June 20

7 Conclusions from the World’s Largest Teacher Burnout Survey

To date 12,728 teachers have completed my Teacher Burnout Assessment Tool .. I know of no larger collection of teacher burnout statistics.

I created this in consultation with my doctor and several other research sources, for teachers worried about the impact of the job on their health.  It uses burnouts' biggest early warning signs to diagnose how close a teacher is to burning out.  

I want to share the findings of this research - as it has important implications for individual teachers and school management ..

Q1. How Many Hours do you Work on Average Each Week?

How Many Hours do you Work on Average Each Week?

Over 50% of teachers taking the survey, work what would be classified by many as 'unsustainable' working hours. Very few respondents (12%) reported working hours anything close to a 'normal' working week.

Do educational leaders realise that they require many teachers to work hours which affect significantly their ability to be parents themselves? .. and do teachers feel fairly compensated for these hours of work?

Conclusion 1: Teachers just beginning in the profession will be surprised at the level of commitment which the job requires. 

Those with children or in mid-life, are unlikely to make the sacrifices required by many schools, indefinitely. 

Workload is a big reason why many teachers leave the profession each year, and what is not talked about nearly often enough is the impact this has on recruitment too.

Q2. How do you sleep on the average day?

How do your sleep on the average day?

43% of teachers taking the survey, sleep less than 6 hours a night. How much of their difficulty sleeping is due to their job, we don't know .. but many teachers complain of problems with sleep due to the stress of working in school. 

Even the 31% of people catching up at the weekend, are effectively borrowing sleep from their own time to substitute for their working week.

Conclusion 2: It is almost a badge of honour for some teachers who boast of the tiny amounts of sleep they have - as if doing so shows their commitment or strength. This is dangerous behaviour, as regularly getting less than 7 hours sleep a night is linked to numerous health problems including a lower life expectancy.

Teachers' wellbeing isn't a priority for many schools, and teaching staff need to be proactive in monitoring sleep and other health indicators themselves.

Q3. What kind of social life do you have?

What kind of social life do you have?

Well over half of teachers surveyed, responded that they didn't have time for their own life because of the demands of their job.

Anyone who teaches will tell you the paperwork, marking, planning and assessment involved, takes significantly longer than the delivery of lessons. 

Unrealistic increases in workload have crept up on the profession over recent decades.  It is ironic that in a profession where many teachers are caring 'substitute parents' - that many complain of not having time for their own families. 

Conclusion 3: The majority of schools fail to prioritise work-life balance for their teaching staff - and have unrealistic expectations of them instead.

School employers who want to retain the positive relationships which long serving staff have with their student population, would do well to note this result.  

Teachers looking for employment need to take a measure of management attitude to work-life balance at interview - so they can make an informed judgement about the type of school they might be just about to join.

Q4. What is your mood on the average day?

What is your mood on the average day?

This question is important because general irritability is an early warning sign that a person is having difficulty coping with stress.

Happily, a large percentage (32%) of teachers taking the survey are happy and don't feel stressed in their working lives. This is positive proof that schools do exist where staff have a healthy balance between hard work and enjoyment in the job.

68% of teachers aren't in jobs where this is possible however - leading to the conclusion that stress at work is a real problem for many teachers.

Conclusion 4: Stress at work is a very real problem for many teachers. This is made significantly worse in many schools by a blame culture, which discourages teaching staff from sharing how they feel.

These two factors combine in many schools to make burnout much more likely to occur in a teaching job than in many others.

Q5. How tired do you feel most days?

How tired do you feel most days?

When you analyse the results of this question alongside the working hours many teachers have to commit to the job, this is worrying.

58% of teachers say they are constantly tired and are waiting for the next holiday to catch up.

While this result is subjective, and may be the case in many professions - the school holidays exist for a reason. Many teachers rely on them to cope with the all consuming nature of the job.

Conclusion 5: Being constantly tired can have serious consequences for teaching staff. School management and the politicians leading education policy, need to decide what they want most .. a continuous improvement in headline results and ever more control over it's delivery - or experienced teachers who want to stay in the profession.

The difficult choice many teachers make to step out of the classroom, is often a direct a result of how much the job demands of them.

Q6. How clearly can you think when you are at work?

How clearly can you think when you are at work?

This is an important question because an inability to concentrate is an early warning sign of burnout. The 15% of teachers that struggle to concentrate all the time (when they are tired or not), should be most worried about this. 

