Workplace Burnout: Building Awareness and Prevention

Workplace Burnout: Building Awareness and Prevention

Workplace Burnout: Building Awareness and Prevention

Work Burnout

Feeling stressed at work? You’re not alone. A study by the American Institute of Stress says:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • About one million Americans miss work each day because of stress.
  • 76% of US workers say workplace stress affects their personal relationships

High levels of workplace stress can lead to burnout which impacts everyone.

What is workplace burnout?

Workplace burnout is an increase in moodiness and apathy toward what a person does. Underling depression and anxiety increase the chances of a person experiencing burnout, but a person doesn’t necessarily have to have either in order to get burned out.

A burned out individual is:

  • Less engaged and less effective
  • Experiencing less enjoyment, or job satisfaction
  • Taking longer to get things done at work
  • May feel less tolerant of the workplace

The person who is burned out may feel to blame. The focus is often on helping the person behave differently, when a variety of factors cause burnout.

Burnout is a state of being or feeling depleted. People have a hard time accessing innovative thinking and are typically isolating. They may feel fatigue. There’s a greater sense of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness. They lack the ability to be as empathetic and caring. They’re spending a lot of time and energy dwelling on the day’s negative or stressful events. They’re not finding joy in their work.

People use the term “burned out” in different ways. Someone could say, “I feel incredibly burned out today.” That’s not to minimize their experience. They probably had a challenging day and feel drained. What we’re talking about is longer lasting. It’s when someone repeatedly feels drained at work and isn’t tending to their own needs. They’re focused on just getting through the day and putting one foot in front of the other.

What causes workplace burnout?

A variety of factors in the workplace cause burnout, namely a feeling of not having control. An employee is given expectations that aren’t realistic, can’t be met, and the result is feeling overwhelmed. Oftentimes there’s a process that makes it difficult for the worker to do the job in a way that doesn’t cause stress, anxiety, and burnout. The work has become too difficult, or even unhealthy.

Also, people can feel disconnected from their ‘why’, as in why they got into their line of work. That can begin the process of feeling burned out. It’s a gradual process of getting more and more disconnected. The result is losing sight of living in their why and their values. “Moral injury” contributes to burnout. It’s when people have to make decisions or do things that go against their personal ethics or their morals. An example is when doctors have to make decisions based off of insurance reimbursement rates, or they’re told they need to see patients every 15 minutes. It stands against why they went into the field.

Another contributing factor is experiencing oppression and micro-aggressions. If you’re working in an environment that doesn’t support you, or worse, is hostile toward a component of your identity, that’s going to increase feelings of fatigue and burnout. If I’m already carrying the stressors related with working in a helping profession, have colleagues who are also drained, and patients with high rates of trauma, and my opinion isn’t valued, I am frequently talked over, my name isn’t pronounced properly, and my pronouns aren’t honored, I will most likely get to a state of burnout even faster.

Are some jobs more prone to workplace burnout?

Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are at higher risk for burnout. It impacts the care they give to patients and their entire team.

People in helping professions are emptying their cups frequently to support other people. There’s been a big move toward trauma-informed care, which acknowledges the presence and role of trauma in a person’s life. When we’re being trauma informed, we need to be mindful of how we tend to ourselves. Otherwise, we can be open to all the tough stuff that someone brings with them. We can experience and internalize certain levels of trauma. Holding trauma in your body impacts your sense of well-being and leads to a higher rate of burnout.

Why does burnout in the workplace matter?

Burnout affects how people do their jobs. It also impacts them outside of work. People who feel burned out are less effective and less happy with everything that they’re doing. Burnout can lead to depression, even suicidal ideation. If people have underlying depression and anxiety, workplace burnout can really aggravate it and make it more difficult to treat and for people to feel better. We can do therapy and medications, but if the workplace environment is still toxic and unhelpful, that makes it difficult for treatments to be effective. If there’s something going on at work or at home, it’s important for us to be able to identify and help the patient work with it because that’s a really big aspect of life.

Medical professionals are more susceptible to that.

Burned out staff can lead to more complaints and incidents within the workplace. They’re drained. They’re not as attentive to other people’s needs and not as observant. They’re much more likely to respond in ways that aren’t as warm and caring as they should be. They’re also much more likely to leave the workplace.

If your colleagues are experiencing burnout or compassion fatigue, it’s challenging. It’s difficult to remain in a place of balance and compassion resilience. We can all empathize with that. When you’re surrounded by peers who are super drained it impacts everyone’s morale.

Even if burned out employees don’t leave, they will be less productive. They’re less likely to meet the company’s metrics. They’re less likely to be contributing creatively to initiatives.

How to address burnout in the workplace

There are several steps you can take if you’re feeling burned out:

  1. Identify what you’re feeling. Someone feeling burnout is usually the last one to recognize it. If you have underlying depression or anxiety and it’s getting worse, make sure you seek additional treatment.
  2. Pay attention to comments friends and family members are making.
  3. Pinpoint what’s contributing to feelings of fatigue or burnout.
  4. Take time away from work if you’re able to. Take a vacation, a long weekend, or a day off.
  5. Create time for enjoyable activities. Walk the dog outside on a nice day for a longer period of time. Read a book for a while. Allow yourself an extra couple of hours to sleep at night. Pleasurable activities, even small things, help recharge and replenish us.
  6. Experiment with fun activities. Try doing what other people think is fun.
  7. Think of what helps you feel resilient. What can you do to minimize what’s driving your fatigue? Or what things can you do more of that are building your resilience?
  8. Think about what’s within your lotus of control. How can you minimize the amount of time and energy you’re spending on things that you don’t control?  A perspective shift can be powerful and helpful.
  9. Find allies at work. Consider finding people within your team or in other departments. Share your concerns.
  10. Consider changing jobs. You may need something to be different. While not everything that causes one’s sense of burnout can be changed, some things can. A supervisor may identify ways to eliminate or minimize those things that contribute to your burnout. If you don’t see that things are changing at your current place of employment, it may be best to look for something new.

Written by lisebram

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