Workplace burnout has reached epidemic levels

Ashraf Engineer

June 1, 2024


Hello and welcome to All Indians Matter. I am Ashraf Engineer.

A recent survey has revealed that India tops the world in workplace burnout. According to the McKinsey Health Institute’s 2023 survey, “India respondents reported the highest rates of burnout symptoms at 59%.” The global average was 20%. It seems to be a contagion affecting all ages and companies in India. Even younger workers, aged 18 to 24, and employees of smaller companies reported high burnout rates. Indian employees also reported the highest level of workplace exhaustion at 62%, followed by Japan  at 61%.


The survey, which had 30,000 employees in 30 countries as respondents, said also that employees of larger companies, those with more than 250 staff, did better on holistic health than those in smaller firms. As expected, employees with positive work experiences reported better holistic health and performed better.

So, what is burnout and how does it affect you physically and mentally? It is a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, resulting in decreased motivation, sub-par output and negativity towards most things.

Especially younger employees in urban areas, who tend to be from the middle class, face immense pressure to deliver and often in trying work environments. There could be tough managers, not enough reward or lack of tools to do their job. Long commutes, irregular meal times and the lack of exercise also take a toll, and can lead to even substance abuse.

Broadly speaking, you can classify the causes as:

  1. Workload and work culture: Too much to do and unrelenting pressure. The Indian work culture often romanticises long working hours and overwork.
  2. Lack of control: Employees feel they have little control over their work or decision-making.
  3. Insufficient support: Not enough support from managers or colleagues.
  4. Unrealistic expectations: Impossible expectations can set employees up for failure and increased stress.
  5. Lack of work-life balance: Not enough time for the family or interests.
  6. Competitiveness: The job market is very competitive, which means employees are always uncertain and under pressure to retain their jobs. This too can lead to overwork and emotional challenges.
  7. Urban life: Long, difficult commutes leave little time for recreation and personal pursuits.
  8. Stigma around mental health: Those suffering from mental health issues are ridiculed or looked down upon, which makes it tougher for employees to seek help.

So, what is the impact of burnout on your body?

Initially, you’d feel symptoms like fatigue, poor sleep and decreasing appetite. Then come the emotional symptoms, ranging from rising anxiety to self-doubt, loss of motivation, a sense of isolation and dissatisfaction. Behaviourally, it could manifest itself in the form of withdrawal, unable to motivate yourself to work or an increasing dependence on alcohol. All of this could, in turn lead to ailments such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, headaches, sexual dysfunction and infertility.

In such a situation, the importance of physical and mental wellness as well as nutrition cannot be stressed enough.

If you are experiencing burnout, make sure you get regular exercise, adequate sleep and a balanced diet. Physical exercise releases endorphins that can lower stress levels while the right diet fuels the body as well as the mind.

Think hard about emotional wellness. Practice mindfulness and take up something that balances you, such as yoga or meditation. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Your emotional resilience will be the key in stressful situations.

Proper nutrition is the key to well-being – it can improve cognitive function, boost energy levels and stabilise your mood.

Workplace burnout has reached epidemic proportions. While it is essential to understand the causes, prioritising mental and physical health is critical too. And it’s not just the individual’s responsibility but also that of the organisation they are part of. Everybody stands to gain from healthier, more productive work environments.

Thank you all for listening. Please visit for more columns and audio podcasts. You can follow me on Twitter at @AshrafEngineer and @AllIndiansCount. Search for the All Indians Matter page on Facebook. On Instagram, the handle is @AllIndiansMatter. Email me at Catch you again soon.