Telltale Signs of Burnout at Work

Burnout and stress are the two sides of a coin that seem to feed off each other. Stopping and smelling the flowers on the way to work and a more relaxed attitude is the key to stress-free work life, suggest experts.

Burnout has got much attention in the last two years with even the World Health Organization (WHO) classifying it as an occupational hazard arising out of “mismanaged work stress”.

According to a 2018 Gallup report, a majority of organizations are facing a burnout crisis. A recent Limeade study found 72% of employees were burned out, which is a sharp increase from the 42% who said the same in their pre-pandemic Employee Care Report.

Signs of Burnout at Work

According to a new study from the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in Germany, stress and burnout are mutually reinforcing. The effect of work stress on burnout is much smaller than the effect of burnout on work stress, found the study.

“When exhausted, the ability to cope with stress usually decreases. As a result, even smaller tasks can be perceived as significantly more strenuous,” explained Dr. Christina Guthier, the lead author of the study.

“We expected an effect of burnout on work stress; the strength of the effect was very surprising.”

Job Burnout Signs of Stress Work

Take time to enjoy the finer or more enjoyable things in life.

There is a work culture now that demands constant attention and the advent of mobile technology has made it so that there is no demarcation of work time and personal lifetime. One is constantly connected to work through any handheld device.

The feeling of constantly on the move or fall behind in the race is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you expect yourself to be available all the time then it is an accepted reality.

The burnout crisis has more chances of deepening with the Pandemic effect. Most employees are working from home, which ideally should be a win-win situation for most, but the reality is slightly different.

The stress of working from home is getting to a lot of people. Along with the fear of losing a job anytime, there are additional distractions of a lockdown, children or other family members also at home.

The effects of long working hours and no downtime at home or away from the profession can be exhausting. What are the telltale signs of a person has reached the end of his or her tether?

A disturbed sleep pattern. Inability to sleep and even if you do manage to fall asleep, one gets up tired and cranky as one does not feel fully rested.

Another symptom of burnout is a constant feeling of fatigue and very low energy levels throughout the day. 

Dr. Megan Jones Bell, chief science officer at Headspace, says for that we should be first aware of our normal energy levels. “Our normal energy levels are a really strong signal about your overall health, frankly,” she explains. “So, I would look ask yourself, ‘Am I feeling more tired?’ 

“For me, I notice I start sighing a lot, and I start talking about how I’m tired or feel more inclined to have more caffeinated beverages at a certain time of day.”

Job Burnout Signs

Burnout can also manifest in migraines, a physical feeling of inability to breathe, people even start reporting panic attacks.

A women executive at a law firm reported feeling a strong tingling sensation on one side of her face, which progressively developed into shooting pains, so much so that she could not see from one eye. After a few doctor’s visits, she was diagnosed with migraine brought on by exhaustion and hormonal changes related to it.

Another telltale sign is a feeling of disinterest and disengagement with everything around you. This feeling then progresses to depression and sadness. But, initially one feels as if one is working on automation and just going through the motions of work, home and family. 

There is no joy of achievement or anger or disappointment at failing at a task.

A study conducted by Mind, a non-profit engaged in fair work practices, of 44,000 employees found that 48% had struggled with mental health issues related to their job stress. These included anxiety attacks, low mood, or general disinterest.

There are ways that employers can chip in to bring down the effect of this burnout pandemic, which if left attended can lead to trillions of dollars in losses.

Offer a support system where employees can freely talk about work issues, including feeling overwhelmed, a mentorship program at work was also found to be effective

Insist on free time, and yearly offs should be mandatory. 

These are just basic steps that can go a long way in distressing the workforce.

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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