Workplace burnout is an unfortunate reality affecting many individuals within our workforce today. This condition characterized by feelings of physical exhaustion, emotional detachment from work responsibilities coupled with low productivity can have severe negative effects on employee morale along with organizational performance. According to recent research from Slacks Future Forum almost half (43%) of office workers in the United States feel burned out at their jobs while Gallup data reveals one-third experiencing this issue frequently.
Workplace stress may arise when there’s an imbalance between job demands versus resources available or support offered by management teams. A lack of control over working conditions or insufficient recognition for employees efforts could also contribute significantly in some cases. It appears that younger individuals such as millennials are particularly vulnerable to experiencing burnout in their current roles. As research findings suggest, up to 84% of this cohort report feeling burnt out at work. It is therefore imperative for organizations to take the necessary steps towards creating a healthy and productive work environment and effectively managing the issue of workplace burnout.
Signs of Workplace Burnout
As a leader, you must recognize the signs of Burnout and educate yourself on the topic. Some common signs of workplace burnout may include:
- Loss of motivation and enthusiasm for work
- Decreased job satisfaction and increased frustration
- Increased absenteeism or tardiness
- Reduced productivity and quality of work
- Decreased ability to handle stress and cope with challenges
- Negative attitudes toward colleagues and clients
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Decreased levels of engagement and participation in work activities
- Increased feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of personal accomplishment
It is important to note that everyone experiences stress and challenges at work from time to time, and not all stress is necessarily negative. Over the years, I learned to enjoy the bit of nervousness before speaking publicly and created a “mental reframe” for it, seeing fear as a messenger instead, which helped me deliver keynotes and speeches. However, suppose you are experiencing several of these signs consistently, which are interfering with your ability to function effectively at work and in other areas of your life. In that case, it may be a sign of Burnout. It is essential to address the root causes of Burnout and seek support if needed.
If left unchecked, Burnout can lead to more serious health problems such as depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular diseases.
It is important for individuals to pay attention to their own well-being and to seek support when needed to prevent Burnout.
How Burnout Affects the Organization
Burnout is a real issue that businesses must address proactively as it can have detrimental effects on their bottom line. Employees suffering from it typically operate less efficiently at work resulting in lower quality output coupled with more mistakes made; this is often observed by an increase in absenteeism or employee turnover caused by the effects of burnouts which could cost firms substantially both in terms of productivity losses as well as resource expenditure required for replacement recruits’ training processes.
In addition, Burnout can harm the overall culture of an organization. Employees feeling burnt out and disengaged may be less likely to collaborate and support their colleagues, leading to a hostile work environment. This can further contribute to Burnout and decrease overall morale.
What Organizations can do to Address Burnout
Organizations need to address Burnout and support the well-being of their employees to maintain a healthy and productive work environment. Some strategies that organizations can use include:
- Providing resources and support to help employees manage stress and workload
- Encouraging work-life balance
- Promoting open communication and collaboration
- Offering opportunities for professional development and growth
- Recognizing and rewarding employee contributions
- Providing a positive and supportive work culture
- Allowing for flexibility in work arrangements
- Encouraging employees to take breaks and practice self-care
By addressing Burnout and supporting the well-being of their employees, companies can create a positive and productive work environment and improve the overall health and well-being of their workforce. This can lead to increased productivity, improved employee retention, and a more positive company culture, as overworking can be taxing to one’s mental and physical well-being.
What Employees can do to Address Burnout
As an employee, there are a ton of things we can also do to address Burnout. Here are a few:
- Set boundaries: Make sure to take breaks and set limits on the amount of time you spend working.
- Practice self-care: Take care of your physical and emotional well-being by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities you enjoy outside work.
- Communicate with your manager: Let your manager know if you are feeling overwhelmed or if any changes could help you better manage your workload.
- Seek support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek support from colleagues, friends, or a mental health professional if you feel overwhelmed.
- Take breaks: Step away from your work periodically to rest and recharge. This can help you stay focused and energized.
- Learn to say no: It is okay to set limits and decline additional responsibilities or projects if you are already overwhelmed.
- Find ways to manage stress: Consider practicing stress management techniques such as meditation, journaling, deep breathing, or exercise.
- Seek opportunities for growth and development: Engaging in professional development and learning new skills can help you feel more fulfilled and motivated in your work.
Remember that it is okay to ask for help and to prioritize your well-being. By taking care of yourself and addressing any issues that may be contributing to Burnout, you can help prevent Burnout and maintain a healthy and fulfilling career.
I have a spiritual practice that allows me to deal with stress by meditating, deep breathing, practicing gratitude, and journaling daily. I also push myself to engage in activities that I enjoy and help me relax and de-stress, like drawing, hot yoga, and writing free-form poetry. I also include regular walks with my dog Nola and setting clear boundaries at work by saying no when needed and declining unnecessary meeting invites.
It is important to remember that it is okay to seek help and support if you are struggling with your mental health. I cannot stress this enough. There is no shame in seeking help; getting the support you need can help you feel better and be more productive in your work and other areas of your life.
“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.”
- Michael Gungor
My Message to all Leaders
Eliminating Burnout within our organization starts with creating positive support structures for employees. Giving them access to resources they need to manage stress while reducing workload coupled with promoting transparency through open communication channels that encourage collaboration in achieving work life balance remains crucial.
Leaders must acknowledge Burnout as a major issue capable of inflicting significant damage on both personal well being and overall group performance. Implementing recognition techniques that reward excellent performance helps create a culture focused on appreciation and gratitude towards fellow employees contributing significantly towards team morale boosting efforts.
Organizational issues such as inadequate infrastructure leading to low autonomy over ones environment or underserved persons failing to gain acknowledgment of their contribution can contribute significantly towards Burnout levels.
Addressing these issues will play a significant role in keeping these levels down.
Lastly employee assistance programs should be readily available but depends on the organizational culture; only by developing supportive cultures that encourage individual development can these initiatives maintain their effectiveness in empowering employees sustainably. Companies that invest in burnout prevention and prioritize the well being of their employees see benefits beyond just being socially responsible – they also gain a competitive advantage.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn on December 21, 2022 and subsequently updates May 7, 2023.