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Is Burnout Putting You & Your Career At Risk?

22 February 2019
Besma Whayeb
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Burnout is the result of long-term, unresolved stress. It’s a common problem across the world, but notably in workplaces across the UK, with occupational burnout being the most common form.

Burnout is a real problem in the workplace, too. It can affect your performance, productivity, and in certain circumstances, it could even put your job at risk.

In an effort to break the taboo of talking about mental health at work, we’re looking into what causes burnout – and how you can prevent it from negatively affecting you.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a form of long-term, unresolved stress that affects your physical body, emotional capability, and mental state. The NHS defines burnout as “an experience of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, caused by long-term involvement in situations that are emotionally demanding”.

Burnout is a relatively new term, but it refers to a very real problem: on a personal level, it can be debilitating, with a need for a break from work, or whatever it is that is causing the burnout. On a practical level, burnout reduces productivity and can cost your career – especially if you do not treat it.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Burnout has a few common symptoms that you may experience – either individually, or as a combination. These are:

  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Being more prone to mistakes
  • Feelings of isolation, resentment or cynicism
  • Frustration
  • Irritability
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of libido
  • Paranoia
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Poor productivity
  • Resistance to change
  • Severe tiredness
  • Short temper
  • Uncooperative nature
  • Unnecessary guilt

What causes burnout?

There is no one cause for burnout, however there are many factors that may bring it on. Occupational burnout can be caused by a:

  • Clash in personal values and your workplace’s values
  • Consistently highly chaotic job environment, or the opposite – monotonous work that leaves much to be desired
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics, such as workplace bulling, discrimination, or harassment
  • Imbalance of hours spent in and outside of work, often leaving insufficient time and energy to spend with family and friends
  • Lack of control over your work, including schedules, and workload
  • Lack of social support when at work and/or when away from work
  • Poor job fit, either from a bad hiring decision or a change in your job role
  • Unclear job expectations that reduce the feelings of control during a project, as well as reduced feelings of accomplishment upon completion of a project

Who suffers the most from burnout?

Burnout can affect anyone – from students through to CEOs. However, certain industries report higher levels of burnout among employees. In the UK, the highest sufferers of burnout are:

  • Technology workers (57%)
  • Healthcare workers (up to 25%)
  • Entrepreneurs (10%)

None of these figures are acceptable, and many workplaces are implementing new strategies to support their staff’s mental wellbeing. However, for now it may be up to you to recognise your symptoms and work on improving…

How can I prevent burnout?

Preventing burnout ultimately depends on recognising the problems that are causing it in the first place. If external factors, such as your work environment, job role, or colleagues’ attitudes are causing you stress, it may be time to find a new job.

If you love your job, but you are finding it hard to communicate with management, HR, or any other member of your workplace, it may be worth raising the question of mental health in your workplace in a more general sense. This will allow others to also express themselves, and for existing problems to be resolved.

If you work for yourself, things can be a little trickier. You may not want to leave the business you have built – or the freelance role you have started in. Luckily, there is help available from businesses such as Calmer and their Reignite Project, or Mind UK, who work with entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other lone workers to provide some much needed pastoral support.