Picture this: Your desk is buried under a mountain of paperwork. And in a few hours, you need to step away for a crucial checkpoint meeting. Meanwhile, your supervisor is following up on a report you were supposed to submit — yesterday. It’s a scenario many can relate to; it’s the perfect recipe for employee burnout.
In this blog, we enumerate 10 essential tips to prevent it and improve your workplace experience.
What is employee burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” While it’s not a medical condition, it’s an occupational phenomenon strongly tied to mental health illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
According to a 2022 report from McKinsey & Company, one in four employees demonstrate burnout symptoms. Symptoms include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion. There’s also an increased mental distance from one’s job — accompanied by negativism or cynicism. Someone experiencing burnout also displays a decline in professional efficacy.
10 ways to avoid employee burnout
Burnout takes a toll on the individual and the company. According to Harvard Business Review, the annual healthcare spending attributed to workplace burnout ranges between $125 billion and $190 billion. Furthermore, Gallup reveals that disengaged, burned-out employees incur a cost of $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary.
However, this phenomenon is preventable. While it is the role of the management to promote workplace wellness strategies, you, as an employee, also have a role to play. Here’s what you can do.
1. Assess your workload
An imbalance in job demands causes workplace stress. Hence, you must take a step back and evaluate your workload to avoid burnout. Ask yourself: Do your current tasks fall under your responsibilities? Upon assessing such matters, bring them up to your supervisor and, together, look at options. One option is to propose a more equitable distribution of tasks within the team.
2. Learn when and how to say “no”
In recent years, more companies have given employees more opportunities to voice their sentiments. In a modern workspace, you’d typically have the chance to say “no” when you know your plate is full. When prioritizing your tasks, consider the impact of the assignments and the skills required to accomplish them. If something stretches your capacity thin — or doesn’t align with your expertise — decline with diplomacy. Communicate your concern with the proper personnel, explaining your situation professionally.
3. Don’t be a perfectionist
Many employees want to give their best at work. But to produce top-quality output, people tend to set unattainable goals. And when they don’t meet those goals, they are often overcome with demoralizing feelings. But as French philosopher Voltaire once said, perfect is the enemy of the good. This is especially true in the workplace. To counter it, embrace “good enough,” lay out realistic goals and reward yourself as you accomplish them. Most importantly, remember that your work doesn’t fully define your worth.
4. Take regular breaks
When working, don’t forget to take a break. It doesn’t only cover your lunches. Without compromising the tasks you need to accomplish by the end of the day, take, for instance, coffee breaks to give yourself a breather. While resting from work, do some stretches and walk around to alleviate your body’s stress. Apart from physical breaks, you must also prioritize resting your mind. According to research conducted by Ernst & Young, employees who took an extra 10 hours of vacation time exhibited an 8 percent improvement in their year-end performance.
5. Watch out for warning signs
Frequent headaches, inadequate sleep, poor concentration and depressive mood are symptoms of employee burnout. When you see yourself experiencing any of these, don’t simply dismiss them. Take proactive measures: Re-prioritize your tasks, talk to your supervisor and take a break. As they say, prevention is better than cure.
6. Strengthen your bond with colleagues
Gallup research shows that having a best friend at work positively impacts engagement and retention. While developing work friendships is essential, having a harmonious relationship — and not necessarily friendship — already contributes to a better company culture. Keep in mind that if you work in a company with a toxic culture, you will likely experience burnout.
7. Take advantage of company initiatives
As leaders recognize the importance of workplace wellness, more organizations are implementing programs that aim to boost it. Apart from the usual team-building activities, companies also conduct mental health seminars and provide mental health services to employees. Some also implement flexible work setups to cultivate better work-life balance. Leverage suitable programs that your workplace offers.
8. Maintain an open communication
Communication is vital to any thriving organization. As mentioned, you must elevate your concerns to the proper individual to devise a workaround that fits your team best. Given that a workspace is a dynamic environment, bear in mind that there’s a need to adapt and adjust constantly. Ensure you maintain open communication with your leaders and colleagues.
9. Seek support
Here’s the truth: Stress is inevitable in virtually any job. The key lies in managing it well. And to manage it, you must recognize that you can’t prevent burnout alone. As stated, you must strengthen your bond with your colleagues and learn to trust them more. Get guidance from your supervisor and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns. If you feel like you need professional help, then do so — especially when you already feel some degree of burnout. Greg Fantham, an assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University, Dubai, pointed out, “Dealing with severe burnout on your own can be difficult.” He added, “It may be beneficial to seek assistance from a mental health expert, like a therapist or counselor, to aid in your recovery.”
10. Practice self-care
Practicing self-care offers many benefits you can enjoy at work — and beyond the office space. Exercising regularly, eating nutritious meals and picking up healthy hobbies can substantially improve your physical and mental well-being. At work, specifically, you can enhance your focus, productivity and overall resilience.
Frequently asked questions
What is burnout?
Burnout happens when there’s a chronic imbalance in job demands, causing persistent workplace stress.
What are the symptoms of burnout?
Burnout symptoms include exhaustion, mental detachment from your job, decreased productivity and quality of work, sleep issues and poor concentration, among others.
How prevalent is burnout?
According to 2022 figures, a quarter of employees worldwide experience burnout.
Employee burnout is a global phenomenon with costly consequences — both literally and figuratively. By fostering a proactive approach to well-being, you can combat this issue. Evaluate your workload, take care of your physical and mental health and seek support. Practice the abovementioned tips and reap the benefits of a better workplace experience.
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