Navigating Job Burnout in the Workplace: A Guide for Employees and Employers

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In this article, we will explore the occupational phenomenon of workplace burnout in detail, why it happens so frequently in today's society—and most importantly, how individuals can find balance again amidst the chaos of their working lives.

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is a combination of work-related stress, physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased achievement levels, and feeling lost. It's an experience that many of us have encountered at least once in our lives.

Many professionals believe that depression or other mental health issues may be the underlying causes of burnout. Nonetheless, job-related exhaustion can seriously affect your physical and mental health.

It is critical to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout to address it effectively before it takes a toll on your health.

Latest reports on job burnout

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is a syndrome that occurs when workplace stress isn't adequately managed.

  • 2020 Survey: In May 2020, more than double the number of employees, 41%, were feeling overwhelmed due to work-related stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was compared to 23% who experienced burnout in an earlier study conducted just a few months prior.

  • 2021 Survey: In 2021, burnout was experienced by workers in the US at an alarming rate. A survey conducted by APA this past month of 1,501 adult American employees revealed that 79% had endured work-related stress within the preceding four weeks.

Useful Read: Stress Leave from work: Implications and Best Practices

5 stages of job burnout

#1. Honeymoon Phase

In the honeymoon phase, individuals typically feel excited and enthusiastic about their new job or position. They may feel motivated to learn and grow in their role, and they may have high levels of energy and creativity. 

However, this phase can also be characterized by feelings of idealism and naivety about the workplace. Individuals may not yet be fully aware of the demands and challenges that come with the job.

#2. Balancing Act

In the balancing act phase, individuals experience the demands and pressures of their job more acutely.

They may struggle to balance their workload, deadlines, and other responsibilities, and they may start to feel a sense of frustration or feel overwhelmed.

This phase can be characterized by feelings of stress and anxiety and a sense of disillusionment with the job.

#3. Chronic Workplace Stress

In the chronic workplace stress phase, individuals may experience physical and emotional symptoms related to job stress.

They may feel exhausted, irritable, and overwhelmed and struggle to maintain focus or concentration. 

A sense of helplessness or hopelessness can characterize this phase, as individuals may feel stuck in a difficult situation that they cannot change.

#4. Job Burnout

In the job burnout phase, individuals may feel completely exhausted and emotionally drained by their job. They may experience a loss of motivation or passion for their work and struggle to find meaning or purpose in what they do. 

This phase can be characterized by cynicism, detachment, and a sense of being stuck in a job that is no longer fulfilling or rewarding.

#5. Habitual Burnout: 

In the chronic work burnout phase, individuals may become used to feeling burned out and develop coping mechanisms to manage their stress.

They may start to ignore physical or emotional symptoms arising from job-related stress or turn to unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes to cope.

If left unaddressed, this phase can be particularly dangerous, leading to more severe physical symptoms and mental health issues.

Common signs and symptoms of job burnout

Here are different types of symptoms:

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Job Burnout

  • Chronic Fatigue: Individuals experiencing job burnout may always feel exhausted, regardless of how much rest they get. They may feel like they are constantly running on empty and struggle to muster up the energy to get through the day.

  • Headaches and Muscle Tension: Job burnout can also cause symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and aches and pains throughout the body. These symptoms can be caused by the body's response to chronic stress and tension.

  • Changes in Appetite or Sleep: Job burnout can also affect an individual's eating habits and sleep patterns. Some people may have no appetite, while others may crave comfort foods to cope with stress.

Mental Signs and Symptoms of Job Burnout

  • The feeling of Helplessness or Hopelessness: Individuals experiencing job burnout may feel like they have no control over their work environment or ability to perform well. They may feel stuck in a difficult situation with no way out, leading to hopelessness or helplessness.

  • Difficulty Concentrating: Job burnout can also affect an individual's ability to focus and concentrate on tasks. They may find that their mind wanders or have trouble staying on task, even with simple or routine tasks.

  • Decreased Motivation and Interest: Job burnout can cause individuals to lose interest in their work or to feel unmotivated to complete tasks. They may feel their work has lost its meaning or purpose, leading to lack motivation to do their best.

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Job Burnout

Here are the symptoms:

  • Increased Absenteeism: Individuals experiencing job burnout may start to take more Time off from work, either through sick days or other forms of leave. They may need to escape from their job to cope with the stress and pressure.

  • Decreased Productivity: Job burnout can also lead to decreased productivity and quality of work. Individuals may feel like they are going through the motions without any real sense of purpose or direction, which can lead to a decline in the quality of their work.

