Burnout in the workplace isn’t uncommon. A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.
Professionals from all types of employment backgrounds face the effects of job burnout, as a number of factors cause it. Long hours, conflicts with management, and overall job frustration are just some of the things that can leave any employee feeling like they’re on the brink of mental, emotional, or physical collapse.
Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships, and job performance. To catch, and combat, burnout early, it’s essential to know what to look for. Some telltale signs include physical and emotional fatigue, detachment, insomnia, and lack of focus. Negative feelings like anger or cynicism can arise as well, so be aware of shifts in these emotional states.
If you’ve experienced some of the symptoms of burnout, consider following the next three tips:
Restructure your work habits
The initial way to address your burnout is to assess how your specific work habits might be affecting your overall happiness. How does your workflow impact your outlook on work? If you tend to procrastinate, for instance, endlessly battling last-minute deadlines might be the root of your burnout. Feeling like you’ve taken on too much but not wanting to assign tasks to others, could be what’s causing your issues.
Take a step back to determine what aspects of your day-to-day activities may be causing unnecessary stress or fatigue. Be sure to alter these habits accordingly, either on your own or with the help of a manager.
It can often be helpful to revamp your working schedule so that it allows you to be as productive as possible. For example, more than 75% of companies today offer some kind of alternative work arrangement, like flexible work hours. If you find that you work at your best in the morning, you may want to work from 7-to-3, rather than 9-to-5, so you’re optimizing hours and feeling less drained. Similarly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, perhaps you can justify an assistant, or if you face a long commute, ask to work from home a few days per week.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
What we do to our bodies physically can impact how we feel mentally. It goes without saying that when we get stressed, we look for ways to feel more comfortable. For many of us, that may include eating comfort foods, drinking alcohol, or collapsing on the couch at the end of a long day.
However, a lot of these activities can be detrimental to both physical and mental health and can perpetuate the unhealthy symptoms associated with burnout. For example, a lot of people deal with the stresses and strains of a hectic work life by turning to caffeine-fueled substances to get them through the day. The New York Times reports that 90 million Americans consume some caffeine every day, whether it be in the form of coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks. Some even take some prescription or over-the-counter medications. However, too much caffeine can result in several health problems, including anxiety, depression, problems with memory and concentration, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.
When your body is overworked, it requires some extra care and attention, which means eating healthy, getting a proper amount of sleep, and exercising. Be sure to carve out time for your wellness activities every week. When you’re tired and stressed, this might seem challenging, but getting yourself into a routine can ensure that you stick with these activities on a go-forward basis. Scheduling time to take care of yourself — meditation, taking a walk, or reading a good book — can help you arrive at work with more energy and enthusiasm.
Work away from your desk
A change of scenery can do you a world of good, even if you’re still working your typical eight-hour workday. Gensler’s 2019 U.S. Workplace Survey reports that people who work away from their desks are more productive, perform better, and have better workplace experiences. If you have a remote work policy at your office, try working from a local coffee shop, bar, or park. Changing up work location can do wonders for burnout. It allows you to approach your work in a new way, can spark new inspiration, and help you feel more refreshed.
However, if you’re unable to work from alternative locations outside your office, try thinking strategically about where in the office you do work. For example, is your desk exposed to sufficient amounts of natural light? Research shows natural light can boost wellbeing and productivity and impact other lifestyle aspects like Seasonal Affective Disorder, eyestrain, headaches, and quality of sleep, among others. Sanna Jawo, director of distribution for Ocean State Job Lot, tells NBC that after adding skylights in their distribution center, employees demonstrated “more energy, an uplift in mood and an overall sense of increased happiness while at work.”
Scout your office for other places you can focus on work throughout the day. Whether it be a soft seating area, a kitchen counter, or a standing desk arrangement, removing yourself from your desk for a portion of the day can help to subside feelings of burnout.
When you experience the effects of burnout, it’s not just your work that suffers, but your health, your mental state, and the lives of the people around you. Be sure to check in with yourself regularly, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and learn to maintain habits that are effective for your workflow. When you start to see burnout in yourself or others, pay attention to it, and take the time you need.