New research predicts there will be a January ‘burnout spike’ as employees struggle with remote working and COVID-19 restrictions.

According to new research, online searches for “burnout symptoms” have increased by almost a quarter (24 per cent) in 2020 alone. In August 2020, almost half of all managers (47 per cent) were concerned that their employees were displaying symptoms of burnout.

Google search data for online searches linked to “burnout symptoms” shows an increase year on year in the UK . This reached peak levels in January 2020 with 12,100 people a month searching for these symptoms.

On average, the total number of searches has increased by 41 per cent since 2017, suggesting more people are suffering as time goes on. In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) even formally recognised burnout as a syndrome.

WHO explained burnout as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised 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; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Experts have stated that levels of burnout in the UK are set to rise to higher levels in the coming January due to the impact of COVID-19.

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, a health insurance company, says:

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Pressure at work is usually the main culprit and when budgets are tight and teams are small, people often find themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads, piling on the stress.

Policies like turning off email servers outside of working hours helps ring fence valuable recovery time. Mental health first aid training can also help managers spot the signs or triggers and put preventions in place.

Contractors or freelancers who don’t have the support of HR might need to adopt their own strategies such as setting working hours, turning off email alerts out of these hours and separating work and living space if working from home.

In order to ease this exhaustion, experts have recommended a host of solutions including:

  • Encouraging employees to exercise and to quit unhealthy habits
  • Ensuring employees have frequent communications with line managers
  • Setting catch-up routines with the team
  • Promoting taking mental health days where needed
  • Encouraging employees to take their annual leave



*This research was carried out by Vape Club as part of their ‘Qutting Smoking for Mental Health’ campaign.