How To Measure Employee Burnout Using Pictures

Topic(s): burnout, turnover, wellness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Matches Measure: A Visual Scale of Burnout
Authors: C.P. Muir (Zapata), C. Calderwood, O.D. Boncoeur
Reviewed by: Katherine Facteau

Employee burnout is a pervasive phenomenon that affects important outcomes such as job attitudes, absenteeism, and both physical and mental health. Traditionally, burnout has been measured with relatively lengthy, fatiguing measures. This is troubling given that people experiencing burnout are often already exhausted and thus may not respond accurately. Researchers (Muir et al., 2022) set out to create a quick and easy-to-understand measure of burnout. They created a novel, pictorial measure of burnout that uses images of matchsticks that range from looking new and fresh to a burnt pile of ash.


In all, the researchers’ best performing scale variation was one that simply showed 8 match images asking to what extent people feel burned out.

The researchers aimed to provide a wide range of evidence demonstrating that their new scale properly gauges burnout. Across multiple studies, the researchers found that the matches measure was correlated with existing measures of burnout, which demonstrates an important concept called convergent validity. The new measure also showed similar relationships with key outcomes such as job satisfaction, health complaints, and engagement.

The researchers also found that the matches measure contributes above and beyond other burnout measures when it comes to predicting important outcomes including engagement, absenteeism, and turnover intentions.


Burnout is of key interest to organizations these days, but measurement has traditionally been challenging. The new matches measure provides a valid way to measure burnout for future research and organizational efforts. As such, the primary practical implication is that organizations should consider using the matches measure, which is available online. This can ultimately help organizations gauge burnout among their employees and help ensure that it does not lead to detrimental work outcomes.


Muir (Zapata), C. P., Calderwood, C., & Boncoeur, O. D. (2023). Matches measure: A visual scale of job burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology, 108(6), 977–1000.

Image credit: istockphoto/kunertus