Understanding and Managing Workplace Burnout

Understanding and Managing Workplace Burnout


This week on the blog, I'm talking about a serious issue many of us are dealing with alone. This past year-and-a-half has been intense and emotional. The pandemic has caused changes to where and how we work. A lot of us are working even more on top of dealing with the stress of the pandemic. This blog is all about workplace burnout and what you can do to get back to feeling like yourself again.

Workplace burnout happens when employees become frustrated, exhausted, disengaged, and unmotivated at work. Employees are often both physically and mentally drained, causing them to be less productive. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as a mental health concern.

 According to a 2018 survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup, the top five reasons for burnout are: 

  1. Unfair treatment at work

  2. Unmanageable workload

  3. Lack of role clarity

  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager

  5. Unreasonable time pressure


 A more recent study by Gallup called The Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox of 2020 found that engagement and well-being rise and fall in tandem. In the first half of 2020, the report found that engagement shot up and reached a new high during June and July but cooled off towards the end of the year. The initial rise in engagement was likely fear-based, as people were grateful to have a job and did not want to lose it. However, without well-being, the engagement was destined to be short-lived.

The burnout has been real in 2020 and now into 2021. Many of us are working from home. Many parents also find themselves trying to balance working from home with helping their kids with online schooling. It can be challenging to separate work from home. The two have become inseparable, and we feel like we are constantly “on-call." Do any of these signs sound familiar? If they do, you might be experiencing burnout:

Losing track of tasks

  • Not completing work on time

  • Going through mood changes like irritability, sadness, or anger 

  • Experiencing symptoms of depression, like hopelessness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, or fatigue

  • Feeling discouraged or apathetic about work

  • Getting poor sleep, experiencing insomnia, or having trouble falling asleep

  • Drinking more alcohol than normal or drinking to cope 

  • Experiencing physical symptoms like chest pain, headaches, increased illness, heart palpitations, dizziness or fainting, or gastrointestinal pain

So, what can you do to manage workplace burnout? You can start by taking control of what you can. Do your best to eat a diet that will nourish your body, get 8 hours of sleep a night, and get 30 minutes of daily exercise. If you have a hard time finding time to exercise (trust me, I get it, work and family can get so busy), try an office workout or go for a morning walk.

You can also try talking to your boss about your position at work. You don’t need to tell them that you are experiencing burnout, but you can present it in a way that has a positive effect on the bottom line. Tell them you’re feeling overworked, and by focusing on fewer tasks, you can give them your full attention and do a better job. Perhaps you’re experiencing burnout from boredom or mundane jobs. If that’s the case, ask for new duties. You could be inspired and motivated by different tasks.

 A great way to mitigate burnout is to create boundaries and a routine for work. Break the constant cycle of work and exhaustion by setting some boundaries. These could include things like only working during designated hours, taking a lunch break away from your computer, taking a 15-minute break each day, or not responding to emails outside of work hours.

The last suggestion is to make sure you are practicing self-care. We all know we should be taking care of ourselves, but it can be easy to find an excuse to put ourselves to the side. Instead of always saying you should take the time to do something for yourself, just do it. Making time to take care of yourself is crucial for our physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

While it is important that everyone manage their burnout, if you’re a boss who has to manage other employees, you should also be aware of their engagement and well-being balance. Gallup’s report also offered advice for leaders on how to help employees thrive amid the chaos.

Start measuring employee wellbeing, in addition to engagement via a quick online survey

  • Train managers to have conversations about wellbeing, above and beyond engagement

  • Capitalize on the benefits of well-managed remote work

  • Consider the disparate impact the pandemic is having on certain employees

  • Actively scan for signs of potential burnout

There was a lot of information in this week’s blog, but I’m hoping that something in here resonated with you. Please know that you’re not alone in experiencing workplace burnout. Take time for yourself and set boundaries. What do you do to manage workplace burnout, either for yourself or your employees?

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