Burnout; How to Identify and Treat

Burnout; How to Identify and Treat

Any employee dedicated to achieving the best results is at risk for burnout. Working long hours to meet deadlines and expectations can take its toll. While this level of dedication is admirable, it often comes with consequences. Feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted are signs of burnout.

Burnout drains your energy, reduces productivity, and leaves you feeling hopeless, cynical, and helpless. These negative side effects spill over into every area of your life. Burnout is also likely to create long-term changes in your body, especially impacting your cardiovascular system and immune system.

Last year the O.C. Tanner Institute conducted a survey of over 20,000 workers and found approximately 80% of employees have reported experiencing burnout that has not only impacted their lives but their coworkers and families as well. This article explores burnout and how to interact with employees who are showing signs of burnout.

Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

We all have days when we feel overloaded, or helpless, that’s perfectly normal. Experiencing the following symptoms for weeks at a time is too much for anyone and should be seen as a sign you’re experiencing burnout:

  • Constant tiredness.
  • Lowered immunity / frequent illnesses.
  • Persistent headaches or muscle pain.
  • Loss of motivation and excessive feelings of self-doubt.
  • Isolating yourself, feeling detached and alone.
  • Lack of patience and taking frustrations out on others.

COVID Burnout

Traditionally, burnout was treated with days off to relax and unplug from work. Extra quality time at home with your family was often what we needed to feel recharged and optimistic again. The pandemic created a shift though, here in Calgary we saw many people start working from home. This drastically blurs the line between work and home creating an unhealthy work-life-balance. For the dedicated employees we discussed earlier, it’s now easier to burn the candle at both ends. Additionally, your home is no longer a sanctuary or an escape from work.

The following techniques are recommended for helping/reducing COVID burnout.

  • CHANGE YOUR SCENERY: take your work to a room you don’t spend your free time in. This probably rules out your bedroom and tv room.
  • DISENGAGE STRATEGICALLY: find activities that help you disconnect from work such as yoga, walking or playing a game on your phone and schedule them in your calendar to ensure you disengage at lunchtime and at the end of the day.
  • MAKE PLANS: it’s hard to be social these days. Making plans to Facetime with friends (perhaps over a glass of wine) can give you something to look forward to.

Dealing with Burnout

The Three R’s are required for dealing with burnout:

  • RECOGNIZE the signs of burnout.
  • REVERSE the damage by managing stress and finding support.
  • RESILIENCE from caring for your physical and emotional health.

Asking for support from family and friends is a priority. Remember being open with them doesn’t make you a burden, it’s likely they’ll be happy you trust them enough to confide in them. Build social relationships with your coworkers, as they make for great buffers in preventing burnout. Limit contact with negative people, their moods and complaints will impact you.

Join a community group or a cause meaningful to you. Increasing your social circle while doing something positive for your community is a great way to boost your confidence and reenergize yourself.

Reframe how you look at your work by acknowledging the value you contribute. Even mundane jobs serve a purpose that workers need to be reminded of. Shifting your attitude towards your work helps to regain a sense of control and purpose. It’s also important to reevaluate priorities to help you find balance. Incorporating activities that help you disengage daily, such as going for a walk or playing a game on your phone can help.

Finally, it’s important to make sleep and exercise a priority. When we don’t get enough sleep we’re not as able to deal with stressful situations. Exercise will help relieve stress and make it easier for you to sleep at night. All it takes is a ten-minute walk to boost your mood for two hours. Hopefully, knowing this will make it a lot easier to slip in a walk during a morning and afternoon health break.

For Leaders Seeing Signs of Burnout

It is more important than ever to listen those you work with you to understand what they need to lead a healthy and fulfilled life. Providing additional resources creates stronger relationships with employees increasing talent retention. This can save time and money while improving efficiency and performance.

Before connecting with employees, consider what it takes to be a great listener. Suspending your brain’s judgements, conclusions and assumptions frees you to listen newly. Empathizing with their experience is a great way to leave someone feeling heard, seen, and understood. Probing questions allows a deeper dive into what you can do to support them in ways that really make a difference. Performance and loyalty are a function of communication.

Boitnott, J. (2020, January 29). Here’s What Employees Want From Their Leaders. Retrieved March 08, 2021, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/345538


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