The combination of work stress and pandemic-induced anxiety could result in burnout.
Feeling worn out, unproductive and stressed? You may be one of the many workers experiencing work burnout. Believe it or not, 22 per cent of Brits have dealt with job-related burnout, according to a September 2020 study from Micro Biz Mag. That accounts for around 12 million people.
Of course, it's not merely everyday stresses that could be affecting you. The added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and working from home also plays a role in how you cope with work. If your professional life is taking its toll on your mental health and well-being, it's time to take action. Here's what you should know.
What is work burnout?
If you haven't heard of work burnout, let's go over the basics. According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is characterised as 'a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed'. It includes the following:
Lacking in energy and feeling exhausted
Feelings of negativity and distance towards your job
Reduction in productivity and workplace efficiency
What are the burnout symptoms?
Of course, it's normal to feel tired after a long day at work, or to feel a moderate level of stress if you have an important project or meeting coming up. Plus, the additional stress of COVID-19 restrictions is sure to be taking its toll. So how do you know when the stress or fatigue you're feeling has crossed the threshold to burnout?
If you're experiencing the following burnout symptoms, you're likely suffering from it:
You are experiencing constant feelings of exhaustion beyond simply feeling tired
You have fallen out of love with your job
Your productivity level has dropped
You have distanced yourself from your colleagues
You are easily irritated at work
Your physical health may be compromised (For example, you may be experiencing headaches, insomnia, muscle pain or extreme fatigue)
How can you tackle work burnout?
Now that you've got an idea of what work burnout is, let's talk about what you can do to manage it. It's important to remember that everyone is different. Some people will experience light burnout symptoms, whilst in others they may be more prevalent. If you're suffering badly, you may want to speak to a doctor or mental health professional about the problem. In the meantime, here are some of the ways you can cope with the issue.
Pay attention to the signs of burnout
The most important step in dealing with work burnout is to recognise it in the first place. Don't let it get so bad that it starts to affect all areas of your life. When you start to notice feelings of exhaustion, stress or anxiety, stop what you're doing. Go take a walk. Get a coffee. Call a friend. Whatever your method, find a way to remove yourself physically and mentally from the task at hand and take a moment to mentally regroup. If you try to push through, you'll only end up feeling more burnt out.
Stop saying 'yes' when you should be saying 'no'
This is a trap that many of us fall into at work. Colleagues, managers and friends all ask for a hand every now and then: tasks, functions, lunch meetings, errands, favours ‒ you name it. And before you've even had a chance to think about it, you've already agreed to do it. That should stop.
Saying 'yes' to things you don't really want or need to do will only send you another step closer to feeling burnt out. The next time you're asked to do something, count to three in your head before responding. This will give you those precious few moments to consider whether it's something you should actually add to your to-do list.
Try adjusting your workload
Burnout is often linked to being overworked. So, if you're starting to see the signs of burnout, take a look at your workload and how you can manage it better. This might mean having a serious conversation with your manager about their expectations, asking a colleague to assist with a project or declining invites to Zoom meetings you don't really need to attend.
Similarly, if you feel like you need to get away from the noise for a while, block out some productive periods. Fifty-four per cent of Brits say that checking their emails hinders their work. If you have a big project looming, turning your email off for a short time could help.
Let your boss and colleagues know that you plan to do this. Mark your calendar so that nobody else can schedule a meeting with you for a couple of hours. That way, you have the time to get some serious work done without interruptions.
Take a mental health day
In a growing trend, several companies are now offering a mental health day as part of their employee benefits. This means employees can take a leave day when they are feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed or simply need some time to switch off – without cutting into their annual sick leave.
But even if your company doesn't offer a mental health day, there are still plenty of reasons why it's OK to take a day off to cater to your mental health. When you're feeling burnt out, your productivity drops, you achieve less and it impacts your overall well-being. That's a recipe for disaster. Make the smart decision to book a day off and focus on yourself.
Talk about it
It's not helpful to bottle up your feelings. There is a real stigma surrounding mental health, and most people don't like to talk about it, particularly in the workplace. However, feelings of anxiety, stress and mental exhaustion are commonly found in high-stress, fast-paced work environments.
Open up; start a dialogue; talk to a colleague or a supervisor about how you're feeling. It's likely that if you're feeling overwhelmed or overworked during this period, those around you might also be feeling the same.
Work burnout is real, but it's also conquerable. If work is making you feel anxious, stressed, exhausted or like you've got far too much to do in a day, then it's time to take a step back. You will only be as productive as you feel, so give yourself the space and time you need to focus on your well-being and avoid spiralling into the cycle of workplace burnout.
If the stress of your current role is too much to conquer, you may need to find a healthier environment. Get a free CV critique from TopCV to start off your job search ahead of the pack.
This article was updated in November 2020 by Charlotte Grainger.