Burnout unveiled: A compass for Swiss employers

The cost of burnout for a company can be considerable, encompassing expenses related to employee replacement and training, costs associated with sick leave, and a drop in productivity. Burnout is therefore not only a personal challenge, but also a significant economic concern impacting both companies and society as a whole.

Sarah Korba
Jan 11, 2024
Featured image for post

Introduction

Amidst mounting concerns surrounding burnout, the spotlight intensifies across various corners of Europe, with Switzerland standing out prominently in the discourse. Stemming from persistent workplace stress, not only does burnout take a toll on individual mental and physical well-being, but it also leaves an enduring mark on companies and society at large, influencing productivity, workplace dynamics and the fundamental structure of organisational success. This article looks at the complexities of burnout, explaining its definition, insights into the Swiss landscape, Switzerland’s diagnostic scenario, the intricacies of burnout-related sick leave, and the proactive steps organisations can take to stem the tide.

In this article you will learn about the following topics:

  • The multi-dimensional nature of burnout
  • The hidden victims: high performers at risk 
  • The impact of workplace dynamics on employee well-being
  • Swiss landscape: a deeper dive
  • Stressed-out sectors and burnout costs
  • Diagnosis and dynamics of sick leave
  • Consequences of burnout leave on organisations
  • Termination of contract and salary payment
  • Practical strategies for employers
  • A holistic approach to employee well-being
  • The Kyan Health perspective
  • Kyan Health’s targeted approach to mitigating burnout and enhancing employee well-being
  • Kyan Health user testimonial

The multi-dimensional nature of burnout

As we embark on unraveling the intricacies of burnout, the question that surfaces is: How does chronic workplace stress manifest? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout reveals itself through three distinct dimensions: an overwhelming sense of exhaustion, a growing mental detachment from work, and a noticeable decrease in work performance. In a world where one in four employees worldwide reports symptoms of burnout (McKinsey), the ubiquity of this issue prompts us to delve deeper.

The hidden victims: high performers at risk 

Delving into the profile of those at risk of burnout, a surprising reality emerges: it is often the most engaged and productive individuals who struggle with this pervasive issue. Contrary to the myth that burnout affects lazy or unmotivated workers, statistics show that top performers frequently bear the brunt of workplace stress and report feeling burnout. The relentless pursuit of excellence, coupled with high levels of dedication, places these individuals at heightened risk. 

However, blaming high performers alone is simplistic. While individuals are partially responsible for their burnout, organisational practices play a pivotal role. High performers are consistently assigned challenging projects, utilised to compensate for weaker team members, and burdened with unrelated small tasks. These practices, often unintentional, amplify the risk of burnout. Thus, understanding the profile of burnout employees is crucial, as it dispels stereotypes and enables organisations to design effective preventative measures.

The impact of workplace dynamics on employee well-being

Research from McKinsey sheds light on the intricate relationship between workplace dynamics and employee mental health. When employees were asked about the factors undermining their mental well-being, common challenges emerged, including a constant feeling of being on call, unfair treatment, an overwhelming workload, limited autonomy and a lack of social support.

McKinsey’s global survey across 15 countries found that toxic workplace behaviour is by far the most important predictor of burnout symptoms and intention to leave. Employees reporting high levels of toxic behaviour at work are eight times more likely to experience burnout symptoms. In turn, those experiencing burnout symptoms are six times more likely to express an intention to leave their employer within the next three to six months. The correlation between the intention to leave and the subsequent attrition rates underscores the significant organisational costs associated with toxic workplace behaviour.

Considering the costs associated with attrition, ranging from half to twice an employee’s annual salary, the business case for addressing toxicity becomes compelling. Ignoring these issues can trigger a detrimental spiral in both individual and organisational performance. Therefore, minimising toxic workplace behaviour emerges as a key strategy in reducing burnout and preserving a healthy company culture.

Swiss landscape: a deeper dive

Venturing into Switzerland’s burnout landscape, recent statistics unveil the gravity of the situation. The Job Stress Index, published by Health Promotion Switzerland, the University of Bern, and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in 2022, shows that 30.3% of employees suffer from emotional exhaustion, marking a worrisome surge. Another study commissioned by SWICA, Switzerland’s largest health insurer, in 2020 found that 57% of absenteeism was due to the psychological effects of conflict in the workplace.

In addition, a survey by the Swiss public broadcaster SBC, titled “How are you, Switzerland?”, disclosed that a quarter of respondents believe their workplace poses a risk of burnout, with 17% reporting having already experienced burnout. These statistics underscore the urgency of addressing burnout in the Swiss workforce, raising an important question: can we afford to ignore these signs?

