According to a workplace survey, more than 52% of employees are feeling burned out. If you are a working professional, it’s important for you to identify signs of burnout and tackle work-related stress before it starts to affect your health and well-being. In this article, we discuss:
What burnout is and how it is different from stress
Common reasons why you experience burnout in the workplace
Indications that you might be dealing with burnout
Steps you can take to prevent and manage workplace burnout
Burnout is a medical condition that stems from difficulty managing continual workplace stress. If left unchecked, burnout leads to mental, physical, and emotional impacts that can intensify and cause severe stress. While most of us experience some amount of stress in the workplace, burnout is the culmination of various stressors over a period of time.
What Is Burnout?
Employee burnout is a response to prolonged, chronic stress in the workplace. It is most commonly characterized by exhaustion, lack of interest in one’s job, and inefficacy. Individuals may experience different types of burnout as various risk factors contribute to this state.
For example, it may be the case that you can no longer mentally or physically keep up with the demands of a project you are working on. The heavy workload is piling up, and you are at the point where you have lost all motivation and feel helpless. This then affects your confidence and mental health in other activities and home life.
Possible Causes of Job Burnout
Even as many countries adopt strict labor laws that limit the number of working hours per week and mandate annual leave days, the U.S. remains largely obstinate on the opposite end of the spectrum. While some say that this is one of the leading causes behind the current great resignation affecting our country, for the ones who choose to tough it out, this is likely to cause burnout.
Burnout is usually the result of a combination of stressors, as well as personality traits and lifestyle outside of work. This puts some people at a higher risk of burnout than others.
A few of the many causes of burnout include:
You find it difficult to set work-life boundaries. For example, there may be an expectation, or you may feel the need to be available at all times, even outside of regular office hours.
The work does not align with your personal goals or beliefs. This makes it hard for you to find the motivation to do your work diligently.
There is a lack of support and community at your workplace. You may have also experienced instances of unfair treatment or discrimination at your workplace.
There is little support regarding the resources you need to do your job efficiently.
You aren’t given enough breaks. As a result of this, you do not feel recharged. When this continues over an extended period, it may lead to physical and mental exhaustion.
The nature of the profession places demands on you that drain your energy. For example, healthcare professionals often work long hours and must be emotionally resilient at all times.
You are unsure of the expectations that your supervisor has of you.
There is a work-life imbalance. You may be stuck in a cycle and feel as though you cannot step away from work to spend time with loved ones.
The rewards you receive do not justify the work you are currently doing.
Remote work has restricted physical interactions and removed boundaries from the workplace. You are not alone if you feel more burned out working from home. Many people find it difficult to set clear boundaries and take breaks remotely. You may also feel bouts of loneliness because it is hard to connect with your teammates over online meetings.
6 Common Signs and Symptoms of Burnout at Work
When you are working continually, it is often difficult to identify you are experiencing burnout syndrome. It is crucial, however, to check in with yourself regularly and be on the lookout for these six warning signs if you start experiencing considerable job stress.
Alienation from Work-Related Activities
You develop an increasingly negative and disillusioned perspective toward the work being done. The job is stressful, and you are no longer committed or motivated beyond a point. Sometimes this may manifest as anger or annoyance at the workplace. Even though you might feel emotionally distant in the sense of being disinterested, the job continues to hold a lot of importance. If that was not the case, you might not experience as much stress.
Stress has the power to cause great physical damage and sap your energy, especially if experienced over a long period. You may notice your stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, rise to an unhealthy level. You may also notice you have a weaker immune system, making you more vulnerable to illnesses.
Some other common physical symptoms include:
Insomnia or oversleeping
Loss of appetitec
In addition to impacting your physical health, burnouts also make you emotionally exhausted.
Emotional exhaustion is characterized by:
Hopelessness about your job
Irritability in interacting or dealing with colleagues and clients
Pessimism and feelings of failure, which may stem from setting unrealistic standards and harboring a perfectionist disposition
Feeling emotionally drained
Lack of motivation and interest in your work
For three out of five workers, work-related stress has resulted in poor performance. The physical and emotional impacts of such stress might lead to:
Making more mistakes
Poor time management
Reduced working efficiency
Lack of energy
Inability to meet deadlines
Burnout is pervasive to the extent it can have significant psychological effects. Some common psychological symptoms include:
Experiencing some of these symptoms consistently over time can cause individuals to use coping strategies like alcohol or substance abuse, which in turn can cause significant damage to your mental health.
If the mental and physical exhaustion reaches extreme levels, it is common to see burnt-out employees not showing up to work as often or not being fully present when they do.
Absenteeism can include a range of behaviors, from calling in sick frequently to taking long breaks or arriving late to work. You may not be as committed anymore and do only the bare minimum. It may also manifest as not responding to or delaying professional communications.
What Can You Do to Prevent Burnout at Work?
If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, you need to look after yourself before the consequences of burnout worsen. Here are a few ways to manage your stress and prevent burnout.
Work With Purpose
When your work aligns with your values and goals, you are likely to be more interested in your work. You should ask yourself what value your work contributes to your personal life. These questions may be a good starting point:
“Am I doing work that is meaningful to me? Is it worthwhile?”
“Am I getting opportunities to learn and apply my knowledge to my work?”
“Does this job fit my long-term career path?”
“Am I satisfied with the rewards I get in return, monetary or otherwise?”
“Am I able to set boundaries and give time to other things that are important to me?”
“Do I have opportunities to rest, and do I look forward to returning to my work?”
“If creative or intellectual freedom is important to me, is it something I regularly have the chance to exercise?”
“Do I receive support from my colleagues and manager, and do I willingly support them?”
Perform a Job Analysis
Study your job to take stock of the tasks and responsibilities you are currently doing and those expected of you. This will help you set boundaries with your supervisor and colleagues and let you request resources you may need to perform your job better.
An important part of doing your job well is knowing what tasks you can delegate and to whom. Delegating effectively forces you to give up control so you can focus on directing your efforts toward work that necessitates your expertise. Cut any tasks or meetings that do not contribute something meaningful to your workflow. Steer clear of overcommitting as it can cause unnecessary stress and force you to divide (and ultimately dilute) your attention across multiple important responsibilities.
Do not underestimate the benefits of regular exercise. It reduces cortisol levels, positively influencing your stress levels. If you are unsure which exercises you enjoy most, try out some new classes or activities.
While you may find it difficult to take out time for exercise, any form of movement helps.
Exercise prevents burnout because it:
Increases mental stamina
Elevates your mood
At the end of the workday, it may not be possible to get rid of all stressors. The best-case scenario is to learn to manage your reactions to them and prioritize self-care.
In addition to exercise, here are a few ways of managing stress:
Relaxation strategies such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation force you to slow down.
Ensure your basic physical needs like nutrition and sleep are adequately met. You should plan a balanced diet and healthy sleep habits.
Reflect on your thoughts. Question negative thoughts and try to keep perfectionism in check by maintaining realistic and motivating standards for yourself.
Prioritize a strong work-life balance and seek support from your friends, family members, and mental health professionals.
Make time for hobbies or activities that you enjoy.
Your job and the work environment undeniably affect your physical and mental well-being. If you are currently experiencing or recovering from burnout and are looking to find a new job that aligns with your values, Joblist is here to help! Start your job search by taking our quiz today.