How do you address burnout in the workplace?


Employees who are overworked or are in a dysfunctional workplace can often suffer burnout. Burnout can significantly affect an employee’s performance and attitude in the workplace, and if not addressed, often leads to the employee leaving the company. The recent Perry v The Warehouse Group Limited [2023] case in the ERA serves as a example of how not to respond to a situation of burnout in the workplace. 


Mr Perry was employed by the Noel Leeming Group in September 2019 for an education specialist role based in Waikato. Unfortunately, his employment was fraught with aggravating factors that caused him much stress and mental fatigue. 

Firstly, Mr Perry’s budgets were incorrect for his first three months of employment and again in early 2021. This was the beginning of Mr Perry’s mental stress and fatigue. In 2020, a restructuring of The Warehouse Group, the holding company of Noel Leeming occurred, and Mr Perry’s role was not affected. However, Mr Perry asserts that the restructuring meant that he lost colleagues integral to him meeting his sales targets and was left to do tasks previously undertaken by others. Mr Perry also felt afflicted by the changes that were made to the branding of team uniforms, business cards, and uniforms, from Noel Leeming to The Warehouse Group. He asserts that he was not consulted at any time during this process and was unhappy with the changes being made.  

The start of his burnout 

This course of events ultimately led to Mr Perry requesting a meeting with a senior in July 2021, where he stated that he was “burnt out” and was “broken by the workload.” During this, he had tears in his eyes and banged his fists on the table. Following this meeting, Mr Perry was offered numerous support options, including weekly one-on-one meetings, counselling sessions, and additional leave. 

An email was sent to Mr Perry on September 24, 2021, with the company acknowledging he was facing burnout and would offer continued support to him. Mr Perry fired back, stating that he wasn’t “facing burnout” but was “completely burned out.” Shortly after, in October, Mr Perry handed in his resignation. 


The ERA found that The Warehouse Group breached a duty it owed to Mr Perry and caused humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to his feelings. It was held that a fair and reasonable employer would have taken more formal and proactive steps to understand Mr Perry’s mental health condition at the time, which was dire at the time of the one-on-one meeting in July 2021. Even though there were a few steps to mitigate Mr Perry’s condition, for an employer of The Warehouse Group’s size, it was not enough. Mr Perry was eligible to receive $25,000 in compensation due to The Warehouse Group’s missteps in response to him. 

Key Takeaways: 

Burnout is a condition that employees all around New Zealand can be affected by. It is important for organisations to first ensure that the company culture and how the company is managed are up to scratch. This ensures employees can perform at their best. Secondly, companies must ensure to respond to situations of burnout in an appropriate and genuine manner and aid their employees through it the best they can. This may require varied methods for different employees. 

If you are an employee experiencing burnout and are concerned about how your workplace is responding, or if you are an employer seeking advice on how to respond to an employee facing burnout, please get in touch with the Watermark Employment Law team. We are happy to assist you.