In 2021, employees experienced a 21% increase in work burnout. If you have been worn down at work, you could be experiencing work-related burnout. Many Americans think burnout is just part of the job, but this is not true. It is a sign that you are not taking care of your mental wellness and may need a change. But what is work burnout? How do you know if you are experiencing it, and how can you fix your work-life balance to improve the situation? Let us talk about it.
Read on to learn more.
What Is Work Burnout and Why Does It Matter?
If your work and personal life are not well-balanced, it will eventually lead to work burnout. Work burnout is when you have been exposed to work-related stress and fatigue for so long that you can no longer recover from it. You do not have time between workdays to decompress.
This does not mean that there is not any time. Even if you have an entire weekend, you may be so hung up on work that disconnecting feels impossible.
For employers, work burnout matters because it could cost you valuable employees. These employees are likely the ones that are working hard all day long. There’s only so much that people can take. It will also cause poor productivity in the workplace.
For employees, work burnout can lead to anxiety, depression, and chronic stress (which can lead to physical health problems if left unchecked).
Common causes of work burnout include:
- Not having enough time off
- Unclear expectations in the workplace
- Unreasonable workloads
- Poor boundaries
- Lack of self-care outside of the workplace
- Unhealthy workplace dynamics
- A lack of support
So how can you avoid burnout? The first step is ensuring that you have (or provide if you are an employer) a strong work-life balance.
Do You Need to Improve Your Work-Life Balance?
So, what are the warning signs that you are starting to experience work burnout and you need a change? It is not always obvious. Work burnout can creep up on you when you least expect it, and you may not “feel” stressed out until it hits you all at once.
A few common signs of work burnout include:
- Work-related anxiety
- A desire to quit your job (even if you otherwise enjoy it)
- Insomnia (or work-related nightmares)
- Going through the motions
- Compulsive behaviors (such as compulsive eating or alcohol use)
This is an incomplete list. Overall, if work is starting to grind you down, it is a sign that it is time to improve your work-life balance. But how do you do that without quitting your job?
Set Strong Boundaries at Work
This is the most important thing anyone can do to fix work-life balance issues, but it is also one of the most challenging.
American work culture leads many people to strive toward over-achieving. While achievement is great, if you try to make yourself the person who always goes above and beyond and who’s available 24/7, you will quickly lose steam.
Leave work at work (even if you work remotely). Do not take work-related calls or respond to work-related emails if you are not on the clock. Your free time is yours.
Set boundaries when it comes to work and discuss this with your employer and coworkers. Let them know that you will not be available outside of work hours.
If you have found that you are the go-to person for questions and tasks outside of your duties, let people know that you are no longer available for those things, at least until you are feeling better at work.
You need to take care of yourself in and out of the workplace. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start prioritizing self-care.
But what does self-care look like? It depends on the person.
For some people, self-care means napping, eating well, exercising, and taking time to do things they love. For others, self-care might mean the occasional at-home spa day.
We recommend having a self-care kit that you can pull out when you’re not feeling well. You can even keep a mini kit at your desk for work breaks.
Ask for Help
Are you the type of person who tries to do everything on your own at work? There’s no need for you to take on everyone’s responsibilities. Ask for help when you need it.
Sometimes this means asking a coworker for a helping hand. While you should respect their boundaries, asking occasionally is still acceptable as long as you are actually asking rather than demanding.
You can also talk to your employer. Many employers will be happy to work with you to reduce your workload, especially if you are a model employee. They want to keep you around!
Our work culture says that taking breaks makes you lazy, and good employees should work through their breaks to stand out. This is harmful. It would help if you were taking breaks during the workday.
Believe it or not, breaks can improve your productivity levels. You are giving your brain a chance to rest so you can return to work feeling renewed and ready to go.
Not all breaks are effective breaks, so, make sure you are doing it right. Resist the urge to sit and scroll mindlessly through your phone. This could end up causing you more stress, and it will not help your energy levels.
Get up and move for a moment. Consider playing a quick game. If possible, go outside and soak up the sun.
You will be shocked at how much of a difference a break can make when you do it right.
Talk to a Counselor
If you are genuinely struggling with work burnout and no amount of self-care is fixing the problem, it is perfectly reasonable to talk to a mental health professional. Chronic stress is a genuine mental health concern.
A counselor will help you learn how to set boundaries at work if you’re struggling with that. They will provide a judgment-free zone for you to talk about your concerns. They may even help you learn effective coping mechanisms for when the workday is getting overwhelming.
Keep Up with Social Connections
Many people start to withdraw from their friends and family members when they’re experiencing work burnout, which worsens the problem. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your alone time, but resist the urge to disconnect completely.
Socializing is good for your mental health. You can vent to your friends (within reason) and let off some steam healthily and productively.
Even introverts often find that going out and getting dinner with friends can be a refreshing experience after a tough week in the workplace.
Enjoy Your Time Off
Let us know if this sounds familiar: you get home from work exhausted and immediately crash on the couch to scroll through your phone. Your brain is so tired that doing anything enjoyable seems exhausting. Even though you know that you should be productive or do something fun, it’s stressful to think about.
We’ve all been there. It’s tempting to turn your brain off after working hard all day, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. If you want to avoid work burnout, doing something enjoyable after work (or on your days off) is in your best interest.
For some people, this might mean going out with friends or doing something active, like going on a hike. Other people may enjoy playing video games or watching movies on their days off.
If you used to have a hobby, why not try to get back into it? It can be hard to gather supplies and get started when you’re feeling burnt out, but you’ll find that once you get into it, you’ll enjoy it.
Tips For Employers
What if you’re an employer recognizing signs of burnout in your employees? You can help! Your employees will appreciate the effort.
First, make sure that you are balancing your work and personal life well. You’ll have more energy to help your employees if you take care of yourself.
Consider implementing a wellness program for your employees. This can include counseling sessions, exercise opportunities, and even our Tempo Live behavioral health app.
Make sure that you’re showing appreciation for your employees. Don’t try to encourage employees to work overtime. Praise those who do their work well, not just those who go above and beyond.
Have an open-door policy. Let your employees know they can come to you with work-related problems.
Do You Have a Strong Work-Life Balance?
Achieving a perfectly balanced work and personal life isn’t easy. If your work-life balance isn’t up to par, you might feel the urge to quit or you might start struggling with significant mental health problems.
You deserve to feel respected and happy in the workplace. Use these tips to take your life back and leave work in the office.
At Axiom Medical, we offer behavioral health solutions to employers and employees to keep work burnout at bay. Check out our Tempo Live and our other valuable resources today.
With a career focused on digital marketing, Chitra is a specialized SEO-Content marketer. After moving from biotechnology to business operations and marketing, Chitra started her digital marketing career as a freelance content developer and technical writer. With Axiom, as a content marketing & SEO specialist, she is passionate about creating informative marketing copies for optimum search engine performance.