How to recognise the signs before you're burned out
by Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at The Instant Group
According to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), last year around 15.4 million working days were lost due to work-related stress or anxiety, with 23% of full-time employees admitting to feeling burned out at work all the time.
Following these recent statistics, Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at The Instant Group, identifies the early signs of burnout and how to effectively avoid hitting ‘rock bottom’:
While January is one of the toughest times of the year for career blues in the UK, it is especially important to look out for signs of burnout later in the year as well. Stress and exhaustion at work impacts employees of all ages around the world, and at every level of the career ladder. Similar to imposter syndrome, high achievers and perfectionists are particularly susceptible to burning themselves out.
Six Key Factors That Lead to Burnout at Work
- High Workload:In the UK, 44% of stress or depression at work is caused by a high workload.
- Unclear Job Expectations:In America, only 60% of employees say they know what is expected.
- Conflict:One of the main work-related factors causing burnout.
- Lack of Managerial Support:Those with a strong support system are 70% less likely to experience burnout.
- No Work/Life Balance:The inability to manage work and personal life can have a snowball effect.
- Stressful Working Environment:There is a correlation between stressful jobs and burnout.
If your work and family life are consistently stressful, you’re almost certainly at risk of burnout. Most people only realise that they are truly burnt out when it’s too late and then they need to work towards eliminating the symptoms, often while still having to deal with the stresses that caused it in the first place.
By keeping an eye out for warning signs can help you make changes proactively, making it easier to prevent burnout, while you still have the will and motivation to make the changes required.
Career Burnout Symptoms
Over-engagement is a symptom of high-stress levels. Going to sleep and waking up thinking about a problem or a deadline is a perfect example of over-engagement. When you start to disengage with your work or personal problems by ignoring or avoiding them, burnout warning bells should start ringing.
Stress usually manifests as a sense of urgency, often resulting in hyperactivity. Anyone facing perpetual deadlines knows the feeling. Burnout, however, is characterised by helplessness and hopelessness; the belief that nothing you do is going to have any effect on your situation or drive any real change.
When under stress, you may find that your emotions are exaggerated and more difficult to control, resulting in you becoming angrier or upset easier than usual. With blunted emotions, however, you may feel that you do not have the energy to react emotionally to situations, or that you are unable to feel excited or worried at all.
Effective Ways to Deal with Burnout
If you’ve started exhibiting any of these symptoms, you may be approaching burnout and should act to minimise the severity and effect of burnout. The following are some of the most effective in addressing the issues that are leading to your exhaustion.
Acknowledge your problems
It’s easy to ignore or downplay other issues in your life that may be contributing to your burnout. Make a list of all things you worry about daily, including the things you feel that you have no power to change. By ordering these by a level of importance, you’ll know which issues you need to address first.
Whether it’s from a co-worker or manager, talking about the problem and seeking advice is a critical step into addressing the causes of your burnout.
Book time off
In some cases, merely having some time away from work, helps re-evaluate your priorities and enables you to get to the root of your stresses. If you’re worried about using up all your annual leave, strategically book leave in to optimise your time off.
Slow it down
It’s vitally important to learn to create a mental divide between work and your life outside it, as it’s extremely unhealthy and unproductive to be thinking about work during ‘off time’.
Ask for more flexibility
With a huge shift towards businesses becoming more agile, the growth of remote working, and an increasing amount of co-working and flexible workspace options around the world, more companies are starting to introduce flexible working hours to reduce commuting time and increase happiness.
It’s important to be honest with yourself during the onset of burnout. To relieve your mind of unnecessary stress, try to acknowledge that your anxieties can sometimes be out of proportion with how severe a situation actually is. Prioritise things like spending time with friends and family, and outdoor activities.
Remember, these are simply tips to help you improve your situation in the short term. Burnout has genuine health implications, and we strongly recommend that you seek professional help in overcoming it. A mental health professional will provide you with tools to make your recovery simpler and easier to maintain.