While some jobs are more stressful than others, all workers can experience stress at the workplace. Over time, that stress can take its toll and lead to burnout.
What is workplace burnout?
Verywell Mind says “burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life.” It notes the common signs of burnout include:
- Alienation from work-related activities: Individuals experiencing burnout view their jobs as increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may grow cynical about their working conditions and the people they work with. They may also emotionally distance themselves and begin to feel numb about their work.
- Physical symptoms: Chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches or intestinal issues.
- Emotional exhaustion: Burnout causes people to feel drained, unable to cope, and tired. They often lack the energy to get their work done.
- Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work—or in the home when someone's main job involves caring for family members. Individuals with burnout feel negative about tasks. They have difficulty concentrating and often lack creativity.
Burnout can make it difficult for people to function at work and even in their own lives. It may even pose a risk to their safety, as decreased job performance can lead to mistakes that cause workplace accidents.
How does workplace burnout happen?
It has a lot to do with working conditions and how employers treat their workers. A 2018 Gallup study identified five main causes of employee burnout:
- Unfair treatment. Employees are much more likely to experience burnout if they feel they are treated unfairly at work (favoritism, unfair compensation, and mistreatment).
- Unmanageable workload. When an employee feels it’s not possible to keep up with a workload, burnout is much more likely to occur.
- Lack of role clarity. Employees can feel exhausted and burnt out when they aren’t sure what is expected of them.
- Lack of communication and support from a manager. Employees are less likely to experienced burnout if they feel that their manager supports them.
- Unreasonable time pressure. Employees who say they don’t have enough time to do their work are more likely to experience burnout.
Burnout is something that has been happening to workers for a long time, but official recognition of the condition has been slow. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” It noted that burnout is marked by “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.”
What can be done about workplace burnout?
There are currently no OSHA standards or regulations concerning burnout, but it’s clear that burnout is real and poses a threat to workers’ health. So what can you do if you experience burnout at work? Verywell Mind offers these suggestions:
- Approach the human resource department about problems in the workplace or talk to a supervisor about the issues
- Take care of yourself – eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and get enough sleep
- Take regularly scheduled breaks from work
- Consider changing your position or even getting a new job if you don’t think things will improve where you are