Burnout is a term that is becoming increasingly prevalent in the modern world, with more and more individuals speaking out about their mental health. It is the state of physical and emotional exhaustion, so much so that it becomes almost impossible to function in our work, personal life, or both.
Over time, it can affect physical and mental well-being, sometimes with long-term consequences. Burnout can happen to anyone at any time. It is not a weakness but rather a sign of pushing ourselves past our limits for too long. In 2019, it was defined as an occupational syndrome by the World Health Organisation and can be identified as:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Depersonalisation or negative, cynical attitudes towards work, colleagues, and clients
- Reduced personal accomplishment
This can manifest in many ways, but the main symptoms of burnout include:
- Feeling overwhelmed, even if there isn’t much going on
- Sleeping and digestive problems
- Random aches and pains
- Brain fog
To prevent burnout in the workplace, it is important to be knowledgeable about the factors that contribute to it. Research has indicated the following six areas:
- Workload – do you have a clearly defined job description, and are the responsibilities reasonable?
- Appreciation and reward – when people feel the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for the job don’t match the effort, they can become disengaged and unmotivated
- Community – it’s important to feel a sense of belonging within a workplace
- Perceived lack of control – do you feel that you have a say in the decisions being made around you relating to your job?
- Fairness – ensuring that people receive fair and equitable treatment
- Values – are behaviours in the workplace aligned with their values? Are the behaviours creating an environment where people feel safe to look after their own well-being?
So, what can be done?
Multi-dimensional approaches are increasingly being recognised as the solution to dealing with any form of burnout, with people being encouraged to take proactive action to prevent and deal with it, such as:
- Approaching and being honest with your line manager – identify areas which are causing the most difficulty and see if you can find some workable solutions
- Identifying any burnout-inducing personality traits – Researching has shown that people who are conscientious identify strongly with the role they play at work and are more likely to experience burnout
- Recognising the value of rest and relaxation – Rest, fun and play are a fundamental part of leading a healthy life
- Seeking out connections – turn towards trusted allies and supportive people to share your difficulties with
If you notice signs of burnout, it’s important to intervene and make changes early. The earlier the issue is tackled, the less impact it will have on your well-being and quality of life.