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December 7, 2023
|
5 mins to read

Could reskilling be the answer to employee burnout?

We explore what causes employee burnout, what the symptoms look like, and whether or not reskilling could be a potential solution.
Alex Mullen
Web Content Writer

Almost half of the UK workforce experiences workplace burnout.

Sadly, this statistic isn’t surprising. How many people do you know who’ve suffered from burnout? How many times have you yourself felt the effects of it?

You have a to-do list whose length rivals a Tolstoy novel. Your eyes feel like balls of cotton in your head. All you can think about is curling up under your desk like a cat, and taking a well-deserved nap using your stacks of paperwork as a blanket. But the list of demands continues getting longer. You have no choice but to push on.

“Burnout” is a term you probably hear thrown around a lot - from the first-job graduates to the senior executives with decades of experience under their belt. It might look different for everyone, but make no mistake: Burnout is a universal, occupational problem.

It’s also incredibly harmful - both for the employee suffering from it, and for the business who employs them. Employees who suffer from burnout have a 57% increased risk of workplace absence greater than two weeks due to illness and an 84% increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, to name just a couple of side-effects.

So to go beyond the buzzwords, what does "burnout" actually mean?

What is burnout?

Simply put, burnout is a state of extreme and profound emotional exhaustion that goes beyond just “feeling a bit tired.” Those suffering from burnout will feel an all-encompassing, prolonged sense of stress and overwhelm that eventually debilitates them. This results in them feeling ineffective, cynical and detached from their work.

What can the signs of burnout look like?

  • Exhaustion
  • Workplace stress
  • Reduced ability to regulate cognitive and emotional processes
  • Mental distancing
  • Overwhelm

Although burnout shares some DNA with anxiety and depression, and all three of them overlap and inform one another, it’s important to make the distinction. Depression and anxiety are mental health conditions, whereas burnout is an occupational issue that can have mental (and physical) health implications.

The root cause of burnout is multi-faceted (more on that later) but the end result is consistent: a person who doesn’t want to be where they are; who can barely function; who feels completely depleted.

Thankfully, employee wellness has become more of a priority for organisations in recent years. Whether it’s a knock-on effect of COVID increasing our awareness of mental health or simply a shift in public perceptions towards the topic, it’s clear to see the trend of companies across the globe investing more in employee wellbeing.

Even so, burnout persists. So how can these invested leaders pool their energy into the places where it really matters?

We’re interested in how best to solve this problem. In this blog we’ll dive into one potential solution, and ask the question: Could reskilling be the answer to employee burnout?

What causes burnout?


As we’ve mentioned, there are myriad causes that contribute to the feeling of an employee feeling burned out. These include:

  • Unfair treatment
  • A lack of engagement
  • Unreasonable workload
  • Low autonomy
  • A lack of support
  • A toxic workplace

How could reskilling help with employee burnout?

Skills have been a topic of conversation within L&D circles for a while now – whether it’s about filling skills gaps, or discussing which skills are the most important.

But when we talk specifically about reskilling, we’re talking about a process that allows employees to adapt. Reskilling allows people to acquire new skills or update their existing ones, all with the intention of staying relevant among the changing demands of their industry.

So, how could this practice of reskilling aid burnout prevention? There are a few ways it could help.

Reskilling increases engagement

Given that one of the reasons employees feel burned out is a lack of interest or engagement with their work, it follows that reskilling - a process that tends to give people a renewed sense of purpose and connection to their work - would help. This sense of renewed purpose, along with a shift in the monotony of their routines, can go towards mitigating the negative effects of burnout.

Reskilling helps people adapt to change

The second way reskilling could prevent employee burnout is by increasing the ability to adapt to change. Increasing resilience allows us to feel more equipped to handle what life throws at us, and reduces the risk of feeling overwhelmed (a core burnout symptom.)

Reskilling boosts confidence

Another cause of burnout is “low autonomy.” But when you put your people’s professional development back in their hands, they’ll feel an increased sense of autonomy and confidence. Equipping them with new skills will make them feel more competent overall, and therefore less likely to burn out.

Reskilling provides purpose and advancement

Addressing the "lack of engagement" problem again, reskilling helps people to connect to their work’s larger purpose - and to their own personal purpose. Continually adapting skills reignites your employees’ passion for their role, and shows them that there is a clear upward path through the organisation.

Our CLO Helen Marshall has previously written about internal mobility and how important it is to boost it within your organisation. One of her pieces of advice was to focus on skills.

In Helen’s words: “Forward-thinking employers are putting the power in the hands of their people, and enabling a truly self-driven skills journey where employees can add skills, build on existing knowledge and learn new skills from peers.”

What won’t reskilling fix?

