Firstly, what is burnout? And how can you identify it?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs most often when you’re feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands - whether that be in the workplace or your personal life. As these emotions build up - as they tend to do, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that originally led you to take on a certain role in the first place.
Burnout reduces productivity and can drain you of your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. These negative emotions can find their way into your personal life, making you feel less excited about personal things you once did - causing you to stay in the house, see less of your friends, or become depressed, and more vulnerable to illness.
Feeling ‘burnt out’ was once a term that may not have been taken seriously by employers, but luckily burnout is gradually gaining recognition as a problem that needs to be addressed in the workplace, especially in the last few years. Due to its effect on employees productivity and motivation, it is inevitable that burnout can lead to problems for your business. In 2019, burnout was recognised by the WHO (World Health Organisation) as an occupational phenomenon- - increasing the need for change in the workplace.
Can anyone suffer from burnout?
Technically, yes…. Anyone can suffer from burnout, however, one study found that there could be some factors that contribute to your likeliness in being affected. A study conducted by Oxford Academic in 2018 shows that women aged 20 to 35, and women over 50 are more likely to be impacted by burnout than other age ranges. Whereas with men, getting older is associated with less chance of burnout, with low rates of burnout in those over the age of 55. Researchers from the Aragon Institute of Health Sciences in Spain found that those who work more than 40 hours a week are 6 times more likely to ‘burn out’ than those who work 35 hours per week or less.
There has been an increase in Google searches for the term ‘occupational burnout’ which indicates that it is on the rise and becoming more common in the workplace. With technology at the forefront of most of our lives, especially since the pandemic, It has become increasingly difficult to switch off and disassociate from. We may start checking our emails out of work hours or complete tasks outside of work due to having the capability at our fingertips, which may not have been the case before.
The lockdowns caused by the pandemic have greatly shifted the balance between work and home life. The lines between both have become blurred, with many people being forced to work from home. As a result of this many people are working longer hours, whilst also juggling the responsibilities of looking after children, or working a second job due to the increase in the cost of living since the pandemic - leaking the effects of burnout over to people’s personal lives.
The issue with burnout is that it doesn’t go away on its own and can progressively worsen the longer that it hasn’t been addressed. Ignoring signs and symptoms of burnout can lead to damaging both physical and mental health and people may find it hard to meet the demands of their job which can be detrimental to their positions. This is why it’s vital that employers learn to recognise burnout in their employees, and can implement best practices to avoid this, and promote a healthy working environment.
Mental Health UK conducted research to find out what role the workplace plays when it comes to managing burnout and stress, which showed that only 23% of UK workers said their workplace had a plan in place to spot the signs of chronic stress and prevent burnout in employees. This suggests that there is a lot more to be done to tackle the issue and opening up conversations around it between employees and employers is vital.
So, what can you do to avoid burnout in your workplace?
If you’re looking to better the wellbeing within your workplace, and have more productive staff, Real. At Work: The Great British Workplace Wellbeing Sessions could help you.
Taking place on Wednesday 2nd March 2022, at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, we will host a panel session to tackle the topic of burnout and discuss where the responsibility lies, is it the employer, or the employee?
09:05 - 09:45 - Extinguishing Burnout: Whose responsibility is it?
Debbie Bullock (she/her) | Wellbeing Lead, AVIVA
Angela De Souza | Founder & CEO, Women’s Business Club
Laura & Barry Ash | Founders & Owners, Rock Solid Health
Alexandra Rafter | Head of Commercial, Remit Training