If you’ve been feeling drained or unmotivated at work, you might be experiencing workplace burnout.
Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion at work caused by stress from factors such as family life, personality traits, and career. Being burned out at work involves a loss of personal identity and a sense that your accomplishments aren’t being recognized.
According to a 2021 study by Forbes, burnout is rising. Over 52% of survey respondents experienced burnout in 2021 – up from the 42% who said the same in a previous survey.
Therefore, ensuring that you’re able to spot and best prevent burnout in your work setting, especially if you’re in a managerial position, will help keep your employees productive, healthy, and happy.
Signs of Workplace Burnout
Spotting burnout early can help reduce the risks of health consequences and developing further symptoms. Although there isn’t a foolproof way of identifying burnout, here are five common signs to look for:
1. Decreased quality and quantity of work submitted
While this isn’t the case for some lines of work, a standard way to track employee performance is by using key performance indicators (KPIs).
If these KPIs are dropping steadily within a certain amount of time, especially if it’s from a top-performing employee, it might be a sign the employee is experiencing burnout.
Late work submissions can also cause KPI drops. In some cases, employees may work very hard but still not get much done and therefore miss deadlines.
2. Increased sick days
Employees experiencing burnout and stress are at higher risk of developing other negative health effects such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Maxing out or taking increased sick days may signal that the employee has burnout.
Burnout and stress can also cause physical health effects such as heart palpitations, drowsiness, and cardiovascular disease.
Burned-out employees may find it difficult to relax or sleep well, which can lead to them making frequent mistakes at work. Keep an eye out for employees who experience poor concentration, short-term memory, or seem exhausted at work.
4. Loss of creative passion
Many people struggle with staying creative while working under pressure. Burnout triggers feelings of no control and a lack of recognition, especially when you’re expected to do the same tasks over and over again. Employees might lose their creative spark if they don’t have the time to exercise their creative muscles.
This loss of creative passion is visible in how employees contribute during group discussions or on personal projects. If an employee isn’t contributing ideas or seems disinterested in trying out new things, they might be experiencing creative burnout.
When employees are depersonalized, they focus more on profit rather than their work ethic, clients, and performance. Signs of depersonalization due to burnout include an insensitive attitude toward clients and coworkers and the loss of trust in the workplace.
How to Prevent Burnout at Work
Now that you know the signs of burnout to look for in yourself and your employees, here are some methods of alleviating and preventing burnout:
1. Take breaks
Oftentimes, burnout occurs because of long-term stress build-up without the time to recharge. DeskTime revealed after a study that a 52:17 ratio of work to break time in minutes is the secret to being productive.
Working for long periods of time can also cause cognitive boredom, which can trigger one of the signs of burnout: depersonalization.
Knowing you have a break coming up makes you more likely to work with purpose and stay motivated. Your brain also gets to reset during your break and bring down your stress levels. You can choose to meditate, read a chapter of a book, or even go for a short walk during your breaks.
2. Create a healthy workspace
To combat burnout, both your body and mind must stay physically and mentally healthy in the workplace. Some products you can get to help your body remain functional and strong during work include:
- Lumbar support: sitting for long periods of time can damage the lower back, strain the spine, and lead to poor posture.
- Blue light glasses: these glasses can help reduce eye strain and make it easier to focus on tasks – especially if your job requires long hours of screen time.
- Wrist supports: provide support for your wrists to prevent wrist injuries when typing and using a mouse.
- Standing desk: according to Mayo Clinic, those who sit for more than eight hours a day have similar risks of dying posed by smoking and obesity. Many jobs require the use of a computer, so sitting down for long periods of time is common. Using a standing desk will help you reach a healthy balance between sitting and standing up.
Keep in mind that pain is a cause of stress, and burnout is caused mainly by stress. By making sure your body is fully supported when you work, you can reduce the risk of developing burnout.
3. Seek support from your higherups
The most productive employees are the ones who are both happy and healthy. Therefore, it’s in your manager’s best interest to support you and provide psychological safety in the workplace for all of their employees.
If your managers know you’re struggling with an aspect of your job, they can then think of solutions such as giving you more time to do creative research, approving time-off requests, or even changing their management styles.
Certain employees might stay silent due to fear of being seen as unreliable and unprofessional. Employers can alleviate this by providing anonymous surveys and establishing honest two-way communications.
4. Balance work with other forms of group interaction
Encouraging other forms of group interactions at work and promoting wellness at work can help combat the loss of creative passion. Office banter during different activities lets coworkers get to know each other and helps build a more open company community.
Here are some ideas for workplace group interactions:
- Teambuilding activities– Adding fun activities such as escape rooms, exercise, and creative classes is an effective way to boost employee morale. Completing fun tasks and hanging out with coworkers outside of the usual work setting can create a positive environment for employees.
- Mixing up teams – Allowing employees to join different sectors/groups for one day each month helps them learn transferable skills and breaks up the monotony of work.
- Competitions and wellness challenges– Pitting teams against each other motivates employees in the same team to work together and increases productivity
- Hold smaller group meetings– Employees might feel more comfortable sharing ideas and concerns if they don’t need to address the entire company.
5. Leave your work at work
People who experience burnout often don’t have a healthy work-life balance. Because they have a hard time finishing tasks during work hours, they bring their work home to complete.
Home should be a place of comfort and relaxation, while evenings and weekends are precious resources to be used for your leisure. In fact, getting a full weekend can boost your creativity by 50%. Your work should be second to your health, so don’t let it consume your free time.
It all boils down to this: when it comes to helping improve an employee’s work-life balance, a little bit can go a long way, even if it’s just a few healthy snacks or a short break.
Chloe Chioy is a Staff Writer and Digital Marketing Coordinator at CV Genius and Resume Genius. Her job advice has been featured on career platforms like Zapier and CharityJob, as well as on the BBC.