Burnout - Business Results
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Burnout, first described by Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, is all too common 50 years later, especially post-pandemic. Burnout is more than just “being tired.” It is extreme physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion from work. This exhaustion affects both individual well-being and workplace productivity. It can even become a risk factor for more serious mental and physical harm.

So how do we prevent it in the workplace? Start by looking for the three main signs of burnout. First, exhaustion. Burnout can be physically stressful, leaving people feeling tired all the time. The second sign is feeling negative emotions about work. If you dread going to work, feel anger or sad opening your inbox, or just feel emotionally empty in your day-to-day tasks, you may be experiencing burnout. The third is self-blame in relation to these feelings. Many people feel guilt and shame for feeling negatively about their jobs. These feelings need to be validated, especially in relation to burnout, and discussed in the workplace. Self-isolation only worsens those feelings of burnout, and apart from that, it is likely that if one employee is burned out, their coworkers are too. Burnout is often an effect of workplace structure and culture, and therefore usually affects groups of employees, not individuals.

Now that we know what to look for, we can act to address, and ideally prevent it. One great way to accomplish this is to have check-ins, both with yourself and with your team. Know that your negative emotions are valid, and do not ignore them! Those emotions of discomfort are signs that there is a problem and ignoring them will only make them worse. Ask yourself and others how you are feeling. Talk about those feelings compassionately and collaborate to produce creative solutions to encourage energy and fight burnout.

In those check-ins, ask yourself and your team what you can control or change in the workplace to improve the environment and culture. Of course, not everything that is stressful at work can go away. Sometimes you just have to get through that paperwork or that meeting that you hate. But you can control smaller things and look to minimize stressors for yourself and others so that you can focus on work. Additionally, you can examine what boundaries you can set between your work life and home life to protect from burnout.

When defining boundaries, start with the work hours. As the old saying goes, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” Work-life balance is key. Let your work hours be for work and try not to take it home. Set those boundaries as much as you can, get rid of unnecessary tasks, look at how to be more efficient during those work hours, and return to minimizing stressors.

Taking breaks and getting some rest helps improve your physical health and wellness too. Whether it is five minutes to an hour or a day every week, rest is key. Do little things that bring you joy every day, such as listening to music, meditating, grabbing a coffee, or talking to a friend- whatever allows you to recharge. Use your vacation days, even if it is to take a mental health break at home. Resting also returns to those check-ins as well- examine how many hours you are working compared to hours you are allowing yourself joy and rest.

Finally, creating community in the workplace is important to fight burnout. Workplaces with atmospheres of distrust, bullying, discrimination, and lack of community are more likely to risk burnout because of a toxic environment on employee mental health. This worsens both health and productivity outcomes. A positive environment yields positive outcomes.

The duties of fighting burnout particularly fall upon managers and team leaders. You must support your team’s emotional state, be empathetic and compassionate, and allow rest. Workplace cultures and structures often normalize the opposite of these factors, and thus encourage burnout. It is up to team leaders and managers to change that normalized culture and structure, which has a big impact on burnout. If leaders support all these factors, including check-in’s, minimizing stressors, allowing work-life balance, respecting boundaries, allowing rest, and changing culture, burnout is much less likely to occur.

Workplace burnout is a real and growing problem. Knowing the signs and how to deal with it improves both the health and well-being of employees, as well as improving productivity, efficiency, and outcomes in the workplace. Be sure to talk about it openly, and don’t let your workplace spark “burn out!”

Need help combating burnout in your workplace? We can help.