It's Official: Burnout Is Real

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“Nearly half of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to 50% of their annual workforce turnover”

It’s official - The World Health Organization (WHO) have recognized burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis, according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It is now classified as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” according to WHO. They upgraded burnout from a “state” of exhaustion to “a syndrome” resulting from “chronic workplace stress”.

The stress, depression and lack of feeling in control that comes with burnout are finally being formally recognized by the medical community.

Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job

  • reduced professional efficacy”

The document says doctors should first rule out adjustment disorder as well as anxiety and mood disorders. The diagnosis is limited to work environments, and shouldn't be applied to other life situations.

Research on burnout dates back to a 1974 study on the state of burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, according to CNN. Since then, while burnout has been widely discussed as a problem in society, it hasn’t been taken seriously or viewed as a legitimate medical condition.

Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year. Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy trillion (US $) each year in lost productivity - burnout is certainly another cause of loss in productivity.

A 2017 survey by Kronos found that 95 percent of human resource executives think that burnout is hurting efforts to retain workers. Their research also showed the following:

  • Organizations “burn and churn” talent, making it tough to build an engaged workforce.

    • According to the survey, nearly half of HR leaders (46 percent) say employee burnout is responsible for up to half (20 to 50 percent, specifically) of their annual workforce turnover.

    • Almost 10 percent blame employee burnout for causing more than 50 percent of workforce turnover each year.

    • Though burnout touches organizations of all sizes, larger organizations seem to suffer more. One in five HR leaders at organizations with 100 to 500 employees cited burnout as the cause of 10 percent or less of their turnover while 15 percent of HR leaders at organizations larger than 2,500 employees say burnout causes 50 percent or more of annual turnover.

While some critics argue that the term is becoming an excuse for laziness, the new classification helps to validate people who need medical assistance to manage their burnout.


Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College, writes a great opinion piece on the topic:

In an attempt to help students manage stress and think about how to balance life and work, these schools, like many employers, are investing in wellness programs that emphasize exercise, meditation, healthy eating and more. How do you imagine students and workers will feel when the same institution that promotes happiness and work-life balance inevitably turns around and stresses the hell out of them? Obviously, they will feel angry, detached and probably less invested in their work. Sounds a lot like “burnout.” Of course, we must do all we can to detect and treat serious mental illness — like depression, and drug and alcohol abuse. But let’s not medicalize everyday stress and discomfort as burnout.


There is extremely limited data and research available on Burnout in the sales profession. Burnout can have a serious impact on your performance, and in turn your sales number. We are digging deeper into this area, conducting research to learn more about the true impact within the sales community.

View the research findings from our survey here

‘BURNOUT IN the SALES industry’


Name (Optional)
Name (Optional)
What is your age range? *
What type of sales role do you hold? *
How long have you been in the sales industry? *
How often do you work extra long hours (above and beyond contracted hours)? *
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? *
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
You feel you are on call 24x7 and have to respond customers immediately or it will impact the relationship (i.e. the view that the sales professional is "NEVER OFF WORK" even though others in the company are)
You feel your workload is in excess of your capacity
You consider your office surroundings to be highly politically charged
You consider your work environment toxic
You believe you are close to / currently experiencing burnout
Your company cares about your 'well-being' (e.g. supports time off, doesn't expect you to work long hours, weekends etc)
You feel you would be viewed negatively for taking time off to manage burnout
You feel there is a stigma in your workplace in coming forwards and talking openly about mental health
Does your company have initiatives focused on wellness and / or burnout? *