Causes of Workplace Burnout and How to Avoid It

Madeline Gray, Author

Workplace burnout can affect anyone from any walk of life, regardless of their profession. It often stems from an excessive workload and, if untreated, can seep into all aspects of day-to-day life, affecting mood and general welfare. 

Over half (52%) of U.S. workers surveyed in a recent study by Indeed reported feelings of burnout, with two-thirds saying the pandemic has contributed negatively to this feeling. But why is it such a prevalent problem? And what can be done about it? 

Here, we highlight some of the leading causes of burnout, and examine how it can manifest itself in our daily lives, as well as offering solutions to avoid this feeling altogether. 

What is Workplace Burnout? 

It is common for everyone to not feel themselves at times, especially when work or home life is particularly stressful. However, workplace burnout is a term used to describe the specific feeling of stress or exhaustion brought on by our working environment or job in general. 

Whilst burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, it can have detrimental impacts on both our physical and mental health. This is why treating it, or avoiding it altogether, can go a long way to helping maintain a healthy workforce. 

Workplace burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways, from reducing feelings of accomplishment to a complete loss of self-identity. But what factors can bring on this feeling, and how can you identify burnout? 

What Causes Burnout? 

One of the key contributing factors is a lack of work-life balance. Particularly during the pandemic when more workers have been operating remotely, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between home and professional life, especially when you’re working in the same space where you spend your leisure time. 

Another common cause of burnout is feeling out of control when it comes to completing your responsibilities. If you aren’t given the ability to affect decisions that will influence your role directly, this can lead to feelings of disillusionment within the workplace, causing additional stress.

What Are The Symptoms?  

There are plenty of signs to be aware of that  indicate you or a colleague are suffering from workplace burnout. Becoming overly cynical at work, or irritable with customers and coworkers are both indicators. 

Furthermore, if these feelings begin to affect your day-to-day routine, such as inhibiting your ability to sleep, or feeling unmotivated to complete everyday tasks, then it’s even more important to start addressing the problem. Other symptoms can include feeling like you’re always underachieving, and generally doubting your abilities to effectively contribute in the workplace. 

How to Avoid Burnout 

When it comes to avoiding workplace burnout, the buck ultimately has to stop with employers. Creating a professional environment that is conducive to productivity and healthy working is pivotal to both the success of the company, and the general welfare of the workforce. 

Setting unrealistic deadlines, poor channels of communication, and excessive workloads can all contribute to feelings of burnout amongst employees. With the added pressures brought on by the pandemic, it has become even more important for employers to manage their workers effectively, and research would suggest that they have. 

According to a recent study by McKinsey, 80% of employees felt that their company’s leadership has been proactive in looking after the health and safety of workers during this time. By taking a more personable approach, instead of treating employees like robots, workplace burnout will become a far less prevalent issue. 

What Can Individuals Do?

Whilst much of the responsibility lies with employers, there are several measures that individuals can take to protect their own wellbeing. 

According to this guide on workplace burnout, one of the best ways to protect against it is by setting boundaries with both yourself and co-workers. Particularly when working from home, your home life can easily be diluted by professional responsibilities, contributing to feelings of stress and stopping us from switching off. 

Setting boundaries begins with creating a routine you will stick to. This will help you to distinguish between work and home life, as well as managing the expectations of your colleagues by informing them of your availability. 

Another potential measure is to make a conscious effort to improve your communication with management. Lack of communication or feedback on work can be a major contributing factor to burnout. 

Whilst this can be more challenging when working remotely, maintaining good communication channels with senior staff can help provide more clarity on day-to-day tasks, making you feel more in control. Furthermore, if feelings of stress or burnout do begin to creep in, it is worth communicating this with colleagues to prevent the situation from getting out of control.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Madeline Gray is a freelance writer with a particular interest in employee welfare, and has created content for established companies based all around the world. She has a degree in creative writing and is always eager to expand her knowledge around different subjects.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.