Stressed-out sectors and burnout costs

The Job Stress Index also sheds light on the economic consequences of burnout in Switzerland, amounting to CHF 6.5 billion ($7.4 billion) annually. The most affected sectors include hospitality and social services/healthcare. However, it is not just industry sectors; specific job roles significantly contribute to burnout risk, with frontline workers and low earners facing heightened vulnerability. Recognising initial feelings of offense, frustration, and withdrawal are crucial early indicators that require timely intervention.

Diagnosis and dynamics of sick leave

Evaluating burnout requires a comprehensive examination that takes into account the patient’s medical history and characteristic symptoms. Additional tests may be performed to rule out other psychological or physical factors contributing to burnout. Key indicators encompass mental fatigue, negative feelings towards work, and diminished professional efficacy. The diagnostic process is pivotal, as it lays the foundation for subsequent burnout treatment and sick leave.

In Switzerland, obtaining a sick note for burnout isn’t straightforward. While possible with a doctor’s written recommendation outlining health concerns linked to burnout, the recognition of burnout as an occupational disease remains controversial. The Swiss parliament’s 2019 decision against recognising burnout as an occupational disease has sparked an ongoing debate about sick leave for burnt-out workers. Even if burnout isn’t directly recognised as an occupational disease, it can exacerbate other occupational diseases and be a risk factor for conditions like cardiovascular disease, depression, and general anxiety.

Employees grappling with burnout can undergo examination by a doctor. If the doctor deems their condition hampers work capability, they may be advised to take time off. With a doctor’s written authorisation, employees can take sick leave to recover from burnout. In cases where sick leave isn’t granted, overtired employees can utilise vacation days. Employers usually set leave terms or make special arrangements on request, with Swiss employees entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday after one year.

Consequences of burnout leave on organisations

SWICA study underlines the importance of addressing early warning signs. Surprisingly, 50% of cases involving individuals grappling with mental distress attempting to reintegrate after a period of illness end up quitting their jobs. This alarming trend underlines the urgency of promptly addressing burnout to prevent a significant loss of the most engaged and talented individuals within an organisation.

On the corporate front, burnout triggers a drop in productivity, even before the affected person takes leave. In some cases, the impacted employee may re-evaluate their career path, meaning that a new employee has to be found and trained. The cost of burnout for a company can be considerable, encompassing expenses related to employee replacement and training, costs associated with sick leave, and a drop in productivity. Burnout is therefore not only a personal challenge, but also a significant economic concern impacting both companies and society as a whole. In order to combat burnout comprehensively, preventative measures and effective remedies are essential.

Termination of contract and salary payment

Terminating employment contracts during burnout-related illnesses follows the same procedures as for other ailments. Special notice periods apply: 30 days in the first year, 90 days from the second to the fifth year, and an extended 180 days from the sixth year onwards.

Regulations for continued payment of salary in the event of burnout align with those for other illnesses. In the absence of deviating agreements or daily sickness benefits insurance, Art. 324a para. 1 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (OR) provides for continued payment of salary at 100% for a limited period. The prerequisite is that the employee has worked for more than three months before the burnout, whereby the duration in the first year is three weeks. Subsequent years apply rates derived from theory and legal practice, which vary from region to region.

With daily sickness benefit insurance in play, wage payment continues under different regulations. The insurance must be equivalent to situations without insurance coverage, including features like 80% continued payment for 720 days within a 900-day period, at least 50% of the premium paid by the employer, and a maximum waiting period of three days at the beginning of each illness period. Once the waiting period concludes, the insurance continues paying the agreed salary. If you’re unsure, it’s advisable to consult your legal protection insurance or seek guidance from the relevant authorities to understand specific applicabilities.

Practical strategies for employers

To effectively address the challenges of burnout and foster a healthy work environment, employers should implement practical strategies. Here are actionable steps they can take:

  • Proactive workload management: Implement tools or project management systems that distribute tasks evenly among team members and ensure that high-performing employees are not constantly burdened with excessive tasks.
  • Creating a supportive work environment: Introduce regular team-building activities and set up spaces for open discussion to encourage communication, emotional support and better work-life balance.
  • Toxicity reduction: Run workshops on workplace ethics, inclusion and respectful communication to directly address toxic behaviours. Establish clear policies against bullying and harassment and enforce them consistently.
  • Regular employee check-ins: Initiate routine one-on-one meetings between managers and employees to discuss workload, challenges and potential stressors. Create a safe space where employees can voice their concerns and seek help if needed.
  • Flexible working arrangements: Offer flexible working hours or the option to work remotely to accommodate individual preferences and personal situations. This flexibility can allow employees to organise their workload in a way that suits their well-being.

