Young stressed woman

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 pessimistic, cynical or mentally distanced from their job, and may notice a reduced ability to tackle the challenges of their role effectively. 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. It may be essential to separate and respond to our tiredness and look for more balance.

Workplace burnout can often impact the most engaged employees and those in caring roles. They reach a tipping point where the resources they have given to their work, such as time, energy and passion, are outweighed 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 vital to notice signs of burn-out quickly and intervene in the downward spiral before it becomes even more challenging to address the causes. Suppose you are experiencing symptoms of tiredness, increasing cynicism or struggling to maintain productivity, or noticing it in your colleagues or team members. In that case, 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.