How To Avoid Burnout At Work?

In today’s exceedingly competitive and fast-paced world, hearing about people experiencing workplace burnouts seems to be a run-of-the-mill phenomenon. But what’s most concerning is that more than half the population experiences it at some point in life, knowingly or unknowingly, yet, we have never taken this concern seriously, mainly because we have never been able to diagnose it and take well-timed preventive actions to curtail it.

So, to prevent or avoid burnout at work, the foremost step is to diagnose it. Second, to identify the reasons for it, and third, to take pre-emptive actions.

Diagnose — Signs & Symptoms of Burnout at Work

Understanding that one is experiencing burnout at work is key. It will help in identifying and taking timely actions to subdue the situation and get back on track. People often realize that they are highly exhausted and are on the verge of a breakdown just before it happens. Hence, the earlier you diagnose, the easier, faster, and more complete recovery will be.

A Few of The Common Burnout Issues Include:

  • Physical & Emotional exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Negative feelings
  • Cynical and/or critical attitude
  • Health deterioration
  • Low productivity
  • Inefficacy
  • High error rates
  • General dissatisfaction & frustration etc.

Identify — Reasons for Burnout at Work

Burnouts can wreak havoc on one’s mental and physical well-being in addition to significantly affecting other areas of one’s life. The most common reasons leading to workplace burnouts include high levels of stress, improper work-life balance, high expectations and workloads, under-appreciation, lack of workplace dynamics (bullying, discrimination, etc.), social/personal isolation, and more.

Stress is one of the most common yet underrated reasons for burnout, and this can lead to severe and critical consequences in one’s life.

Once you have acknowledged burnout is a possibility, you’re on the right track to turning things around, and it becomes far easier to take positive steps in the right direction.

Avert — How to Prevent Burnout at Work

Once you have found out that you are experiencing, or potentially going to experience, burnout and have rightly identified the reasons for it, taking the necessary preventive actions can promptly help.

These tips might help you to keep burnout at bay:

Stress Management

If it’s heavy stress in the workplace that’s getting to you, the most important thing to master is how to manage it positively. Find ways to de-stress and engage in enjoyable activities that can take your mind off work, deadlines, and the general humdrum.

Staying Active and Fit

An active and healthy lifestyle will help keep you mentally and physically fit, which will allow you to manage stress better.

Time Management & Prioritization

Learning to manage your time effectively and prioritize tasks according to their importance is a way to reduce stress significantly.

Short Vacations

Consider taking more regular shorter breaks rather than an annual vacation to rejuvenate and relax and give yourself a break from monotony.

Find Passions Outside Work

Develop hobbies or indulge in passions other than work to create a healthy work-life balance.

Identifying the Limits/Threshold

Setting boundaries and defining limits are crucial to ensure you don’t go back to a state of burnout.

Additionally, it helps to establish proper and effective communication with subordinates, team members, and superiors regarding expectations and goals.

Many people go through this at some point in the workplace. However, burnout has been dismissed, ignored, and silently endured by many and ultimately accepted as a fact of life.

Recent studies point out that more than two-thirds of the workforce have experienced burnout at some point in their career. With cases increasing at such an alarming rate, the WHO now classifies employee burnout as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. Moreover, they have included it in their revised list of international diseases.

A survey conducted pre-Covid (early 2020) brought out some shocking and grim burnout statistics. The survey involved 700,000 employees worldwide and showed over 50% of the Millenials in the survey admitted that they left their jobs at least once due to burnout. In the US, burnout alone accounts for about 120,000 deaths per year.

Covid-19 has overhauled our work norms, and conventional practices have been thrown out of the window. Work-from-home and remote options have exacerbated the situation, with employees expected to be on call and available 24*7. If long hours at work were a rare thing pre-pandemic, it became a routine with the advent of the new work-from-home culture. Hence, now more than ever, we need to understand that coping with stress and mental health is imperative.

A burnt-out employee brings low motivation levels to the table, lower productivity, high error rates, low morale, and poor performance, which has a knock-on effect on the whole organization.

Stages in Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is not a phenomenon that happens instantaneously or overnight but a gradual process.

In general, we can confidently say that there are four main identifiable stages in employee burnout:

Stage 1

The employee is pleased with work, taking in all the responsibilities and additional work that comes their way without hesitation. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that they are succumbing to work pressure.

Stage 2

With a substantial amount of effort, the employee tries to reach his overwhelming goals and meet the deadlines. The exertion now slowly starts to take its toll. Their mental and physical well-being starts to deteriorate. Signs of frustration begin at this stage.

Stage 3

Disappointment and frustration levels peak. The employee now has lower levels of motivation and productivity. They feel exceedingly pressurized by work. Physical health begins to deteriorate.

Stage 4

Stark negative emotions and cynicism characterize the final phase. The employee starts to call in sick and begins to miss work regularly. Here they feel wholly burnt out and on the verge of a breakdown, affecting mental and physical health.

During stages 1–3, timely interventions from the organization or employer can stop the employee from advancing to the final phase. Having conducive HR policies and a supportive team can go a long way in preventing it, too.

HR experts worldwide unanimously agree that employee burnout is one of the leading causes of employee turnover and is a crucial sabotaging factor.

Do you have policies in place to reduce employee burnout?

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Originally published at on May 26, 2021, by Joanna Blomfield.




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