Burnout is characterised by a reduction in your ability to be effective in your job. Monitoring how much of this is due to tiredness, is important to prevent burnout occurring. 

Q7. What kind of conversations do you have with co-workers?

What kind of conversations do you have with co-workers?

Dealing positively with workplace stress, is important for teachers to avoid burning out. Often this means sharing the burden with others in school.

However, many teachers say their conversations with senior leaders about the problems they face, are met with indifference - or much worse, with blame. 

Conclusion 6: The current focus on 'accountability' in many schools, has resulted in a blame culture which discourages teachers from sharing problems positively.

Many school leaders need to balance the requirements they make of teachers - with additional understanding and support of staff who work in extremely challenging conditions. 

Failing to do so will drive existing teachers out of their schools, and have a huge impact on the students they teach.

Q8. Do you suffer from any of the following physical symptoms?

Do you suffer from any of the following physical symptoms?

Over 75% of teachers who responded to the survey complained of the health problems above, which are often associated with a failure to deal with stress. 

This is a worrying sign that the pressure and workload of many teaching jobs, is having a very real physical impact on many teachers. 

Conclusion 7: There are not many professions which make employees feel this physically unwell in the normal course of their duties. School leaders who relentlessly focus on 'improvement' and external inspections, risk their employees health as a result.

Many senior leaders in education appear not to care how unapproachable their management style makes them. This has a direct impact on the physical health of teachers working for them.

Diagnosis: Are You Burning Out?

Teacher Burnout Statistics 2018

This survey was completed by those interested in doing so - and as such the results might not accurately reflect opinions of the overall teaching population.  

However 12,728 responses is a significant number - and at the very least this highlights trends in education which deserve investigation by those in charge.

65% of teachers responding identified signs they were burning out in their jobs. 85% were diagnosed as working 'unsustainably' .. with significantly increased risks to their health as a result.

At what point does the relentless drive to 'improve' outcomes, take account of the impact that this is having on the human-beings who teach in many schools?

This neglect of teachers health and wellbeing reflects very badly indeed on what is supposed to be a 'caring profession'.

If you want to take the Teacher Burnout Assessment yourself click here:

Whatever your experience of working in schools - please take a proactive approach to looking after your own health.

A 'broken' teacher is no good to anyone - and the impact which burnout can have on other parts of your life can be significant.

For teachers who realise they need to move career, this post might help - 373 Alternative Job Ideas For Teachers Tired of Their Classroom Job

What is your experience of the pressures of life in the classroom?

Please add your comment below ..

If this resonates with you, please share it ...

About the author 

James Anthony

After teaching for 20 years in the UK, I now help Schools, Universities, and Entrepreneurs to create and deliver transformational online learning.
I also work with educators across the world helping them use their skills in new ways - to live happier healthier lives.


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    1. Thank you Patrice, education around the world is putting teachers (and students) under pressure – and in many cases is seriously damaging their mental health.

      Children leave school thinking they can’t learn because of the narrow academic targets they are being asked to hit – and teachers leave the profession because they can’t find a way to balance work and home lives.

      I have to ask what kind of society we are trying to create under the current system – where are all our artists, musicians, creative professionals and entrepreneurs going to come from without a flexible curriculum that teaches creative thinking skills?

      And how will children cope positively with learning in life, when they are told repeatedly they haven’t achieved the narrow academic targets decided on their behalf?

      Thank you for your own work in this area .. it really matters.

  1. Thank you for sharing these findings. I work with teachers who are experiencing burnout and are ready to make a career change. I have been doing that for the past six years. Teacher burnout is a genuine issue and is contributing to the rising teacher shortage around the country. I work with young teachers who have been teaching for less than five years as well as more veteran teachers who can’t see themselves teaching for the next 15 to 20 years. Self-care and stress management strategies are much needed, but few districts are providing the kind of support in these areas that their teachers need.

    I offer a podcast called “Teachers in Transition,” and this week, I am going to be talking about your survey. I will also be providing a link to the article and the survey. If you would ever like to be a guest on my podcast, let me know! I looked for a way to contact you more directly but couldn’t seem to find a way other than here.

    Thanks for all you are doing for our teacher colleagues who need this kind of support and guidance.

    1. Hi Kitty. Burnout is a real issue for teachers – and many aren’t aware of how employable they are in other professions.

