What is burnout, and how can it be avoided?

burnout, work, tired

Been feeling consistently tired, negative or unproductive? How about headachey, or suffering with bowel issues? If the answer is yes to most, or some, of the above, then there’s a strong chance you’re experiencing workplace burnout.


Burnout is a mental health condition that is caused by unresolved or unmanaged workplace stress. Burnout is shockingly common too, with a 2020 survey by Micro Biz Mag showing that 22% of working adults in the UK had experienced it.


So, what exactly is burnout? The most common symptoms include:

  • Feeling exhausted.
  • Feeling distant from your job and responsibilities at work.
  • Increased negativity and cynicism.
  • More time spent procrastinating.
  • Stress and lack of sleep.
  • Physical symptoms like headaches and bowel issues.


It’s important to note that even the physical symptoms of burnout, uncomfortable as they are, stem from a place of mental pressure. They are absolutely not all in the mind, but strain on the mind is often at the root of the problem.


According to Champion Health, one in five employees suffer with poor mental health at work, with 35% blaming workplace stress. The affects are easy to see, with a Bupa survey showing that 41% of workers were less productive due to stress, while 33% said it made them less engaged, and 15% admitted to looking for a new job.


Knowing that, it’s unsurprising that the key to battling burnout is to look after your mental health as best you can. It’s not all down to you though, in fact burnout is best handled with HR on your side. After all, focusing on symptoms in the short term will just lead to another burnout down the line if the underlying stresses aren’t addressed on an organisational level.


While Bupa found that a disappointing 19% of employers did not have processes in place to aid employee wellbeing, a more encouraging 76% are taking steps to combat stress-related absences and improve mental health at work. Meanwhile, those with a health and wellbeing strategy in place saw productivity improve thanks to their actions.


It’s important to reach out and talk to someone in the organisation if you’re feeling close to burnout. The right support can be vital, but there are also steps you can take to mitigate burnout in the short term:


  • Take regular breaks – You won’t improve your productivity and focus by chaining yourself to the desk.


  • Eat some more of the goods stuff – Adding more vegetables and cutting back on junk food can do a lot to improve mood. It’s tempting to reach for the sugary and fizzy, but they won’t help in the long run.


  • Don’t be afraid of an early night – Sleep is incredibly healing, and you’ll need more of it if you’re feeling stressed. Get to bed an hour earlier and see if it helps.


  • Finish work on time – Working after hours might be great for your inbox, but it can be detrimental in the long term. Take back your personal time, leave at your agreed finishing time, and fill your time with something you enjoy.


  • Learn to spot the signs – If you notice the signs of burnout creeping up on you then take early action.


Doing the above and speaking to the people in charge of your wellbeing at work is the best way to stop burnout from taking hold. Don’t suffer in silence when you can beat burnout ahead of time.

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