An internal study viewed by AFP on Thursday reveals a steady increase in the number of European Central Bank (ECB) staff experiencing burnout, now affecting nearly four out of ten employees.

The study, commissioned by ECB staff representatives and carried out by Psy@work consultancy, shows that the percentage of ECB employees reporting burnout rose from 29.7% in 2016 to 33.2% in 2021, and further to 38.9% in 2024. Additionally, the research found that 146 employees, or 9.1% of respondents, had suicidal thoughts, an increase from 6% three years prior.

The data was collected from responses of 1,600 out of the bank's nearly 5,100 employees in May. The study highlighted that issues within the ECB, such as poor or absent career development plans and a lack of opportunities, contribute to a loss of motivation and an increase in cynicism.

The ECB's rate of burnout surpasses that of similar studies, with Psy@work noting a burnout rate between 17 and 23% in retail companies. Carlos Bowles, deputy head of the IPSO trade union at the ECB, emphasized the need for ECB President Christine Lagarde and the executive board to address the underlying causes of mental harm among staff, particularly concerns about favoritism in recruitment and workload.

Bowles added that burnout-induced poor judgment and mistakes are particularly concerning given the critical policy decisions expected from the ECB. An ECB spokeswoman acknowledged the bank's commitment to staff health and wellbeing, stating that measures have been implemented to address previously identified issues, with plans for further actions to tackle workload and career opportunities.