Workplace Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action

By Katie Normand

4 min read
Employee burnout is a growing concern that has escalated quickly in the past year. According to Gallup research, before the pandemic, 76% of workers reported feeling burned out sometimes, while 28% of workers said they were burned out ‘very often’ or ‘always’ at work. These numbers are likely to continue to upswing. Just put last year’s events into perspective:
  • The deadliest global pandemic in over a century
  • One of the most polarizing and politically divisive times in U.S. history
  • Economic downturn
  • Information overload
  • Remote or drastic changes in workplace procedures
  • Added family stress and strain on relationships due to distance learning and work-from-home
  • Community and social limitations
It is no wonder employees may be feeling mentally exhausted and experiencing burnout.

What is burnout?

Burnout is different from feeling stressed. Burnout can leave employees feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life. The term burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job) and feelings of reduced professional ability. Most people spend the majority of their awake hours on the job. If a person is burnt out and dreads facing work each day, it can take a serious toll on their overall health and well-being.

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Recognize the signs and symptoms.

The first step in addressing burnout, is to recognize the signs. Burnout symptoms include having extremely low or no energy to get the job done, inability to concentrate, irritability with work or co-workers, expressions of negativity or cynicism, use of food, drugs or alcohol to cope and trouble facing work.
Burnout can lead to even greater issues in a person’s physical or mental well-being. It can cause issues like lowered immunity, insomnia, depression or unexplained physical ailments.

Steps to take to prevent or reverse burnout:

Burnout does not have to be a permanent condition. With the right support and work, it can be reversed. The issues leading to burnout must first be addressed. It may take some time to get back on course, but doing the following will support a person in moving from Burnout to Balance:
  1. Setting healthy boundaries:  It is important to first address the issues and sources of ongoing job stress that lead to burnout. A person may need to restructure their work environment or their work schedule. Saying ‘no’ more to unnecessary tasks or responsibilities that are not related to the job expectations, scheduling regular work breaks, and minimizing multi-tasking are all good examples that can help maintain boundaries and reduce feelings of burnout.
  2. Practicing consistent self-care: This is perhaps the most important step or change an individual can make when experiencing burnout. Self-care will be defined differently for each person, but some key examples that have been shown to target burnout are mindfulness and meditation, regular exercise, a healthy diet and quality sleep.
  3. Nourishing relationships: Many times, burnout at work is a result of too much stress in one’s personal life rather than too much work stress. Encouraging employees or individuals to seek support or talk to someone about their home life can help target burnout. One symptom of burnout is isolation and unfortunately COVID forced many into a more isolated existence. Some people may need more support figuring out how to get back to a better balance of social interaction and healthy communication skills.
  4. Reconnecting with purpose: Helping someone find more meaning in their work can support burnout prevention and management. Breaking workload into small achievable tasks can build meaning and feelings of success again. Personal development is also key to staying connected to work purpose. Putting things into place for both teams and individuals that measures and encourages personal and professional growth should be a part of organizational culture.
  5. Seeking support: It is important and sometimes necessary for those experiencing or at risk for burnout to get the right support. Mental health counseling, employee assistance programs and coaching are all things that can help employees move from burnout to greater balance. A business or health coach will help employees stay focused on their goals and their personal self-care needs, while also adding an accountability factor.
If you are personally experiencing burnout or concerned about your employee’s risk, know that you are not alone. This is a unique time in our history that sheds more light on the mental health needs of adults today. There are many things that can be done to help. Encouraging and following a good self-care routine is key, and well-designed workplace well-being programming can support that.

Contact us for more information on our newest presentation, ‘From Burnout to Balance’ that can be offered to your group virtually or in-person. Our health coaching programs are also proving to be helpful in meeting employees’ stress management and burnout needs.

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