Talking Points

How to avoid burnout at work

As many of us navigate busy work lives, juggling long hours while also handling demands at home, burnout is becoming a serious occupational health risk.

It’s important to recognise the symptoms of burnout before they cause more life-threatening illnesses. Avoiding workplace exhaustion and keeping burnout at bay can go a long way in looking after our overall mental and physical health.

What is burnout?

Many of us have days when we feel more tired at work. Not every week is easy, but recognizing the difference between general fatigue and occupational burnout is crucial.

Burnout is a relatively new concept and has only just been classed as a mental illness, meaning many still struggle to recognise or define it.

Generally speaking, burnout is associated with three main characteristics: exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability. If you’re constantly tired, start to hate your job, and begin to feel less capable at work, it’s likely you are suffering from burnout.

Burnout symptoms

Burnout symptoms manifest differently between people, but there are a few general things to look out for. Mental Health UK lists common signs of burnout as:

  • Feeling tired or drained
  • Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated
  • Feeling detached or alone in the world
  • Having a cynical or negative outlook
  • Increased self-doubt
  • Procrastination
  • Feeling overwhelmed

A lot of these signs are also symptoms of other physical or mental illnesses. Burnout often appears in tandem with depression and anxiety, or it can be the result of an underlying health condition that makes it harder for you to meet workplace demands.

However, the overlap of symptoms also means burnout can be mistakenly diagnosed as another mental or physical illness, meaning people do not always make the work or lifestyle changes they need.

Untreated burnout

If left untreated, burnout can become a part of your everyday life and eventually lead to more serious health conditions.

Once you’ve reached your burnout limit and are unable to function as usual, the physical symptoms will become more intense. This can include chronic headaches, gastrointestinal problems, stomach issues and more.

Ignored or unaddressed burnout has also been linked to more serious illnesses including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased vulnerability to other illnesses.

Behavioural changes may also be noted, especially by those close to you. Long-term depression and anxiety have been closely linked to untreated burnout, too.

Work from home burnout

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work, with many of us now adopting a partially or completely remote working setup.

However, this blurring of home and workplace environments can mean it’s difficult for us to switch off. Some people find themselves working longer hours, with others struggling with the lack of daily in-person interaction with colleagues.

Job burnout looks the same whether you’re working from home or in the office – it’s just sometimes less obvious for us to spot when we have a home office. Be honest with yourself and your employer about how you’re dealing with the stressors of home working. If they are aware, they might be able to make adjustments that help you avoid burnout.

How long does burnout last?

Depending on the severity of the condition, it can take several years to overcome burnout syndrome. Most experts estimate it takes at least a few months to recover.

How long burnout lasts will depend on the type of treatment or lifestyle changes you make. Some will be unable to completely forgo working while they’ll recover, due to financial commitments. For them, the recovery will likely take longer.

Avoiding burnout at work 

Avoiding burnout at work altogether is the best option for maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Professional sites and workplace experts offer a range of advice to help keep your stress management in check.

Take holidays

Paid holidays are there to be taken, so use them! Even if it’s just having a couple of days off to relax at home, the effects can be incredible.

Work with purpose

If you find yourself just working towards a pay cheque and have little joy in your daily tasks, it might be time for a change of job. Working on something you are passionate about in a place that gives you joy is less likely to cause burnout.

Perform a job analysis

Many of us struggle to say ‘no’ to things at work, feeling the need to go above and beyond. While this can be beneficial when working towards a promotion, taking on too much can result in burnout.

Performing a regular job analysis means being aware of the tasks that are your responsibility, and identifying those that can be achieved if you have leftover time or mental capacity. If you feel your boss is assigning you too much work, speak to them and make this clear.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

It may sound obvious, but eating well, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are crucial components of maintaining a healthy body and mind and avoiding burnout.

Set boundaries between your personal time and work time – if that proposed lunchtime meeting is going to clash with your regular yoga session, don’t be afraid to say so.

How to treat burnout

Once you recognize that you’re feeling burnout at work, it’s important to act swiftly and effectively – leaving burnout untreated will result in a longer recovery period.

Tell your boss

Firstly, speak to your supervisor and let them know how you are feeling. Many companies have options for those struggling with work exhaustion, including the chance to take a sabbatical (break from work) if needed. Employers may also be able to provide you with therapy or counselling to help overcome the psychological effects of burnout.

Reduce workload and identify stressors

Many signs of employee burnout are the result of busier, understaffed, or more stressful periods at work. Because workload can commonly be a root cause of burnout, reducing your workload can be incredibly effective in treating it.

Identify the areas that are the biggest cause of stress for you and talk to your manager about how these can be lessened. Set goals together about what needs to be done, and what work can wait until you are feeling better.

Change your lifestyle

Make some lifestyle changes away from work. More exercise and better sleep have both been linked to healthier mental and physical well-being, and they’re especially effective if you’ve been neglecting them because of a busy work schedule.  

Mindfulness is another popular activity, and many mindfulness programs offer the option to focus on work stress. Taking up a relaxing or stimulating hobby can do wonders for your health as well, offering a chance to unwind away from the workplace.

When treating burnout, it’s important to be patient and persevere. Your mental exhaustion is most likely the result of many months or even years of workplace stress, so it’s unlikely to disappear in a day or two.

A home you love and are comfortable in is also a crucial part of reducing feeling burnt out at work. At Pickard Properties, we offer a range of exceptional professional lets that are sure to help to unwind.

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