Workplace burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It is characterized by feelings of cynicism and detachment from work, decreased productivity and accomplishment, and increased feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of personal accomplishment. The most recent quarterly survey by Slack’s Future Forum found that 43% of US office workers “felt burned out at work.” and 2022 data shared by Gallup shows that a third of all workers always or very often feel burned out at work.
Burnout is often the result of an imbalance between the demands of the job and the resources and support available to meet those demands. It can also be caused by a lack of control over one’s work environment or recognition or appreciation for one’s efforts. It seems prevalent amongst millennials, with 84% saying they experience it in their current position. Addressing Burnout in the workplace is a key responsibility for organizations to maintain a healthy and productive work environment, as it can have significant negative impacts on both individual employees and the organization as a whole.
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 at work can have a serious detrimental effect on a company. Employees that are burnt out may operate less efficiently, produce work of worse quality, and make more mistakes. Increased absenteeism and turnover due to burnout can be expensive for a company in terms of lost production and the time and resources needed to train new hires.
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
To support our employees and address Burnout within your organization, we must all commit to creating positive and supportive work environments. We can do that by providing resources and support to help them manage stress and workload, fostering open communication, transparency, and collaboration, and promoting work-life balance. As a leader, it is important to recognize that Burnout is a real and serious issue that can have significant negative impacts on both individual employees and the organization as a whole
Additionally, recognizing and rewarding employee contributions and showing appreciation for their hard work and dedication can foster a culture of recognition and appreciation. I started virtual office hours on Fridays and regularly share Kudos with the team to show my appreciation for their work. It is essential to identify and address any issues within the organization that may be contributing to Burnout, such as a lack of control over one’s work environment or a lack of recognition or appreciation for one’s efforts.
Last, but not least, please remember that well-being programs help, but only if the culture supports maintaining the newly learned skills afterward. Investing in burnout prevention and support for employee well-being is not only the right thing to do for employees but also good for business. By addressing Burnout, organizations can create a more positive and productive work environment, leading to improved employee engagement and performance and, ultimately, increased profitability.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn on December 21, 2022.