Feeling burned out at work has consequences that spill across your life. According to a Gallup study, employees who experience burnout report more sick days, are more likely to be actively looking for another job, and have lower confidence in their performance. The same study showed that the consequences don’t stop at work, employees who are burned out have 23% more ER visits and have a harder time balancing their family obligations.
As a leader you have to be able to recognize the signs of burnout within yourself and when evaluating members of your team. Burnout isn’t a medical condition, although medical conditions like anxiety and depression may be behind or contribute to feelings of burnout. Job burnout is better described as a state of stress and is often accompanied by a feeling of mental, physical or emotional exhaustion.
The Mayo Clinic put together a great list of questions to ask yourself to see if you might be suffering from job burnout:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions then burnout may be the culprit of your symptoms. The Gallup study I mentioned previously covers some of the main causes of burnout that you might need to address in order to better manage your work environment. Some of the main causes are being treated unfairly at work, an unmanageable workload, lack of clarity around the role or expectations of the role, lack of communication or support from leadership and unreasonable timelines or unreasonable demands around time to complete work. Certain careers are also more likely to experience burnout, ones that are “helping” professions where people routinely have to sacrifice more for others such as caregivers, doctors and nurses.
If you’re experiencing burnout there are several things that you can do to help manage the situation and avoid it in the future. Start by seeking support from coworkers or loved ones, they may be able to help you cope and help with some of the feelings that you’re experiencing. You can also see if your employer offers any employee assistance programs. Discuss the concerns and what you’re feeling with your leader in a calm and collected manner, and try to think of possible solutions to present to your leader. For example, if a flexible work schedule or being able to take time off would help then ask for what you think would help alleviate the problem. If the issue is recurring deadlines that aren’t realistic then bring up that problem and suggest what would be a manageable deadline. It is also very important to cultivate a practice of self-care, which may not seem realistic at first and may seem like more of a demand on your time. Self-care actually has benefits of making you more productive, better equipped to deal with stress and can help your overall health. Examples of things that you can do to promote self-care include exercise, meditation, eating balanced and consistent meals and getting adequate sleep.