#IWD2022: Women much more likely than men to call in sick due to feeling burnt out

by | Mar 7, 2022

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More than 10 million workers in the UK have called in sick as a result of feeling burnt out, according to new findings from MetLife UK. As a result, burnout could be costing UK businesses more than £700m a year as more than two in five (44%) admit to calling in sick due to feeling exhausted, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed and unmotivated.

For employers, these figures indicate that more than 80 million hours are being lost as a result of burnout alone. Having to make arrangements to cover staff calling in sick can cause additional pressure on employees that are having to pick up colleagues workloads in their absence. This can increase the risk of these employees also experiencing feelings of stress and exhaustion, leaving them vulnerable to needing extended time off from work. Workers that call in sick did admit to feeling guilty about doing so with 32% of workers worrying about their colleagues having to pick up extra work on their behalf, simply adding to their feeling of overwhelm.

Women were much more likely than men to call in sick to work due to feeling burnt out, more than half (54%) of women admitting to struggling with burnout, compared to just over a third (35%) of men. A further third (34%) of Brits admitted that they have, or would, call in sick because they felt they needed to take a break from work, indicating potentially gruelling workloads.


In the long term burnout can cause employees to experience mental health issues such as feeling helpless, feelings of self-doubt or a negative outlook. Burnout can also transpire into physical symptoms such as issues sleeping, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and heart palpitations.

Amy Tomlinson, Head of HR at MetLife UK comments: “Stress, declining productivity and a lack of engagement are all common signs of employee burnout; a growing concern for businesses today. After a challenging two years, our mental health and wellbeing has naturally taken a knock as a result. With many of us continuing to work from home, at least part time, it can be harder to spot when colleagues may be struggling most or don’t feel there is an opportunity to speak up.

“Our research shows that employers are having to call in sick in order to take a break and recover from burnout, a worrying sign that could lead to greater issues such as absenteeism. Employers have a social responsibility to their employees to identify and manage the main causes of stress at work and put checks in place to ensure that it doesn’t start to impact their mental and physical health.


“Repeatedly taking time off due to stress or burnout can cost businesses significant losses in both time and money, so having holistic wellbeing policies in place alongside manageable workloads is critical as the two are inextricably linked. Introducing policies that prevent stress from the outset and providing proper processes to manage stressful situations can all help to avoid greater issues occurring in the long term. Continuing to highlight all avenues of support available to staff, including any benefits, is critical to creating a strong support framework.”

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