Although work is not the only cause for burnout, today we will be looking at how to prevent burnout at work and how to deal with it if you are suffering from this condition. In truth, many events and situations can lead to burnout, not only the workplace.
Other events and life situations that lead to burnout can be one or more of the following:
- Constant abuse at home, within the family, or with so-called friends or even with co-volunteers in non-profit organizations
- Constant bullying
- Stressful situations that stretch on for long periods of time – Someone who commented on my previous post gave me a good example of this, the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process. Other examples can be animal rescue in which rescuers are exposed to cruelty, animal abuse, and death on a permanent basis.
All of these factors may leave you feeling empty, emotionally and physically drained, and unable to cope with the constant demands of daily life.
In my next post I will address the above-mentioned causes, but today we will look at burnout at work.
What Exactly is Burnout?
In 1974, Herbert Freudenberger used this word for the first time in his book “The High Cost of High Achievement”. He defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
In the work environment, burnout is a direct consequence of a high load of stress that stretches over a long period of time. It is characterized by the following three symptoms:
- Exhaustion: you feel exhausted all the time, emotionally as well as physically.
- Cynicism: you hate your job
- Feelings of reduced ability: you feel less capable at work, you feel as if you can’t do anything right.
Although burnout is extremely common nowadays and it is considered a mental health issue, it isn’t a psychological disorder that can be diagnosed. Perhaps that is the reason why it still isn’t taken seriously? Who knows …
Nevertheless, it should be taken seriously, very much so. In my opinion, burnout is the modern-day illness that many of us cope with, the majority undiagnosed and with no help. More support should be given to people who are suffering from burnout.
The Usual Misconception
One common mistake is that burnout is confused with stress. As I mentioned in my previous articles, burnout is not stress that one cannot handle, but it is rather a result of stress. Bear in mind that a high stress job doesn’t necessarily have to lead to burnout. If stress is managed well, then there should be no negative consequences.
But how do you manage stress “well”? That is easier said than done, isn’t it? Before we go over ways to handle stress, let’s take a look at what causes stress at work.
Causes of Stress at Work
- Unreasonable time pressure
Most of us can all relate, right? Not enough time to meet project deadlines, pressure to finish at the expected time … It can get to us. Employees who have no time pressure are less likely to experience burnout. Firefighters and paramedics are, understandably, at a higher risk. Imagine healthcare workers now during the covid pandemic, they are under an enormous amount of pressure.
- Lack of communication or support from a manager
Lack of communication is a problem and it can lead to stressful situations. Been there, done that. If you feel supported by your manager, it takes a load of stress of your back, but if there is no communication and hence no feeling of support, employees are more likely to experience burnout.
- Lack of role clarity
This may sound strange, but many workers do not know what is expected of them. Sometimes, expectations change or are unclear, and it only confuses employees who do not know what the boss really wants them to do. They end up having to figure it out themselves, and this again leads to a feeling of not being supported. Those employees are also at risk of getting burnout.
- Unfair treatment
Employees who feel that they are treated unfairly at the workplace are at a high risk of experiencing burnout. Unfair treatment could be favoritism, bullying, unfair compensations, harassment, and other mistreatments from co-workers.
Bullying is not restricted to school. It also happens at the office, factory, or any other workplace, and it does take its toll on the victim. If you experience any unfair treatment from a co-worker, you must report it at once and get it taken care of.
- High workload
An unmanageable workload is a high cause for stress, for everyone. You quickly end up feeling overwhelmed, and that can also lead to burnout.
How do You Deal With All This?
First of all, it is important to have time for yourself. Regular exercise and getting enough sleep are at the top of the list. If you are not into exercise or you have no time to spend at the gym, then go for walks. Walking exercises the whole body and it also calms the mind.
A healthy diet is also a great help. If your body gets the right fuel, it will perform and heal better.
Make sure that you plan in frequent breaks at work. It is ideal if those could include a little walk outside or even a five-minute break on the company building’s terrace or courtyard. Regular breaks will provide you with those downtimes for yourself, preventing you from getting burnout.
If you are suffering unfair treatment from a co-worker, even bullying, you must report this at once. Speak to your boss or to human resources, so that this situation can be solved. Suffering abuse at work is terrible and should be taken care of. Bullies must be dealt with.
A week away from work will not heal you from burnout. If it is possible for you, take a long vacation. That might help to recharge your batteries and find time for yourself and heal again.
If your job makes you unhappy, gives you impossible workloads and requirements, big consequences for failure, lack of recognition, bad communication, poor leadership, and unfair compensation, then it is time to make a drastic change and look for a better job.
If nothing will ever improve at your workplace, it doesn’t matter how much time of you take; coming back to work you may fall into the same trap again and suffer the same consequences. So, in that case, it is best to take the bull by the horns, say goodbye to all that, and find new employment.
I hope that this will help you if you are suffering burnout at work. Burnout is a serious condition and I really want to help other people to get through this. Not enough help is offered for this, which is the reason why I set up this website.
If you have any questions, please let me know, and I will be happy to help. In my next post I will address burnout that is caused by factors such as bullying and abuse at home and/or with loved ones.