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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Ashley

Do you feel rewarded at work?

One of the workplace factors that can lead to burnout is a decreased sense of reward. You might well think of your work reward as your financial compensation, but your sense of reward isn’t purely about how much you get paid. Importantly, it also includes other aspects of work, such as getting positive feedback, being supported to develop professionally, and being given opportunities, as well as your internal sense of reward and being able to engage in personally meaningful work.

When you feel that you are rewarded fairly for your work, or when you find your daily work rewarding in itself, your chances of burning out are significantly reduced. Conversely, if you often feel that you are not adequately rewarded for the work you do, you may be at risk of burnout.

Whilst pay isn’t the sole mechanism of feeling rewarded at work, it remains an important part of it, and never more so than for those groups that still experience barriers that systematically prevent access to fair and equitable pay. It’s deeply frustrating to see less qualified male counterparts being promoted ahead of you. It’s very upsetting to realise that the man who has just been promoted to the same role as you has started on a higher salary than yours. The gender pay gap means that women effectively work two months of every year for free as compared to their male counterparts (1). In England, women hospital doctors still earn on average 18.9% less than men based on a comparison of full time equivalent mean pay (2), and this gap exists even after being adjusted for age, seniority and other factors.

What this means is that across her lifetime, on average, a woman will earn £260,000 less than a man in the same occupation in the UK. This figure is much higher in other countries and in some particular sectors too.

The gender pay gap means that reduced financial reward is one of the multiple reasons that women in the workplace are at higher risk of burnout than men.

But, feeling adequately rewarded at work isn’t just limited to how much you earn. It can also take the form of appreciation from your managers or colleagues, and your company actively supporting you to develop professionally. Younger women in particular are embracing new ways of being rewarded by work, with Generation Z valuing salary less than every other generation, and instead looking for alternative ways they can be rewarded by their employment (3). Post pandemic there most definitely has been a shift in the rewards that people want from their work with less focus now on financial compensation alone.

Your rewards could be formal (eg. annual awards, your employer funding a course to help with professional development) or informal (eg. a quick email to give you some good feedback), can be from your boss or from your peers! Cumulatively, a mix of these things will build a culture of reward and will help prevent from the adverse effects of workplace stress.

For example, while our founder was working in a previous job she received an email from the VP of Research congratulating her on a paper and inviting her to talk about the paper with him. She found this so rewarding that she kept the email pinned in her inbox there after.

A sense of reward can also come from within! Doing meaningful work has a deep impact on burnout prevention. You need to spend just 20% of your time doing personally meaningful work in order to reduce your burnout risk by half (4). 20% is the sweet spot- and is very achievable!

Here are our top tips to feeling more rewarded at work, and taking empowered steps to managing your stress and preventing burnout!

1. If your financial reward is not what you would like it to be, then going for a promotion or asking for a pay rise means you need to believe in your worth first. If this is something you find tricky then you can use the Cheerlead function in BobbyChat to help you learn positive self-talk and give yourself a little confidence boost! We’re also considering building a role playing feature to help you practice these kinds of conversations. If this is something you would be interested in please comment below or drop us an email and!

2. If your workplace doesn’t reward you in ways other than your pay packet, then it would be very worthwhile to reflect on what you would like to see done differently. You can use the Reflect tool in BobbyChat to help you work this out in a quick and easy way (and remember that Bobby is always on your side!). Once you have an idea about what it is that you need, the next step is to ask for it. Anything that you ask for will need to be weighed up against the requirements and budgetary constraints of your employer, but it’s great to have a starting point for negotiations.

3. Identify what personally meaningful work means to you and then reflect on the changes you can make so that you are able to do more of this type of work. If you’re not sure what personally meaningful work is for yourself, then think about the work that really puts fire in your belly and that you find really enjoyable or satisfying! It might be specific tasks that you do, using a particular skill, or it might be in your interactions with others. Once you’ve identified this the next step is to think about how you can spend 20% of your time at work doing this, in order to reduce your burnout risk by 50%!


ONS Report: Gender Pay Gap in the UK, 2022

NHS Gender Pay Gap report, 2021


Shanafelt et al (2009), JAMA

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