burnout at work

Avoiding Burnout At Work

Defining Burnout at Work

Burnout at work is the result of ongoing work-related stress. Living under pressure is not sustainable, and if action is not taken to reduce or remove the cause, then burnout is highly likely. Burnout is reached following a sustained period of physical, emotional and/or mental exhaustion and is often combined with doubts about competence and value of your work.

Once recognised, steps can be taken to help manage the situation. However, if it is not managed effectively, then it can have a significant impact on both your mental and physical health.

Detecting Burnout at Work

Recognising burnout can be difficult.  It may be that others around you realise it before you do. This can be a challenging conversation and one that often people avoid as they don’t want to upset the individual concerned. Monitoring our own behaviour can help us become more conscious of any changes in our actions as well as the observations of those we work and spend time with.

Keep a record of the following; be conscious and be honest.

Preventing Burnout at Work

Ideally, prevention of burnout is the aim. Look for the signs and take action at the earliest stage.

Looking after yourself at work is just as important as our self-care at home. The amount of time people spend at work is significant and so managing our wellbeing in a work environment is incredibly important. It is vital to take responsibility for your wellbeing, but your employer also has a duty of care, so have that conversation to tell them how you would like them to support you.

Asking for help can be difficult though. For many employees, there is a fear of reprisal or being treated differently with the stigma that is attached to those who have mental health issues. There may also be concerns that the organisation may put a capability procedure in place.

If you can identify the cause, this may help you to identify potential solutions that you can take to your line manager. Consider underload of work; overload is an obvious cause, but underload can often have the same impact.

How assertive is your behaviour when you have these conversations? Are you managing the difficult discussions with your line manager or colleagues or are you holding on to the thoughts or feelings you are experiencing more passively? Communicating what you think, feel and what you want to happen, can help you to manage the situation and prevent the feelings of frustration.

If overwhelm of workload is part of the issue, then consider whether or not saying ‘no’ is an option, or even ‘not now’. Manage the expectations of the people who have allocated work to you. Assess your ability to manage your time. Are you managing your time in the most effective way? Are you working hard or working smart? You will find the Zing365 post useful covering Distractions & Rewards.

Set priorities for the day. Timebox periods of time to complete specific actions or pieces of work and reduce or remove all distractions while you do this. Simple yet effective solutions can increase productivity and reduce overwhelm.

Take regular short breaks; walk away from your desk; reset and go back for the next task. Legally, you are entitled to breaks so make sure you take them!  Working through a lunch break and eating at the desk is not going to make you more effective or productive.

Managing Burnout at Work

If you are in a state of burnout, then start taking small steps to make improvements;-

  • Take some time out; sometimes it only takes a couple of days to just rest and reset.
  • What is your internal conversation? What are you telling yourself – make sure it’s positive?
  • Where is your focus? Focus on the positives and solutions.
  • Are you eating well to fuel your body and give yourself the energy it needs?
  • Are you drinking enough water to keep yourself hydrated?
  • Are you getting enough sleep? What is your wind-down routine?
  • Are you taking time out for you?
  • What are you doing to help empty the stress bucket each day?

‘Manage’ and ‘prevent’ are very similar. Once the burnout has been reached you will, however, need to take some time out to rest, recover and reset. This may only need a couple of days; it may need longer, only you can tell. However, it cannot be rushed so do not hurry back into work until you are happy that you are ready, and if necessary, return on a recuperative work plan agreed by both you and the employer.

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