Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that is caused by prolonged or repeated stress. It can be difficult to describe, but it is not considered a medical condition.
- The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others”.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.
Burnout is most commonly caused by problems at work, but it can also appear in other areas of life. Some of the common causes of burnout include excessive workload, lack of control over one’s work, lack of recognition or reward for good work, poor work-life balance, and interpersonal conflicts at work.
How do I know if I am suffering from burnout?
Burnout can affect individuals physically, mentally, and emotionally. The symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but common signs include fatigue, which can lead to a feeling of being tired all the time, even with adequate sleep; difficulty completing simple tasks; and lack of focus. Other symptoms include decreased job satisfaction, irritability, and difficulty coping with stressors.
According to Maslach, Jackson, and Leiter (1996), the symptoms of burnout commonly fall into three main categories:
- feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion,
- feeling increasingly distant or negative about one’s job,
- and reduced professional efficacy.
Preventing and treating burnout often involves addressing the underlying causes of stress and making changes to one’s work or lifestyle. This can include setting boundaries, seeking social support, engaging in self-care activities, and seeking professional help if necessary.
What can I do to prevent suffering burnout?
There are several things you can do to prevent or manage burnout:
- Turn to other people for support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Make self-care a priority. Even if you’re busy, take time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Reframe the way you look at work. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your job and find ways to make it more meaningful.
- Re-evaluate your priorities. Take a step back and think about what’s important to you. Make sure you’re spending your time and energy on the things that matter most.
- Make exercise and a healthy diet a priority. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can boost your mood and energy levels.
- Set and enforce work-life boundaries. Create a clear separation between work and personal time, and don’t let work take over your life.
- Write down your to-do list and break tasks into small, achievable goals. This can help you feel more in control of your workload and reduce stress.
Remember that burnout is a serious issue, and it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health. If you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor.
What can companies do to prevent their employees suffering from burnout?
HR departments have a great influence on the company’s philosophy, culture and management style, and can outline some strategies the company can implement to prevent employee burnout:
- Offer a range of options such as additional paid time off, flexible work schedules, remote work options, mental health days, and a lighter workload to help address workplace burnout.
- Focus on employee well-being through four dimensions: work satisfaction, organizational respect, employer care, and work-life integration.
- Provide ongoing employee training, work with employees to manage expectations, and enforce reasonable work hours.
- Address issues related to workload, time pressure, and work-life balance by providing support such as workload management, time management, and training on managing stress and pressure.
- Encourage employee feedback and provide regular opportunities for communication to improve the work environment and address any issues that may contribute to burnout.
These strategies can help companies create a work environment that supports employee well-being and reduces the risk of burnout. Integrating these strategies will help companies reduce staff turnover and foster more motivated employees that produce better outputs and results for the business.