Burnout has become a bit of a buzzword phrase for the workplace as of late. It’s not exactly a surprise considering all the shifts and new stresses this year has endured. However, commonplace or not, burnout is a very real problem with potentially devastating effects.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is the combination of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion resulting from ongoing, unresolved stress.
It leads to dissatisfaction with your work and cynicism. Additionally, you’ll experience an inability to focus or care to focus and an overall lack of productivity. Plus, you’ll find a combativeness with coworkers, you’re likely to miss work often and are more likely to get sick.
The Mayo Clinic even cites insomnia, Type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease as potential consequences to unaddressed job burnout. Additionally, job burnout can easily move beyond the workplace and into your home life with its deep links to depression.
The Burnout Recovery Plan
Part of the problem is people don’t always realize they can burnout in a job they love. There’s a saying along the lines if you do what you love, you’ll love what you do. While possibly true, people who burn out at work don’t usually start that way.
Seeing Burnout Coming
If you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to spot a burnout coming from a mile away. Common causes of stress and burnout in the workplace include:
- Unclear work expectations. This causes employees to feel insecure in their efforts, creating fatigue as they put the effort in many different directions without feeling any achievement.
- Repetitive work can be mentally and physically draining regardless of whether it’s physically active work or sedentary.
- Dysfunctional work relationships. Unsurprisingly the people you work with and the dynamics of those relationships are high indicators of potential burnouts. For example, a difficult coworker is very capable of turning a job you love to a place to avoid.
- An unhealthy relationship with productivity. Our society is borderline obsessed with being or appearing to be productive – always. This view causes huge problems with self-esteem and a sense of never doing enough.
If you’re in leadership, these are issues you need to be ready to address for not only yourself but your subordinates. Many of these problems are in your power to alleviate preemptively.
Recovering from Burnout
Everyone is susceptible to burnout knowing this, prevention is the first step to recovery.
If you’re experiencing burnout now, that may seem like unhelpful advice. However, as you address what’s lead to your burn out, you can make changes that’ll pull you out.
Thus not only will you recover, but you’ll make real steps to avoid it in the future.
For example, when you know having unclear job expectations leads you to burnout, you won’t stop feeling burnt out until you address the problem.
Start Taking Action
So what do you do?
- Speak to your management team.
- Get clear on the expectations of your work.
- Ask questions until you understand.
- Be clear about what’s realistic for you.
- Don’t say yes because you think it’s what people want to hear.
The same would go for dysfunctional work relationships. Untwist them. Engage in conflict resolution steps or find a way to change the dynamic. It could be as simple as requesting a change in office location or as awkward as a formal sit down with HR.
While these efforts may feel uncomfortable, just keep remembering 40+ hours a week of personal satisfaction and joy is 100% worth it.
It’s Time to Rethink
Essentially, you need to start advocating for yourself. Even if you have to put yourself first in order to start self-advocating for your needs.
One of the deepest root causes of burnout is an unhealthy relationship with productivity. So much of our society is now anchored in the idea you hold value because you do more. The idea that there is always more to do or more to be. And if you’re not doing something always…you’re not good enough.
Unproductive is the wrong word.
This often leads to never stopping. You work all day and bring work home. You don’t finish one project without another already started. You’re accepting taking on too many responsibilities. You work 60 hours a week without blinking. It all sounds good when chatting to old high school buddies at the reunion.
It’s impressive until it isn’t.
Reclaim Your Life
In order to recover from burnout and stop it from happening, you can’t be afraid to ask for help. True burnout often requires professional intervention. Asking for help is the primary prevention and recovery method for burnout.
The more comfortable you become with asking for help, the better you’ll become at accepting your limitations. And when you can say no without guilt, you’ll reach a can’t-touch-this level of peace.
Ask for help. Say no. Take time off. Rinse and repeat.