In July 2021, Forbes predicted that many professionals were likely to leave their roles due to burnout. It was suggested that longer hours, the stress of transitioning to working remotely and the uncertainty of the pandemic may cause ‘The Great Resignation.’ Millions of employees across the globe are either thinking about quitting their jobs or already have. LinkedIn reported the number one reason employees provide for leaving their role is burnout. 

According to Mental Health UK, burnout can be described as ‘a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.’ Burnout is a serious issue in the modern workforce which can have an impact on anyone of us. 

What are the key indicators of burnout? How can we read the early signs of the condition?  Here are some of the most common indicators of burnout – 

The most common indicators of burnout

The main physical sign of burnout is fatigue. When experiencing burnout, it is difficult to get through the working day without feeling very tired and lethargic. Some people may also have regular migraines or tension headaches. Medical professionals agree that stress from too many commitments and the workplace contribute to this illness. 

Additionally, burnout can have a significant impact on our mental stability. Early signs of this include:

  • a feeling of not being able to get out of a situation and commitments. Thoughts that your current commitments are ‘too much’ to handle
  • doubting your abilities
  • lack of motivation
  • thinking negatively towards yourself
  • feeling worried, nervous and anxious

Altogether, this can create a knock-on effect – you may have an overall negative outlook on life. 

Finally, there are several signs to look out for when you are at work which could indicate that you may be burnt out. The first sign is procrastination where you begin putting tasks off and doing other things to fill up your time other than actual work. Secondly, you may start to feel detached from your role, your team and your organisation. Lastly, you may begin to lack the drive you once had for your job and you may experience a reduced sense of ambition, focus and determination. 

How to get better

If you have identified that you may be burnt out, the next step is to plan out your recovery. Leaving burnout untreated can lead to serious health conditions – such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. 

A key thing to do is setting time aside. The first step is to hit the ‘pause’ button. Take some time away from your job and other commitments. There are a few simple things you can do which will make a huge difference. For example – 

  • Take more time out to rest. 
  • Book out annual leave for the next 12 months. This will ensure you take breaks and give you that time-out to look forward to. 

During this time, start to think about your current lifestyle and identify the causes of burnout. Common reasons include: a poor work life balance; a highly demanding schedule; and a lack of help or support.

burnout employee needing help

Finally, look into a long-term plan. This should reduce your commitments and prioritise your mental health. Here are examples of what to include:

  • Practice saying ‘no’ more often to additional tasks on top of your day job. Stick to doing the tasks which you are responsible for to ensure your workload does not become overwhelming. 
  • Talk to your manager about how you are feeling. Take advantage of any support on offer. 
  • Consider other job options if you feel the workload is unlikely to reduce and your mental health is at risk.
  • Be kind to yourself by appreciating how far you have come in life. 
  • Reconnect with your dreams – write down your aspirations.

How to help a colleague who may be burnt out 

It’s important to try and help other colleagues where you can if you suspect burnout. If you have a good relationship with the person, simply ask them how they are doing and how they are feeling. 

If they describe feelings associated with burnout, suggest they speak with their line manager. You can also make friendly suggestions, like the ones listed above, which you think may help. If absolutely crucial to do so, you should consider notifying your manager of any concerns. This will ensure your colleague gets all the support they need. 

According to TeamUp, a gym software, organizations can foster a healthy work environment by providing access to resources such as mental health support and regular check-ins with managers.

What should organisational leaders do to reduce burnout? 

All leaders in senior positions are responsible for assessing, and monitoring signs of burnout. This is important as senior leaders have the power and authority to shape the culture of their department or team. They can influence company culture based on what they support and reward. Acknowledge practices which don’t negatively impact employee wellbeing

For example, leaders could encourage their employees to take their lunch break away from their desk; book regular annual leave; have mental health chats; and more. Focusing on the wellness of employees will help to reduce the risk of burnout.

A great example has been set by Asana who have ‘nap rooms’ in their offices where employees can take a nap during the day. This enables staff to rest, recharge and reduce their stress levels. The business also offers free gym membership, nutritious meals in the staff canteen and monthly workshops about health and wellness topics.

Final Thoughts

Burnout should not be ignored. It can be treated with lifestyle changes, support from your manager and recognising the signs early on. Focus on prioritising your physical and mental wellbeing and you will be well on the way to recovery. 

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