Notice the signs

Burnout is defined by the World Health Organisation as a syndrome specifically relating to the organisational context and ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. People experiencing burnout may have feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, feel increasingly negative, cynical or mentally distanced from their job, and may notice a reduced ability to effectively tackle the challenges of their role. This can result in a downward spiral where the demands of the role start to feel more and more overwhelming. Burnout is also a term often used in everyday language to describe more general feelings of exhaustion so it may be important to separate, and respond, to our tiredness and look for more balance, especially in our current circumstances.

Workplace burnout can often impact the most engaged employees, and those in caring roles, as they reach a tipping point where the resources they have given to their work such as time, energy and passion, are then out-weighed by the resulting tiredness and feelings of being ineffectual. A Gallop survey found the top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

It is important to notice signs of burn-out quickly and try to intervene in the downward spiral before it becomes even more challenging to address the causes. If you are experiencing symptoms of tiredness, increasing cynicism or struggling to maintain productivity, or noticing it in your colleagues or team members, it can help to start asking curious and open questions to find out more about people’s experiences. The Workplace Stressors tool is designed to help individuals and managers, to explore and have conversations regarding workplace pressure. If you believe you are experiencing unfair treatment you may wish to look at support for harassment or bullying or seek support from HR.

You may also be interested in further resources on Resilience and Stress Management.