Beating burnout: identifying bad jobs and improving job quality
To improve wellbeing at work, job quality policy should pay more attention to imbalances in job content – like high workloads and low autonomy – and not just working conditions. Outcomes of low-quality jobs, such as burnout, need to be monitored at the European level.
The authors are grateful to Bruegel colleagues and members of the Future of Work Excellence Network for valuable feedback, especially Milena Nikolova, Francis Green and Diane Mulcahy, as well as Seth Maenen.
This policy contribution was produced within the project “Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe“, with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.
While European-wide information on burnout is scarce, national statistics show that stress-related absenteeism is on the rise, generating significant costs for firms and welfare states, while reducing worker wellbeing. Although manifested at the individual level, burnout is an occupational phenomenon, predicted most clearly by imbalances in job content (high workloads and low autonomy) and the social environment at work – two under-explored aspects of job quality.
While the economy and society as a whole would benefit from a healthier workforce, market failures drive job quality below an optimal level, necessitating attention from policymakers. Measuring and intervening in job content is not straightforward, however, and has not been a main policy domain in Europe. Policy frameworks and interventions therefore tend to focus on other areas of job quality, such as the physical and contractual working conditions.
To manage the burnout epidemic and mitigate the impact of the changing nature of work, job-quality policy needs to focus on the job-content aspects as well. Wellbeing outcomes of low job quality, such as burnout, need to be monitored at European level and can serve to evaluate the effectiveness of policy interventions in job quality.
Nurski, L. and M. Hoffmann (2022) ‘Beating burnout: identifying bad jobs and improving job quality’, Policy Contribution 07/2022, Bruegel