can easily understand how my recipients feel about things



I deal very effectively with the problems of my recipients



I feel exhilarated after working closely with my recipients



I feel recipients blame me for some of their problems


Personal Fulfilment


Working day is really a strain for me



I feel I’m working too hard on my job



I feel like I’m at the end of my rope



I feel I’m positively influencing other people’s lives through my work



In my work, I deal with emotional problems very calmly



I feel I treat some people as if they were impersonal ‘objects’



I’ve become more callous toward people since I took this job



I don’t really care what happens to some recipients



So, we have a basic measurement system for analysing the key dimensions of individual burnout, through evaluating an individual’s negative response to the working environment, we are able to dissect the single dimension into potential root causes and possible solutions.

This approach understands the statistical challenges presented across the three individual areas as accumulating all responses into a single figure often diminishes the understanding of interpersonal relationships in the workplace. As we understand ‘burnout’ to be the construction of all three negative responses, the resulting depletion of employee engagement as a result of burnout can be reviewed through a segmented approach to sourcing a solution.

Keep an eye out for our step-by-step guide on preventing burnout as a result to these individual areas, in the meantime, check-out three business strategies to preventing burnout of high performers HERE and read more on wellbeing in the workplace HERE.

If you believe we can help with your recruitment needs then please contact us HERE.

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