Friday 04, Nov 2022

How to identify and prevent burnout

by Kate Meadows.

Identifying burnout

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

Common signs of burnout:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached/alone in the world
  • Having a cynical/negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed

Burnout has very recently, (2019) been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’. It is a syndrome best explained as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy

Why do people feel burnt out?

During our pandemic lockdowns and working from home arrangements the lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred. Many of us are working longer hours, have been looking after children during the working day, and for many, our means of social interaction and social environments have changed. These are all factors that may contribute to our ability to manage our stress responses.

Burnout isn’t something which goes away on its own. Rather, it can increase unless you address the underlying issues causing it. It is important that a workplace continues to support employees to manage mental health challenges when ‘stress markers’ appear. These ‘stress markers’ will be different for everyone as we all feel different symptoms when we are not managing or coping with the day-to-day challenges of our lives.

How to prevent burnout

Workplaces should educate their employees about recognising and managing stress and deteriorating mental health before things become too difficult to manage. Developing Wellbeing Plans and checking in regularly with employees is vital.

Psychological Risk Assessments are another way you can explore stress in yourself and others at work. These work the same way as a regular health and safety risk assessment: you identify a risk, then explore ways of removing or reducing the risk. This could be explored during one-on-ones or less formal check-ins.

Despite the WHO’s definition of burnout being an occupational hazard, not all of the factors contributing to burnout symptoms are work related. General life challenges that impact our stress levels such as financial stress, life balance, sleep issues, relationship issues, isolation and physical health will also play a part in how we respond to our stress in the workplace.

It is not a simple task to manage or even recognise burnout, but like any mental health challenge it is a more comfortable journey if symptoms are recognised, and early intervention action is taken to support the individual.

To support your employees with early signs of burnout, educate them about your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Don’t have an EAP for your business yet? Then read up on ‘Choosing an EAP’ in our article here.

This article was brought to you by Kate Meadows from our wellbeing team.