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Burnout at Work: Causes, Effects, Signs and Prevention

Are you on the brink of burnout?

How can you notice early signs and support prevention for yourself and colleagues. As we begin a New Year, it can present a good time to reflect and revisit our personal and professional lives, practices and routines. Starting the year afresh with renewed objectives, plans and intentions can have a positive and revitalising impact on mental health, and taking the time to reconsider and reevaluate working practices and habits is valuable. Have your recently adopted remote working practices blurred the boundary between work and home life? Are you burning the candle at both ends? Do you feel your workload has become unmanageable?

A recent study of 13,000 employees globally has suggested that 75% of British employees reported suffering burnout which was higher than the global average of 71%*.

Burnout is something that is becoming an increasingly familiar term, referring to severe, enduring relentless stress and demands, usually in the workplace environment. The syndrome originated in 1974 by American psychologist Freudenberger, who characterised a set of symptoms including exhaustion and mental malaise. Studies, knowledge and descriptions have developed further since then and whilst ‘Burnout’ is not a classified mental illness it can be a contributory factor to depression, de-personalisation and exhaustion. It is a psychosomatic condition that will affect mind and body, and often results from a misalignment of input and output; you burnout when you’re putting more into your work than you’re getting out of it.

It is often thought of as a result of a mismatch of work, the role and the person doing it. At Mental Health at Work, one of our primary aims is to promote the workplace as a safer, more kind and informed place to be, and therefore recognising burnout and its potential impact on wellbeing is crucial. By promoting the importance of understanding, noticing and supporting mental wellness in the workplace, we can all play a huge part in the prevention of burnout.

Organisations can help employees by making sure everyone is aware of potential causes, symptoms and prevention strategies of Burnout:

1. What are some of the Causes of Burnout?

Be aware of some of the possible instigators of burnout:

  • Lack of reward or recognition
  • Feeling underused or undervalued
  • Plagiarizing of creativity, ideas and products
  • Doing regular monotonous work
  • Constant chaos, high pressure or being in receipt of bad planning and/or delegation
  • Working too hard, too fast or too long
  • Being micromanaged – a lack of control over own workload
  • Lack of support and/or insufficient help from others
  • Lack of work relationships
  • Too many responsibilities
  • Being a perfectionist.

2. Are you on the road to Burnout?

Some telltale signs:

  • “Every day is a bad day”
  • Helplessness – caring about work/home is a waste of energy
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling detached from yourself (de-personalization)
  • Most of your day is about performing mind-numbing tasks
  • You feel nothing is appreciated
  • Nothing makes any difference
  • Change in appetite
  • Frequent illness
  • Headaches
  • Poor sleep patterns

3. How can we prevent burnout?

Some prevention hints – “the six R’s”:

  • RECOGNISE and UNDERSTAND what you might be seeing
  • REFLECT on work life – yours or theirs
  • REACT to what you see in yourself or others
  • REALISE the source of the burnout
  • REVERSE any constant damaging

The recognition and understanding of the symptoms, along with the knowledge around how to prevent burnout are all valuable skills that everyone in your organisation is capable of.

Being in a workplace culture where open and honest conversations around all aspects of mental health are encouraged is something we strive for in all our clients. At Mental Health at Work, we develop and deliver organisations with tailored mental health workshops for employees, line managers and senior leaders, built around meeting your individual business needs around mental health.

Please get in contact with us here if you would like to learn more about any of our programmes.

*The Conference Board Survey – Oct 2021

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