Toxic environments

As much as we’d like it to be, reskilling isn’t a magical salve that can soothe every workplace wound. We’ve already mentioned that one of the leading causes of burnout is toxic behaviour, and with this in mind, reskilling only goes so far in addressing the issue.  

McKinsey and Company pointed out that simply training people to become more resilient isn’t the solution to burnout. Chiefly this is because although resilient people are better equipped to work in toxic environments, they’re also more likely to leave.

In the case of a toxic environment, the root cause - not just the resulting symptom - needs to be addressed.

Unfair compensation

Financial stress and the feeling of being devalued are two prominent causes of burnout. Reskilling, although it can help with upward mobility and potentially an eventual pay increase, isn’t the whole solution to this problem.

Take a long hard look at your compensation practices to ensure that everyone in your organisation is being paid fairly - and consider adding benefits like a well-being program and financial incentives to the package.

A lack of flexibility

At Thrive we’re very vocal about the value of a flexible workplace, consistently promoting flexible policies within our own teams. As we’ve talked about before, flexible working is a huge part of the work-life balance equation. Removing the need to commute frees up time for employees to do other things (such as exercise, explore a new hobby, or, you know, sleep.)

Flexibility directly translates to health and happiness. (To repeat an interesting stat from our Flexible Workplace blog, remote employees are, on average, healthier than office employees, exercising for 25 more minutes per week than their in-person counterparts.)

It’s of course important to distinguish between a genuinely flexible workplace and a workplace that is simply remote. Flexibility isn’t just working remotely; it’s giving employees the autonomy to create their own schedule and feel a sense of freedom within their roles.

An unrealistic workload

This is the most important point to address when it comes to burnout. While reskilling can help with competency, it does nothing to compensate for an unrealistic workload.

When your employees experience the repeated stress of overloaded to-do lists, mountains of paperwork and a slew of unread emails, reskilling won’t solve the Groundhog-Day-style routine. You simply need to break the cycle. Connect to the human element of your business, and set realistic expectations when it comes to your employees’ tasks.

So, is reskilling the answer?

Based on the research, reskilling is not the sole answer to employee burnout.

However, it could be part of the answer.

Reskilling could go a long way towards mitigating the effects of employee burnout, and addressing some of the main root causes.

If you want to help your employees set skills and goals within one central platform, why not explore Thrive’s Skills and Goals functionality or book a demo to see how we could work for you?

More Stories

See all

See Thrive in action

Explore what impact Thrive could make for your team and your learners today.

December 7, 2023
|
5 mins to read

Could reskilling be the answer to employee burnout?

We explore what causes employee burnout, what the symptoms look like, and whether or not reskilling could be a potential solution.
Alex Mullen
Web Content Writer

Almost half of the UK workforce experiences workplace burnout.

Sadly, this statistic isn’t surprising. How many people do you know who’ve suffered from burnout? How many times have you yourself felt the effects of it?

You have a to-do list whose length rivals a Tolstoy novel. Your eyes feel like balls of cotton in your head. All you can think about is curling up under your desk like a cat, and taking a well-deserved nap using your stacks of paperwork as a blanket. But the list of demands continues getting longer. You have no choice but to push on.

“Burnout” is a term you probably hear thrown around a lot - from the first-job graduates to the senior executives with decades of experience under their belt. It might look different for everyone, but make no mistake: Burnout is a universal, occupational problem.

It’s also incredibly harmful - both for the employee suffering from it, and for the business who employs them. Employees who suffer from burnout have a 57% increased risk of workplace absence greater than two weeks due to illness and an 84% increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes, to name just a couple of side-effects.

So to go beyond the buzzwords, what does "burnout" actually mean?

What is burnout?

Simply put, burnout is a state of extreme and profound emotional exhaustion that goes beyond just “feeling a bit tired.” Those suffering from burnout will feel an all-encompassing, prolonged sense of stress and overwhelm that eventually debilitates them. This results in them feeling ineffective, cynical and detached from their work.

What can the signs of burnout look like?

  • Exhaustion
  • Workplace stress
  • Reduced ability to regulate cognitive and emotional processes
  • Mental distancing
  • Overwhelm

Although burnout shares some DNA with anxiety and depression, and all three of them overlap and inform one another, it’s important to make the distinction. Depression and anxiety are mental health conditions, whereas burnout is an occupational issue that can have mental (and physical) health implications.

The root cause of burnout is multi-faceted (more on that later) but the end result is consistent: a person who doesn’t want to be where they are; who can barely function; who feels completely depleted.

Thankfully, employee wellness has become more of a priority for organisations in recent years. Whether it’s a knock-on effect of COVID increasing our awareness of mental health or simply a shift in public perceptions towards the topic, it’s clear to see the trend of companies across the globe investing more in employee wellbeing.

Even so, burnout persists. So how can these invested leaders pool their energy into the places where it really matters?

