Technically speaking, burnout implies the cessation of operation of a jet or a rocket engine. Projecting this definition onto the office landscape, job burnout closely relates to work stress. Indeed the term ‘burnout’ in this context was first introduced by Freudenberger (1974). He pointed to the occupational hazards professionals are exposed to when working under difficult conditions.
Job Burnout: Facts and Stats
Although burnout can happen in any job sector, professionals who are at a high-risk exposure to experiencing it include:
- Police officers
- Social workers
- People in design-related jobs
- Business development
- Retail workers
Overall, 63% of U.S. workers admitted that their unhealthy lifestyle choices were caused by stress at work. In fact, job burnout got so widespread that in 2019 the World Health Organization included it into the International Classification of Diseases. Thus, recognizing it as a medical condition.
Narrowing the long list of job burnout symptoms to the top three, we should mention the following major red flags. These flags are signals that one should to stop, reconsider one’s work situation, change it or ask for help:
- Energy depletion
- Negativism/cynicism towards one’s work
- Reduced professional efficacy
So, these are the major red flags that indicate job burnout, but what puts a person at risk in the first place?
Risk Factors That Can Lead to Job Burnout
- Long hours and schedule mismanagement
- Lack of job security (especially valid for freelancing and part-time employment)
- Low reward (the motivation killer number one)
- Lack of ability to set/categorize priorities
- Perfectionism (one of the factors ‘responsible’ for procrastination resulting in low morale)
- Total focus on numbers/analytics (leading to chasing the wrong priorities)
- Lack of boundaries between work and life
- Excessive interaction
- Numerous digital apps
The anxiety resulting from being exposed to the factors listed above eventually leads to:
- Mental overactivity
- Loss of concentration
In case the irritation becomes the permanent reaction to the job environment, you might feel provoked to go ballistic. Then again, you may get snappy with people you never intended to hurt.
This is a ‘classic’ burnout scenario. Fortunately, there is a proven antidote to take control before physical and emotional exhaustion hits you. It is called balance.
Why You Need to Keep Balance
You can invest all your energy, effort, and mental focus into work. However, over time, you might notice that you finish the day by feeling overwhelmed and lacking focus. First, you can feel a lack of motivation and pleasure. Whereas sometime later it can progress to forgetfulness and fatigue.
Ironically, you need a balance between work and life. Not only to experience the state of internal and external wellbeing but to be better at work. Indeed, aside from the health benefits, balance is important for assisting you in achieving your goals without taking shortcuts on the important things in life. For example, friendships, hobbies, or activities that fill you up.
Paraphrasing the famous quote by Warren Buffet on the ability to say no as the tipping point for reaching true success. We can suppose the ability to maintain balance to be the point that keeps you fired up about your work without causing job burnout.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Warren Buffett
So what do you need to do in case you feel at the borders of burnout? Make it a goal to restore balance. And the best way to start is? Stop and retreat to rest and take a step back to give your mind time to pacify.
It will allow you to see where exactly your priorities setting went messy and where you lost visibility of the key component. This is, of course – you. Once you managed to clear your mind, you can start strategically choose to distribute your focus. Particularly when it comes to maintaining your wellbeing. You can start by trying the practical tips we offer below.
How to Deal with Job Burnout: Practical Tips
In the workplace
Track your work time
With the current digitally-mediated lifestyles, it is easy to lose track of the time we spend working or just surfing the net. So applying a simple time tracker could be a game-changer. By knowing the precise amount of time you dedicate to work will help you set priorities.
It is known that people tracking what they do considerably (and immediately!) improve their performance. In addition, and, what is even more important, it raises awareness. This helps avoid over-scheduling and overloading.
Organize your ideal workspace
It is crucial you minimize the stress factors. For instance, poor lighting, noise, and polluted air. Ideally, you need natural light, noise-cancelling earphones, and a well-ventilated office.
If you cannot have total silence at work opt for ‘right’ music
The music without lyrics proves to make you more energized and productive. There is a lot of research available on this topic now. So, taking the time to understand what works best for you is a wise move for maintaining your mental health.
With the diversity of digital tools, it is easy to choose those that would assist you in facilitating work. In addition, eliminating tedious tasks off your schedule. For example, consider using task planners, online calendars, grammar editors, and design creators. All of these applications save time and minimize job daily demands).
Sounds like a no brainer, but the trick is, you need to plan two big tasks prior to the day you want to perform them. It will reduce pressure and prevent over-commitment and emotional toll.
Make just a few decisions
This tip is of special value for those who want to embrace the leadership role. It might sound unconventional but, actually, it keeps you from feeling trapped in the pseudo productivity abyss. Confusing busy and productive leads to focusing on the quantity instead of quality. Moreover, it causes decision fatigue.
Outside the workplace
To amplify and support our natural ways of being, we should:
- Be aware that after work you can feel decision fatigue which is responsible for impulse purchasing
- Try to plan the out-of-work time with the same efforts you are investing in planning your work; simply because you owe yourself ‘me’ time
- Say no to work-related emails and calls after your working day is over
- Manage your diet and sleep routine as they are the basis of physical and mental wellbeing.
Paradoxically, you can avoid job burnout by managing your time off and giving your body extra care. Walking and exercising let you get rid of the burden of screens everywhere. In addition, they keep you active and healthy. Remember, a healthy body helps to instil in your mind the ‘idea of enough’ not to slip into the burnout pit.
Burnout may make people feel tired out and cynical about work duties, so preventing the occupational hazards that might deprive us of realizing our full potential must never slip off our daily agenda.
Check on the statements that prove you are currently NOT prone to burnout:
- My work is interesting and fulfilling.
- I do not feel tired before I arrive at work.
- I mostly talk about my work in a positive way.
- When I work, I feel energized.
- I do not need much time to relax after work.
- I cope with work pressure quite well.
- It doesn’t happen often that do my job mechanically.
- I’ve got enough energy for my leisure activities
- The tasks I do during the working day seem fine to me.
- I’m engaged in my work.
If you feel that you cannot relate to most of these statements, it’s probably time to put yourself on pause. Then you can reconsider your work routine and restore work-life balance.
Remember that once burnout creeps into your life, it is a sign you are in need of drastic change. Take it as the time to take a break. Time to apply a new strategy to manage it all – because you can.
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