How to avoid Job Burnout


Are you dragging yourself to work lately? Do you feel constantly tired, struggling to find any energy or motivation for your job, or are you running on coffee, sugar and adrenaline to get through the day?

If you said yes to any of these, there’s a chance you could be at risk of burning out – a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that brings with it a lack of motivation, low efficiency and feelings of helplessness.

According to a Forbes article, there are 13 signs of burnout, the first 4 being:

  • Feeling frequently on edge, with adrenaline constantly coursing through your body

  • Lack of engagement – you don’t feel motivated at work

  • Increased cynicism – feelings more negative, cranky and defensive or snapping at people easily

  • Distracted eating – eating your meals in front of a computer or on the go

Do these seem familiar to you? It’s important for individuals as well as managers to be aware of any signs of job burnout, so you can take action before it has any further effects on a person’s mental and physical health.

Impacts of job burnout

The impacts of job burnout are significant. Organizations can expect to see reduced productivity, higher employee turnover, financial burdens from absenteeism and the possibility of medical, legal, and insurance expenses.

For individuals, burnout contributes to serious mental health issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, hyper vigilance and depression. These can in turn contribute to issues with physical health, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, adrenal exhaustion and chronic fatigue.

On top of all this, physical and mental exhaustion can very likely lead to doubts about your competence at work and the value of what you do, causing you more stress and creating a vicious circle. Basically, at this point you’re no longer having a very good time.

Major causes of work burnout

Many factors that can contribute to burnout, including poor work-life balance, stress, mismatched needs or values, or a disharmonious workplace environment. Let’s take another look at the five major causes for job burnout.

Overworking (no work-life balance)

Most people are aware of the importance of keeping a healthy work-life balance, yet some people have a need to overwork.

Striking a satisfying balance between work and family and social life is essential for an individual’s health and overall well being. Yet still some of us feel guilty to take time out and put an unhealthy amount of time and energy into our jobs, leading to poor work-life balance.

If you find that your work takes up so much of your time and energy that you don't have anything left to spend with your family and friends, you’re at a greater risk of burning out.

Being always “on”

Another factor that may contribute to burnout is not taking the time to disconnect from work and let go so that you can renew your energy.

At work most of us are conscious of being switched “on”– especially if we’re dealing with clients, time pressures, tight deadlines, high workloads and lots of meetings or negotiations.

Failing to fully disengage from work and switching off at home after hours, puts you at risk of chronic stress and other elements of burnout. The important link between disconnecting from work and maintaining positive emotional and physical health, is highlighted by a move in France earlier this year, passing a labor reform law that banned checking emails on weekends in the interest of employee health and productivity.

Unconscious needs being unmet

A study from 2016 found that another major cause of burnout might be a mismatch between a person's unconscious needs and the opportunities and demands of their workplace.

These “unconscious needs” take into account our unique personalities and traits – who we are and what motivates us as individuals. For example, you may have an unconscious need to feel in charge, to be creative, to have structure or not have too much structure, or to engage in consultations or negotiations. Some people seek a sense of warmth and belonging from their workplace, needing positive personal relations, trust and a feeling of contributing to a larger cause.

There is no right or wrong – as humans are complex and unique when it comes to what we seek from our work. However, working in a job that doesn’t align with our values to meet your needs can cause problems. The greater the mismatch, the higher the risk of burnout.

You can look at ways to improve the correlation between your job and your needs through getting to know yourself and your needs better and engage in “job crafting”. For example, if you have a strong need for collaboration and personal relations you might want to find ways to include more teamwork in your role. You can talk to your team or your manager about this. A good manager will be interested in understanding their team members’ differences and working with them in a positive way.

Mismatched values

Thinking about your values and how they align with those of the organization you work for is important. If you’re someone who is passionate about the environment, or animal welfare, then working for a company with no alignment with these values or ethics could prove to be unsustainable for you in the longer term.

If you suppress your true thoughts, feelings and personality by being in a job where your values don’t match up you end up exhausted and it will leave you feeling emotionally drained, and your confidence affected.

Dysfunctional workplaces

Working in a negative work environment or having bad vibes between team mates, any form of bullying or harassment, or having your competence undermined by micro managers is another contributor to job stress.

If a manager is unsupportive or a micro manager, colleagues bully each other or any other form of interpersonal conflict at work will have a great impact on anyone’s resilience and increase their likelihood of burnout.

Your role as a manager in preventing staff burnout

As a manager, particularly if you’re in Human Resources, you are responsibility for recognising the signs of chronic stress, exhaustion or burnout in your employees. You should help them to understand and manage it. Therefore it is vital that you do this for yourself – you cannot look after others unless you’re looking after yourself first.

Taking this short Burnout Test will help you to recognize and deal with some of the most common causes of burnout. This course also offers practical advice for figuring out how to prevent stress from building up and tips on how to recover. Talk to your team about the risks of burning out and engage them in positive, open discussion.


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