Policy brief

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 and the social environment at work.

Publishing date
05 May 2022

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.



Recommended citation

Nurski, L. and M. Hoffmann (2022) ‘Beating burnout: identifying bad jobs and improving job quality', Policy Contribution 07/2022, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Mia Hoffmann

    Mia worked at Bruegel as a Research Analyst until August 2022. She studied International Economics (BSc) at University of Tuebingen, including one semester at the Università di Torino, and holds a Master’s degree in Economics from Lund University.

    Before joining Bruegel Mia worked in the international development sector. As a Bluebook Trainee she worked at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development and previously interned at the German development bank DEG, working on credit analysis and restructuring.

    Her previous research focused on the impact of migration on economic growth and analyzed the effects of childcare policy on household bargaining. Her current research interests involve issues related to trade, labor markets and inequality.

    Mia is a German native speaker, is fluent in English and has good working knowledge in French and Italian.

  • Laura Nurski

    Laura Nurski was a non-resident fellow at Bruegel until 2024. She is a Research Expert at the Centre of Expertise for Labour Market Monitoring at the Faculty of Business and Economics of KU Leuven. She leads the development of an integrated labour market prediction model that identifies future skill needs in the Flemish labour market.

    While residing at Bruegel in the past, she led the Future of Work and Inclusive Growth project which analyses the impact of technology on the nature, quantity and quality of work, welfare systems and inclusive growth.

    Before joining Bruegel, she investigated the impact of job design and organisation design on wellbeing and productivity at work. This inherently multidisciplinary domain has left her with a broad social science background, encompassing psychology, sociology and economics. As a former data scientist in the financial and retail sector, Laura is passionate about data and technology. She is also a skilled statistical programmer, survey developer and open-source aficionado.

    Laura holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Organization, a M.Sc. in Economics and a M.A. in Business Engineering from KU Leuven.

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