The difficult thing about work-related employee burnout is that you often don’t know it’s happening until you’re already in too deep. According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
Burnout is increasingly common in our workaholic culture — so what can you do to treat or prevent it? Below, we offer seven tips for identifying and managing employee burnout.
1. Know the Symptoms of Employee Burnout
There are many possible signs of employee burnout. It’s usually easier to prevent a condition rather than treat it, so keep an eye for these symptoms and try to catch yourself if you notice burnout developing. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, especially on workdays
- Trouble starting work in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating and being productive
- Feeling irritable or impatient toward coworkers, customers, and/or clients
- Lack of motivation and/or satisfaction
- Feeling disillusioned, cynical, and/or critical about your job
- A change in sleep habits for the worst
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to manage your feelings about work
- Unexplained physical complaints such as headaches and upset stomachs
2. Evaluate Why Employee Burnout is Occurring
Just as there are many symptoms for burnout, there are many possible causes for it. Identifying the root cause(s) of burnout will help guide your decisions as you try to address it.
For example, you might lack control over your schedule or assignments or be unclear about what your supervisors and clients expect from you.
Dysfunctional or toxic workplaces can cause burnout, as can a lack of social support — feeling isolated from your coworkers and not having a mentor to rely on.
Other possible causes include work-life imbalance. If your pace at work is too monotonous, too chaotic, or too extreme, you’re more prone to employee burnout. For example, reaching out to others will help if you feel isolated at work, but not if your workplace culture is toxic.
3. Look to Others for Help
Your coworkers and other connections in your industry can be a great resource. They’ve probably experienced burnout at some point as well and can offer you tips or, at the very least, commiserate with you.
If you have a mentor, you should also schedule a meeting with them so you can explain what’s happening in your work life and get their advice on what you should do. Even if your loved ones can’t advise you professionally, spending social time with family and friends will help you de-stress and distract you from work.
4. Focus on Your Health
Employee burnout doesn’t only affect your mind and your emotions. It can do a number on your physical health as well. Chronic stress is pretty much par for the course with employee burnout, and it can have all sorts of negative effects on your body: stomach problems, jaw grinding, trouble sleeping — the list goes on.
If you’re at risk for burnout or already experiencing it, it’s more important than ever to take care of your health. Thankfully, there are many small steps you take to improve your health at work, from wearing compression stockings and taking walking breaks to eating healthy meals on your lunch break.
5. Be Upfront with Management
If you’d like to stay in your current job, you need to make some changes so you aren’t constantly burned out for the foreseeable future. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, talk to them about what’s been happening. Try to go into that conversation with a few suggestions or questions about possible solutions. Your supervisor might also be able to help you brainstorm additional ideas.
If any of your solutions need approval from your supervisors, such as hiring someone to help with the workload, this conversation is the time to bring it up.
6. Draw Boundaries between Work and the Rest of Your Life
When you leave the office for the day or start your weekend, put your work behind you, both physically and mentally. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t respond to work email on your phone, don’t fire up your laptop to do “just a minute” of work, and don’t reply in the group message app. If you need to, put away your device so you’re not tempted to work during your time off. While this is more difficult to do, try to draw mental boundaries between work and your life by letting go of thoughts about work in your off hours.
It can be hard to ignore work when you’re not on the clock, especially if you’re already anxious or stressed about it, but focusing on fun distractions and changing your environment can help.
7. Hit the Reset Button
Do something that helps you get away from your job and clear your mind so you can evaluate things quickly. Maybe it’s as simple as a massage or a meditation session. Or, it could be more involved, like a weekend getaway. If you have the PTO available, taking a more extended vacation — whether or not you actually travel — will help you get some distance in both time and space and be able to look at your life more objectively.
If you’ve tried all the possible strategies and you’re still burned out, you can always consider the ultimate reset: finding a new position entirely.
When you’re burned out, doing anything about it can feel like adding just one more task to your plate. The best approach is to start with something small that you can easily accomplish, like scheduling lunch with a coworker you enjoy spending time with to help you get back on track to your pre-burnout work life.
Kaki Zell is a health sciences student studying at Clemson University. Her passion is helping people stay fit and active. When she’s not studying, you can find her blogging for her family’s company, Ames Walker, or leading student workout classes at the campus gym.