How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace

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Everyone deals with occupational burnout at some point in their life, regardless of the industry you work in. Nurses have to deal with compassion fatigue, social workers have to be sure to prioritize their own self-care, and those working in business have to learn to balance long hours, looming deadlines, and physical exhaustion.

For millennial women, there seems to be a little reprieve, as we are more likely than previous generations to skip out on vacation time, due to severe feelings of guilt surrounding taking vacation days—a challenge which is unique to our generation.

This doesn’t just have consequences for individual workers, however. According to Ohio University, “Over $300 billion in profits is lost due to employees feeling overworked, drained of energy, and unable to put their best foot forward in the workplace each day.”

While many businesses offer solutions for managers to help recognize and handle employee burnout, few resources exist for those of us who feel the day-to-day effects that burnout can have on employees.   

burnout in the workplace

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that occurs when you become overwhelmed, dispassionate, or emotionally overwhelmed by their day-to-day tasks.

As those stressors continue to grow, many of us leave our workdays questioning our work, lacking the energy to move forward, and wondering if we will be able to advance in our chosen field.

Though the signs of burnout can vary from person-to-person, the following are red flags to pay attention to:

  • Feeling overly tired after a day’s work
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Self-doubt
  • Lack of motivation or engagement
  • Negative thoughts
  • Withdrawals and isolation from bosses and coworkers
  • Severe procrastination
  • Substance abuse

There are many factors to look out for outside of these feelings, however.

burnout in the workplace

“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. David Ballard, who the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program professes. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”

Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. To catch burnout and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for.

Possible Solutions for Employees on the Edge

Multiple chronic stressors can leave serious concerns over time, leaving employees unable to perform at their best level.

For those hoping to overcome workplace burnout, there are a number of options individuals can employ.

Take breaks throughout your workday

In order to perform at your peak throughout the workday, employees need to take note of the opportunities they might have to restock their mental energy. Whether that means calling your parents or simply playing a game on your phone, creating a space for you to regain energy throughout the day is of vital importance.

burnout in the workplace

Keep Digital Devices at a Minimum

For those who take their work home with them, it may be a good idea to delete or turn off notifications for workplace email apps.

“Today we’re all carrying around an office in our pocket in the form of a smartphone,” the Harvard Business Review Writes. For those who hope to have free time after hours, deleting email apps, or simply limiting yourself to phone hours may be helpful.

Find a Restorative Activity

Many of us have after-work activities that contribute to our post 9-5 environment. For those experiencing burnout, these restorative activities become even more important. Whether you commit to going to yoga classes once a week or agree to make dinner with your spouse, it’s important that you prioritize activities that help to renew your energy.

Furthermore, during times of extreme stress, self-care becomes all the more important. While it may seem like there is always something productive you should be doing. Resist the very real urge always to be on-the-go and allow yourself to relax during these restorative hours entirely.

Reach out for support

Often, when individuals are under pressure, they also isolate themselves. In fact, research suggests that “the number of people who feel that they have no one with whom they can discuss important matters has nearly tripled in the past two and a half decades.”

When going through extreme bouts of stress, it’s important to reach out to those who you care about, whether it be a family member, coworker, or even a manager for support and understanding.

Use Vacation Time, Even When it Feels Wrong

As was mentioned earlier, millennials, especially women, tend to feel uncomfortable when using their vacation time. Rather than taking a full two weeks off to try and recover, experts say that it’s better to take long weekends. Heidi Grant Halvorson, a social psychologist, notes that the best way to get optimal space and vacation time matters–arguing that it’s important to engage in activities that are challenging and removed from work overall.

Occupational burnout is a reality for professionals in every industry…Though each individual deals with the problem differently, it’s important that women, especially young women are able to dissect their issues in the workforce and adapt their work lifestyles to be able to adequately contribute to their chosen career field.