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Burnout at work is a growing phenomenon.  High demands, tight deadlines, and long hours – all while juggling family responsibilities, can take a toll on even the most resilient individuals.   Indeed a 2022 survey of 15,000 workers across 15 countries by McKinsey Health found that a quarter of employees experienced burnout symptoms

Understanding burnout at work, recognizing its signs and symptoms, and knowing how to deal with it effectively are important for maintaining your mental, emotional, and physical health.

What is Burnout at Work?

Burnout is a condition induced by long-term stress or dissatisfaction at work. It’s more than just having a bad day or a busy week.  It’s actually a chronic condition that results from being overwhelmed and overworked over an extended period.

The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ While it’s not a medical condition, the characteristics of burnout can lead to poor mental and physical health.

These  include:

  • Energy depletion and exhaustion
  • Negative feelings towards your job, including frustration or a lost sense of purpose
  • A reduction in efficacy at work.

You are not alone. Burnout at work is on the increase

Signs and Symptoms

Recognising burnout at work is the first step towards addressing it. Common signs and symptoms include:

Chronic fatigue and lack of energy

  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability or impatience with co-workers or clients.
  • Lack of motivation or interest in work.
  • Feelings of disillusionment about your job.
  • Frequent headaches or muscle pain.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep habits.
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Causes of Burnout

Burnout can result from various factors, often interrelated, including:

  • Excessive workload or overtime.
  • Lack of control over work activities.
  • Insufficient rewards for effort.
  • Lack of a supportive community at work.
  • Unfair treatment or discrimination.
  • A mismatch between job and personal skills or values.

How to Deal with Burnout at Work

  1. Acknowledge the Burnout: Admitting that you’re experiencing burnout is the first step toward recovery. Denial only prolongs the problem.
  2. Evaluate Your Options: Discuss your concerns with your supervisor. You can change a demanding workload, gain more control over your tasks, or get involved in more rewarding projects.
  3. Seek Support: Support and camaraderie, whether from co-workers, friends, family, or professionals, are essential for overcoming burnout.
  4. Practice Self-Care: Prioritise your health. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, learn mindfulness and breathwork techniques,  and engage in activities that relax and rejuvenate you
  5. Set Boundaries: Learn to avoid additional responsibilities and set clear boundaries between work and personal life to ensure downtime and recovery.
  6. Take Time Off: If burnout at work seems inevitable, take a break from work. If you cannot take days off work, don’t allow work to consume you after hours. Turn off your phone when you get home and resist the urge to check your emails.
  7. Re-evaluate Your Goals and Priorities: Consider what’s truly important to you and whether your current job aligns with those values. Sometimes, a career change might be necessary to find more fulfilling work.
  8. Delegate: Don’t try to do everything yourself. While asking for help with tasks may not come easily, delegating can help reduce your workload and stress levels.
  9. Focus on What You Can Control: Concentrate on the aspects of your job that you can control, such as your reaction to problems and how you manage your time.
  10. Find New Meaning in Your Work: Find value in your role. Focus on aspects of the job that you enjoy or find meaningful, even if they’re small parts of your day.

The bottom line

Remember, it’s essential to prioritise your well-being, not just for your sake but for your colleagues, friends, and family who rely on you. If you’re struggling with burnout at work, consider contacting a mental health professional who can provide personalised strategies and support to help you navigate this challenging period.

We used these references for this article

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases

Mckinsey Research: https://www.mckinsey.com/mhi/our-insights/addressing-employee-burnout-are-you-solving-the-right-problem

About the author

Murray Hewlett is the CEO of  Affinity Health  South Africa’s leading health coverage provider.

 

Murray Hewlett

Murray Hewlett

Murray Hewlett is the founding CEO of Affinity Enterprises. His vision is to make South Africans healthier and enhance the quality of their lives. Affinity Enterprises exists in response to an ever-growing need for affordable health services. He serves on the Executive Committees and Board of Directors of many for-profit and non-profit organisations.  He obtained his MBA from Charles Sturt University in Australia in 2008. He is currently a Doctoral candidate at the University of Liverpool and earned a B.Sc. degree from Wits University in 1996. Murray lives in Johannesburg and is a father to two daughters and two sons. He enjoys travelling, the ocean, motorsports, technology and wellness.

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