  • Isolation and Withdrawal: Job burnout can cause individuals to feel disconnected from their co-workers and workplace culture. They may withdraw socially or become isolated, making it difficult to form positive relationships with others in the workplace.

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Risk factors and causes of workplace burnout

Heavy Workload

When an individual has too much work to do in a limited amount of Time, it can cause them to experience burnout. The pressure to complete tasks and meet deadlines can be overwhelming and stressful, leading to physical and mental exhaustion.

Lack of Control

When individuals feel like they have no control over their work environment or the tasks they are given, it can lead to frustration, helplessness, and burnout. This lack of control can make it difficult for individuals to feel motivated or engaged in their work.

Poor Work-Life Balance

When work demands spill over into an individual's personal life, it can lead to burnout. Individuals may feel like they have no time to pursue other interests or spend time with loved ones, leading to isolation, frustration, and burnout.

Unclear Expectations

When individuals are unclear about their job responsibilities or what is expected of them, it can lead to confusion and stress. This lack of clarity can make it difficult for individuals to feel like they are making progress or contributing to the organization, leading to burnout.

Treated Unfairly

A toxic work environment with high stress, tension, and conflict, can contribute to burnout. Individuals may feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells or that their co-workers or superiors are unsupportive or critical, leading to burnout.

Working Conditions

Uncomfortable or unsafe working conditions can also lead to burnout. Individuals may feel like their physical health is at risk due to lack of breaks, long hours, inadequate ventilation, etc. This can cause them to lose motivation and focus, leading to job burnout.

Lack of Recognition

When individuals feel their contributions are not recognized or appreciated, it can lead to burnout. Individuals may feel like they are putting in much effort without seeing any results, leading to resentment and frustration.

Why do employers need to worry about burnout?

Portrait of tired young business woman at the office-1

Here are a few reasons why employers need to worry about burnout:

Decreased Productivity:

Burnout can lead to decreased productivity and work performance and increased absenteeism and presenteeism. When burned out, employees may struggle to focus on their work or complete tasks efficiently, leading to decreased productivity.

Increased Turnover:

Burnout can also contribute to increased turnover rates. Burned out employees may feel like they have no choice but to leave their current job in search of a more supportive and less stressful work environment. This can increase costs associated with recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

Negative Impact on Workplace Culture:

Burnout can also hurt company culture. When burned out, employees may be less likely to collaborate, communicate effectively, or engage in team-building activities. This can lead to decreased morale and a more negative work environment.

Health and Safety Concerns:

Burnout can also lead to health and safety concerns for employees and the organization. Burnout can contribute to physical and mental health issues such as headaches, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. It can also lead to safety concerns if employees cannot focus on their work or follow proper safety procedures.

Ways to successfully deal and manage job burnout

Here are some successful ways for both employees and employers:

For Employees

  1. Provide Training and Support: Employers can provide training and support to help employees develop the skills and knowledge needed to perform their duties effectively. Employers can also provide support through mentorship programs or coaching.

  2. Create a Positive Work Environment: Employers can create a positive work environment by promoting open communication, recognizing employee achievements, and fostering a culture of collaboration and support.

  3. Address Workload Issues: Employers can address workload issues by identifying areas where employees may be overworked or experiencing burnout. Employers can make necessary changes to distribute workloads more evenly or hire additional staff to provide support.

  4. Encourage Work-Life Balance: Employers can encourage work-life balance by offering flexible schedules, remote work options, and other benefits that support employee well-being.

    Related: Building Engagement with Remote Employees: Tips and Strategies

  5. Give Regular Breaks: Employers should also give employees regular breaks to help them recharge and prevent burnout. This can be done by providing scheduled breaks throughout the day or allowing employees to take longer lunch breaks.

  6. Implementing Team-Building Activities:  Employers can also combat burnout by implementing team-building activities like games or social outings. This can help foster positive relationships between employees and allow them to bond outside of work.

Conclusion

Navigating job burnout is a complex issue and can affect different people differently. Each organization needs to develop policies and create supportive practices that help employees and managers identify and address burnout before it gets to a crisis point. 

By taking measures to prevent job burnout before it occurs, employers will gain their employees' trust while promoting better mental well-being across teams and within the organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The duration of job burnout can vary depending on the personality traits of individuals and the severity of their burnout symptoms. However, recovering from burnout takes an average of three months to a year.

  • Job burnout can indicate that it is Time to search for other employment opportunities. However, it is important to evaluate your situation and consider other options before deciding to quit.

Employee
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.

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