• Westwood International

Recognizing Work-Related Burnout, and Doing Something About It

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Burnout at work is a stress-related condition that can strike no matter your organization's size or function. It could be causing reduced productivity and employee turnover leading to client dissatisfaction.

Train yourself to spot the signs of burnout early — and apply a few simple remedies — and you could avoid much of the downside of this pervasive workplace issue. You might also, in the process, create a workplace that fosters growth, balance, and wellbeing.

What is work-related burnout?

Merriam-Webster dictionary will tell you that burnout is "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration." The Mayo Clinic adds that job burnout involves a "sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity."

Though not a medical diagnosis, according to Mayo, burnout can affect your associate's and employees' physical and mental health. If unaddressed job burnout can have significant consequences on sufferers, including:

● Fatigue and insomnia

● Increased blood pressure

● Heightened vulnerability to illnesses

It can also lead to sadness, anger, and irritability. Fortunately, there are simple ways to spot this dangerous condition and minimize it, perhaps helping you to avoid its adverse effects on your organization altogether.

What are some job burnout symptoms?

"Physician, heal thyself"; goes the ancient proverb. If you are going to try to diagnose and treat job burnout in your organization, you might want to check the state of your own work-related health first.

Try asking yourself a few questions, such as:

● Have your sleep habits changed?

● Do you feel like you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you get there?

● Do you lack the energy to be consistently and genuinely productive?

● Are you finding it hard to concentrate?

● Are you making more errors?

● Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

● Do you feel disillusioned about your job?

● Have you become cynical or overly critical at work?

● Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers or clients?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you could be suffering from symptoms associated with job burnout. You can't make a proper self-diagnosis, of course, without eliminating other possible causes. A doctor or mental health provider might be able to tell you if these symptoms can be traced to underlying health conditions such as depression or anxiety.

Once you've done an evaluation on yourself for job burnout, you can now more comfortably go about applying this set of questions to others in your organization.

What are some causes of job burnout?

Factors and underlying causes that can lead to burnout at work are extensive and can vary based on the nature of both your business, and your people. Some of the more common causes include:

● Lack of control — the inability to influence decisions that affect one's job or position, e.g., work schedule, nature of assignments, workload size.

● Unclear job expectations — the lack of clarity about expectations, degree of authority on decision making, and misaligned goals.

● Dysfunctional workplace dynamics — working with an office bully, feeling undermined by colleagues, a supervisor micromanaging one's work, etc.

● Work-life imbalance — work so overwhelming one's life he doesn't have sufficient time or energy to spend time with friends or family.

Having spotted job burnout symptoms at your organization and evaluating some of the most frequent underlying causes, you should now consider treating responsible factors.

What can be done to avoid job burnout?

Many practical approaches you can take to minimizing or eliminating job burnout address its underlying causes directly. Some of the more obvious of these include:

● Providing clear job expectations and descriptions.

● Ensuring staff has resources and skills necessary to meet expectations.

● We are setting reasonable workloads and enforcing reasonable work hours.

● We are encouraging breaks, physical activity, and social support throughout the workday.

Your overall aim should be to help employees understand their value to your organization, making them see how their contributions advance its goals. Your responsibility is then to see they have what they need to bring the most value possible — which may include safeguarding their mental health.

Avoiding burnout at your workplace means evaluating the situation and taking practical steps to resolve it. You hope to reduce work-related stress and increase engagement while enhancing work enjoyment. If you succeed at this, you will not only have taken significant steps toward resolving the job burnout issue. You will also have helped create a work environment that fosters thriving at work, with beneficial home life effects.


-- "Job burnout: How to spot it and take action" by Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayo Clinic.

-- "Symptoms of Burnout: Employee Burnout Warning Signs" by Alan De Keyrel;

MED+ED, January 17, 2018.

-- "Burnout Response" in Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

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