Workplace Burnout: Causes, Symptoms,Signs Stages, Treatment, Recovery & Prevention

When left unchecked, workplace burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, job performance & relationships. In order to catch and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for.

What Exactly Is Workplace Burnout?

This is described as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.” Many professionals, old & young alike experience workplace burnout.

Burnout is the loss of meaning in one’s work, coupled with mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion as the result of long-term, unresolved stress. It can affect anyone, affecting at least 5 out of 10 people suffer. It is now a medical condition & a major cause of depression.

Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. In order to catch burnout and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for.

Who is to blame for burnout?

Some burnout really is the fault of work. It is a mix of workplace pressure, mass layoffs, cutting/increasing work hours, rolling back benefits, unpaid overtime, etc. All these increases demands on workers.

Other causes include:

• Job insecurity

• Heavy workloads

• Unorganized work routines

• Too many meetings and not enough production

What are the signs you may be experiencing burnout?

Here are 9 signs of burnout:

1. Exhaustion

A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.

2. Lack of Motivation

When you don’t feel enthusiastic about anything anymore or you no longer have that internal motivation for your work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout. It may be harder to get going in the morning and even getting up to go to work.

3. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions

You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything. You might notice that you feel more generally pessimistic than you used to.

4. Cognitive Problems

Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate. When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on specific things. If this continues for a long time, it becomes difficult paying attention to other things.

This “fight or flight” tunnel vision can negatively affect your ability to solve problems or make decisions. You might find that you’re more forgetful and have a harder time remembering things.

4. Slipping Job Performance

Not sure whether you’re burnt out? Compare your current performance to previous years. As burnout tends to happen over a long time, this approach might reveal whether you’re in a temporary slump or experiencing more chronic burnout.

5. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work

This tends to manifest in one of two ways:

(a) You’re having more conflicts with colleagues/friends/family or

(b) you withdraw, talking to your coworkers and family members less. You might be there in person but tuned out.

6. Not Taking Care of Yourself

When suffering from burnout, some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough or not getting enough sleep.

7. Being Preoccupied With Work …

When You’re Not at Work Even though you might not be working at a given moment, if you’re expending mental energy mulling over your job, then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stresses of your day.

8. Generally Decreased Satisfaction

This is the tendency to feel less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life. You might feel dissatisfied or even stuck when it comes to whatever is going on at home, in the community or with your social activities.

9. Health Problems

Over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.

What are the stages of Burnout?

1. Honeymoon phase

2. Onset of stress

3. Chronic stress

4. Burnout

5. Habitual burnout

At the final stage, the symptoms of burnout are so embedded in your life that you are likely to experience a significant physical or emotional problem, as opposed to occasionally experiencing stress or burnout.

What can you do if you are experiencing burnout? Treatment

1. Take Relaxation Seriously

Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.

2. Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life

Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s engaging and really gets you going— a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community.

3. Unplug

While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout because poor sleep can have negative effects on your job performance & productivity. The reverse is true, too as sleep can actually improve your memory.

5. Get Organized

Often, when people are burnt out, they spend a lot of time worrying that they’ll forget something or that something important is will slip through the cracks. Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize.

6. Stay Attuned

It’s important to be aware if physical signs that you might be under too much stress: headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or frequent stomach upsets. In terms of mental health, burnout can lead to depression and vice versa.

7. Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them

Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can figure out what’s stressing you out.

While burnout can cause issues at work, at home, and in life, it is always possible to take action. Even if you are not experiencing stress or burnout now, the wisest course of action is to proactively take self-care more seriously and build your mental resilience.

That’s all we’ve got on the show today and we hope you’ll be able to learn something helpful. Till next week, do have a wonderful evening, stay safe and do something to put a smile on someone’s face every day.

Stressed and burnt out from work
Credit: Range

Credit: Avon Healthcare


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