Battling job burnout

March 1, 2023

We spend roughly over 90,000 hours at work during our lifetime, so it’s crucial to our health and well-being that our experiences working are positive ones. But the demands of modern workplaces are growing, and employees are finding themselves struggling to keep up, leading to exhaustion, stress and a sense of disillusionment. From health care workers to tech professionals, no industry is immune to the effects of burnout.  

But what exactly is job burnout, and how can it be prevented?

Defining burnout

Job burnout is defined as “as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress directly connected to our job,” according to Carmel Watson, Organizational Assistance Specialist of Employee Assistance Services with Manitoba Blue Cross. Watson acknowledges that while feeling stressed at work is common, and can sometimes even be beneficial, burnout runs deeper and can begin to impact our personal lives.    

There are three main symptoms that characterize job burnout – a lack of motivation, a lack of pleasure in your job and a lack of belief in your ability to complete tasks.

Common signs of job burnout include:

  • feeling overwhelmed and anxious about going to work, especially at the end of the weekend
  • struggling with simple tasks
  • taking frustration out on coworkers
  • feeling depleted, drained or exhausted  
  • feeling cynical or negative about work
  • feeling devoid of motivation

“Sometimes, the warning signs are difficult to recognize, as they do not show up overnight and we might think they are related to something else going on in our lives,” Watson notes.

Types of job burnout

There are three main types of job burnout – each arising from different circumstances:  

Overload burnout

Overload burnout occurs when someone is continually working at an unsustainable pace, often driven by desire for financial security, recognition or what they see as success in their career. In some cases, overload burnout can result from being repeatedly asked to work more hours or take on additional tasks.

Neglect burnout

Neglect burnout arises when people feel that what they do at work doesn’t make a difference or have a meaningful impact. It can be difficult to stay engaged or invested when you feel helpless at work or feel that no matter how much you do, you won’t be able to create the change you were hoping for. 

Under-challenged burnout

Just as a heavy workload can lead to burnout, so can a lack of challenging work. For most people, feeling fulfilled and challenged in a positive way is essential to their job satisfaction. Without passion for what they do, people can lose interest and disconnect.  

Battling burnout

If you are experiencing burnout at work, the good news is that there are many things you can do to help yourself. Watson offers simple tips:

  1. Prioritize self-care: It’s essential to replenish your physical and emotional energy, along with your capacity to focus. You can do this by prioritizing good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, social connection, and practices that promote well-being, like meditating, journaling, and enjoying nature.   
  1. Shift your perspective: Identify what aspects of your situation are truly fixed, and which aspects are within your control. When we shift our perspective and focus on what we CAN do, it can provide us with the space to take care of ourselves, focus on the places where we can create change and find the energy to have that bigger fight when the time might be right.  
  1. Set boundaries: Reset the expectations of colleagues, clients and even family members for what and how much you’re willing to take on. It might sound silly, but it's often a good idea to discuss ground rules or expectations as you move forward. You may get pushback: however, it's important to let people know that you’re making these changes to improve your long-term productivity and protect your health. 
  1. Build relationships with your colleagues: One of the risk factors for burnout is a lack of community. Developing relationships at work gives you a sense of belonging and more access to shared resources, and makes it easier to ask for help.  ​

By recognizing the signs of burnout early on and implementing strategies to alleviate it, both employees and organizations can promote a healthier and more sustainable approach to work that benefits everyone.  

If you are struggling with job burnout, reach out for help. Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get counselling support. Begin the process here.

Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.

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