      It is a noble pursuit to help professionals who have spent their careers helping others. I will contact you, as I would love to be a guest on your podcast.

  2. James,
    I would like to use this survey as a data collection source for my dissertation on burn out in virtual teachers. Will you tell me if I have your permission to do so?

      1. Hi James
        I really enjoyed this article, because burnout causes, warning signs and symptoms are still very vague for many educators and even the headmasters. I am right now on a time off for burn out and I also will be doing a presentation on the importance of mental health education and was wondering if I could use some of your pie charts as well to use in my presentation. Thanks for your feedback. Kind regards, Loren

  3. Wondering if you’ve considered comparing things like grade level (e.g. primary vs. secondary) or if there is a significant difference between general education teachers and special education teachers.

    1. That would be interesting Colleen .. when designing the tool I had to balance getting more data from teachers with the fact that the more questions you ask – the lower the response rates are. I will consider adding a question or two for a new version of this in early 2020, as I agree the country the teacher lives in and the grade level they teach would both allow interesting comparisons to be made.

  4. Conclusion 3 and the discussion of how unrealistic expectations in workload have crept up on our profession really hit home with me. Especially now that our district has moved to all virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I literally find myself working from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night. Since I have been teaching since 1985 I do not have all the technology skills that my younger colleagues possess. This means I am having to teach myself how to be a ‘virtual’ teacher learning platforms such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Screencastify, Nearpod, Remind, and a host of other platforms. Our district has not provided anything more than links to videos to watch. It’s extremely stressful and I’m not sure I can continue teaching in this mode.

    1. I am sorry that you are having this experience too .. I hope the research findings have helped you to realise you are not alone.

      I know what you mean about tech skills too – it’s different when you aren’t bought up with these things. Home computers weren’t taught when I was at school either.

      1. I am a teacher assistant, and our job is demanding to. We have to be the lead teacher while the teacher is out. Sometimes having to create our own lesson plans when teachers do not leave work for the students to do. We have to teach the class while being observe on a daily basis. In Montessori we work hard. We constantly work from the time we get to school until time to go home with no breaks. With a lot of meeting in between trying to improve students' scores.

  5. This article helped me realize how much of teacher burnout I was experiencing and I did not even realize how close I was on being burned out. I have shared this with many of my colleagues and it opened their eyes as well. I plan on making some changes to my lifestyle so I may continue to enjoy teaching and my personal life.

  6. James- I am more than appreciative of this data and the insights you have provided. I work with new teachers in my district and have spent the past 6 years trying to get upper level administration to not only hear this information but to also understand the importance of needing to take care of our teachers. Our teachers are well versed in trauma informed care and many "programs" are expected to be a part of daily teaching to develop student's social emotional learning which is great with one exception, I firmly believe the priority is to care for our teachers. This year has been especially difficult and the stess, workload, and expectations are completely unrealistic. We average 200-300 new hires each year (we are the second largest district in my state) and I find my role with new teachers essential to their survival. Many have needed psychiatric help and find they were ill prepared for the reality of educating students.
    May I have permission to share this survey with our new teachers?

    Thank you.

    1. Of course – please use the data and survey link if you think they will help the work you do.

      What has become obvious to me and many of the teachers I am connected to – is that staff wellbeing is no longer a priority for many school employers. Teachers are being treated as disposable – and it is now OUR responsibility to look after ourselves and each other.

  7. I have found that a teacher must find other activities to balance out the stress he/she encounters in the public education school system. I enjoy my class and the interaction among my students, however, a teacher must find a way to release the stress in another fashion.

  8. I find that the female principals try to control every little thing that goes on with even who they select to what committee. This creates a hesitancy for people to speak their opinion and look to see what everyone else is doing and just copy.
    In having a voice, teachers are afraid for fear of humiliation, so they go along with what the louder speaking people say, even though they might have more experience. Many young teachers tend to group together and play the blame game to cover themselves. I wish leaders would look at how people communicate differently based on male/female, extrovert/introvert, cultural and spiritual backgrounds with personality types.

  9. After teaching full time for 30 years, traveling between multiple buildings, I have taken a part-time position with my district. I still teach the same subject. I only have one building/classroom and I am done at noon. This has greatly reduce my stress and burnout.

  10. Thank you so much for the article. It is so important for teachers to hear that there are those out there that recognize how teachers feel and what they may be experiencing as a result of their jobs. I feel validated in my thinking and it feels good!

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