Dealing with Occupational Burnout in Your Career

Occupational burnout is one of the top reasons cited for employees leaving a position or organization. One of the causes of employee turnover is occupational burnout which is defined as a physical or mental collapse caused by work overload or stress due to factors in one’s occupation. A common misconception is that occupational burnout occurs only because of long hours or a high volume of work. While these are both potential factors, they are not the only causes of burnout. It’s important for employees to know what burnout feels like, how to avoid it, or how to overcome it if they are already feeling burnt out.

What causes burnout?

Below are some of the most common causes of burnout in the workplace:

  1. Lack of control in your position
  2. Insufficient rewards/recognition
  3. Lack of community in or outside of the workplace
  4. Absence of fairness in the workplace
  5. Conflict of values between the employer and the organization
  6. Work overload
  7. Negative culture in the workplace/organization
  8. Poor management/leadership
  9. Lack of job security

How does burnout manifest?

Burnout can look or feel different depending on the person and the issue that is causing it. Some common effects are:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm
  2. Making mistakes or missing details
  3. Losing focus
  4. Feeling irritable with coworkers or bosses
  5. Feeling constant stress/anxiety about work
  6. Angry outbursts at work or at home

How can one avoid burnout?

There are different ways to avoid heading down the path towards burnout. Depending on your personality and needs, one or several of these options may help:

  1. Measure your wins by effort, not outcome
  2. Integrate more passion, less responsibility- if you’re adding activities to your schedule, try to make them activities that bring you happiness
  3. Take care of your body- exercise, eat healthy and drink plenty of water
  4. Try to set strict times for bed so that you are receiving 7+ hours of sleep every night
  5. Work on your positive inner monologue- be kind and encouraging to yourself
  6. If possible, try changing your work schedule to be more flexible to your needs- like coming in at 10:00am instead of 8:00am

How does one overcome burnout when it has already happened?

Again, this will depend on the issue occurring and the personality and needs of the employee. Here are some ways to overcome occupational burnout:

  1. Ask your employer for more responsibility or new education to expand your skills
  2. Request a raise if possible, or find intrinsic motivation if you cannot change your salary
  3. Take steps to connect with your colleagues or surround yourself with a positive group of peers
  4. Bring up the issues to your employer and suggest alternative strategies
  5. If there is a conflict between the employee and employers’ values- either try to align your values with the organization’s or leave the organization
  6. Avoid chronic overwork- build in non-negotiable time for recovery following particularly stressful times that can’t be avoided
  7. Take time off and actually turn work off while you’re out of the office- don’t respond to emails or phone calls until you are back to your workplace

Many employees will experience occupational burnout at some point in their careers. It is vital to know the signs of burnout and how to avoid it for both employees and employers. Human Resources and management should be watching out for their employees’ well-being so that burnout does not cause the loss of good talent. Employees have to take their work satisfaction seriously to dodge falling into the trap of occupational burnout. Satisfied employees make for a successful organization.