We’re interested in how best to solve this problem. In this blog we’ll dive into one potential solution, and ask the question: Could reskilling be the answer to employee burnout?

What causes burnout?


As we’ve mentioned, there are myriad causes that contribute to the feeling of an employee feeling burned out. These include:

  • Unfair treatment
  • A lack of engagement
  • Unreasonable workload
  • Low autonomy
  • A lack of support
  • A toxic workplace

How could reskilling help with employee burnout?

Skills have been a topic of conversation within L&D circles for a while now – whether it’s about filling skills gaps, or discussing which skills are the most important.

But when we talk specifically about reskilling, we’re talking about a process that allows employees to adapt. Reskilling allows people to acquire new skills or update their existing ones, all with the intention of staying relevant among the changing demands of their industry.

So, how could this practice of reskilling aid burnout prevention? There are a few ways it could help.

Reskilling increases engagement

Given that one of the reasons employees feel burned out is a lack of interest or engagement with their work, it follows that reskilling - a process that tends to give people a renewed sense of purpose and connection to their work - would help. This sense of renewed purpose, along with a shift in the monotony of their routines, can go towards mitigating the negative effects of burnout.

Reskilling helps people adapt to change

The second way reskilling could prevent employee burnout is by increasing the ability to adapt to change. Increasing resilience allows us to feel more equipped to handle what life throws at us, and reduces the risk of feeling overwhelmed (a core burnout symptom.)

Reskilling boosts confidence

Another cause of burnout is “low autonomy.” But when you put your people’s professional development back in their hands, they’ll feel an increased sense of autonomy and confidence. Equipping them with new skills will make them feel more competent overall, and therefore less likely to burn out.

Reskilling provides purpose and advancement

Addressing the "lack of engagement" problem again, reskilling helps people to connect to their work’s larger purpose - and to their own personal purpose. Continually adapting skills reignites your employees’ passion for their role, and shows them that there is a clear upward path through the organisation.

Our CLO Helen Marshall has previously written about internal mobility and how important it is to boost it within your organisation. One of her pieces of advice was to focus on skills.

In Helen’s words: “Forward-thinking employers are putting the power in the hands of their people, and enabling a truly self-driven skills journey where employees can add skills, build on existing knowledge and learn new skills from peers.”

What won’t reskilling fix?

Toxic environments

As much as we’d like it to be, reskilling isn’t a magical salve that can soothe every workplace wound. We’ve already mentioned that one of the leading causes of burnout is toxic behaviour, and with this in mind, reskilling only goes so far in addressing the issue.  

McKinsey and Company pointed out that simply training people to become more resilient isn’t the solution to burnout. Chiefly this is because although resilient people are better equipped to work in toxic environments, they’re also more likely to leave.

In the case of a toxic environment, the root cause - not just the resulting symptom - needs to be addressed.

Unfair compensation

Financial stress and the feeling of being devalued are two prominent causes of burnout. Reskilling, although it can help with upward mobility and potentially an eventual pay increase, isn’t the whole solution to this problem.

Take a long hard look at your compensation practices to ensure that everyone in your organisation is being paid fairly - and consider adding benefits like a well-being program and financial incentives to the package.

A lack of flexibility

At Thrive we’re very vocal about the value of a flexible workplace, consistently promoting flexible policies within our own teams. As we’ve talked about before, flexible working is a huge part of the work-life balance equation. Removing the need to commute frees up time for employees to do other things (such as exercise, explore a new hobby, or, you know, sleep.)

Flexibility directly translates to health and happiness. (To repeat an interesting stat from our Flexible Workplace blog, remote employees are, on average, healthier than office employees, exercising for 25 more minutes per week than their in-person counterparts.)

It’s of course important to distinguish between a genuinely flexible workplace and a workplace that is simply remote. Flexibility isn’t just working remotely; it’s giving employees the autonomy to create their own schedule and feel a sense of freedom within their roles.

An unrealistic workload

This is the most important point to address when it comes to burnout. While reskilling can help with competency, it does nothing to compensate for an unrealistic workload.

When your employees experience the repeated stress of overloaded to-do lists, mountains of paperwork and a slew of unread emails, reskilling won’t solve the Groundhog-Day-style routine. You simply need to break the cycle. Connect to the human element of your business, and set realistic expectations when it comes to your employees’ tasks.

So, is reskilling the answer?

Based on the research, reskilling is not the sole answer to employee burnout.

However, it could be part of the answer.

Reskilling could go a long way towards mitigating the effects of employee burnout, and addressing some of the main root causes.

If you want to help your employees set skills and goals within one central platform, why not explore Thrive’s Skills and Goals functionality or book a demo to see how we could work for you?

More Stories

See all

See Thrive in action

Explore what impact Thrive could make for your team and your learners today.