By actively implementing these measures, employers can not only address the immediate challenges of burnout, but also grow a resilient and thriving workforce in the long run.

A holistic approach to employee well-being

The prevailing notion that employee mental health, well-being, and burnout are personal concerns often leads companies to respond with individually tailored measures such as wellness programmes. However, global surveys and research by McKinsey show that while burnout is experienced individually, it primarily results from systemic imbalances within organisations — in particular, an imbalance between work demands and resources.

McKinsey argues that tackling high rates of burnout requires a systemic approach that includes eliminating toxic behaviours in the workplace and redesigning work for inclusion, sustainability and individual development. Research shows that improvements in other organisational factors, without addressing toxic behaviours, don’t significantly alleviate reported burnout symptoms. However, minimising toxic behaviours in conjunction with additional interventions can reduce the negative outcomes and improve the positive ones.

The Kyan Health perspective

A Kyan Health user survey reveals that only 18% report positive feelings related to work and career, with ‘tiredness’ being the most common negative emotion. Analysis of data from over 1,000 users indicates that 26% of employees don’t feel supported by their managers, while 44% feel overwhelmed by  their responsibilities. These figures emphasise the importance of addressing basic and social needs, including effective workload management and psychological safety. In summary, while wellness programmes are valuable, they should be part of a broader strategy that addresses the root causes of burnout at both managerial and employee levels.

Many employees overlook the subtle signs of burnout until it’s too late, resulting in prolonged sick leave and work incapacity. This is why equipping them with tools for self-awareness, self-care, and early intervention is paramount. Yet, tools alone will not suffice. Organisations need to passionately endorse these resources and cultivate an environment that motivates employees to proactively nurture their mental well-being. It’s not just about providing tools; it is about fostering a culture that champions active mental health care.

Kyan Health’s targeted approach to mitigating burnout and enhancing employee well-being

Kyan Health champions a comprehensive, evidence-based, and holistic well-being solution dedicated to enhancing employee well-being and preventing burnout. Our approach spans the entire well-being spectrum, offering personalised solutions to address challenges like sleeping problems, loneliness, conflict, and burnout. 

Collaborating with organisations, we delve into the root causes of turnover, burnout, and absenteeism, redesigning workplaces for psychological safety and leveraging data-driven well-being strategies. Individually, our approach integrates mental health assessments and evidence-based self-care programs, including courses and meditations, specifically designed to help individuals overcome burnout. With real-time access to psychotherapists and coaches through our “blended care” model, individuals receive immediate support.

At the organisational level, Kyan Health provides dashboards for leaders that offer real-time employee data while safeguarding individual privacy. We offer organisational assessments, science-based resources on the Kyan Enterprise, and workshops to reshape company culture. Our collaborative approach ensures a positive change in managing workplace well-being, resulting in a comprehensive solution that addresses root causes, promotes resilience, and maximises long-term productivity.

Kyan Health user testimonial

Discover the transformative impact of Kyan Health through a heartfelt testimonial from one of our users who shares their gratitude for the positive changes experienced in both work-related stress and personal challenges over the past year:

I am incredibly grateful for the Kyan app and the transformative impact it has had on my life over the past year. The app has become an indispensable tool for managing both work-related stress and personal challenges. The variety of courses available on the app is impressive. I decided to take the ‘Overcoming Burnout’ course to manage the heightened stress affecting my work and personal life. Not only has the course helped me to manage stress and gain confidence in my tasks, but it has also significantly reduced the anxiety and negative thoughts associated with my job. The conversations are friendly, sometimes funny and very engaging, making it an enjoyable way to prioritise mental well-being. The meditations have improved my sleep quality and the insightful articles on sleep have given me advice on how to improve my sleep patterns. 

I really appreciate the ability to connect with a psychologist through the app. These sessions have been nothing short of life-changing, providing advice and a fresh perspective on my challenges. The quick availability of my counsellor during urgent times has been a significant relief. The Kyan app, with its all-encompassing approach, has become a must-have for maintaining mental well-being, and I am truly grateful for my employer’s initiative to bring this incredible resource to our workplace.

Conclusion

As the spectre of burnout looms ever larger, a nuanced understanding of the definition, diagnosis, sickness absence and prevention strategies becomes imperative for both employees and employers. By proactively instigating systemic changes, organisations can significantly contribute to employee well-being and create a work environment thriving on health, resilience, and sustained productivity. So how can we create workplaces that prioritise employee well-being and organisational success? To find out how Kyan Health can effectively help you address and prevent burnout through holistic solutions, book a demo today or click here to explore our comprehensive offering.

Request a demo
Contact us
Request a demo
Dufourstrasse 38
CH-8702 Zollikon
Sign up for our mailing list:
© 2024 Kyan Health AG