Work Burnout. How to Avoid The Unavoidable?

Have you already watched Disney and Pixar’s recent animated movie “Soul”? Well, I did and it left a great impression on me, though I couldn’t exactly pinpoint why for a couple of weeks. And surprisingly I got it only after sitting to write this blog post. Now, not to spoil you the whole movie but there’s a part that stuck with me after watching it: the main protagonist finally makes his dream come true – he plays with his favorite jazz musicians on the same stage and believes that the purpose of his life is finally accomplished. Only, it’s not. And after feeling quite empty for a while he finally realizes that you can’t put life in a little box named “purpose” and call it a day. Life isn’t just achieving your life goals in the professional field, or managing your love life just the way you always wished it to be. Life is simply living. And when you don’t realize it on time, you can turn to burnout.

We all want to succeed. And sometimes we want it so much that it becomes the only thing waking us up in the mornings. But can the dedication that drives us up also become the burden that doesn’t let us move further? Can our biggest motivations become the cause of our burnout?

What Is Burnout

So, what is burnout? Burnout is a psychological condition often followed by chronic exhaustion, a high level of stress, cynicism, and lack of energy to perform daily responsibilities. One of the most common types of burnout is work burnout. According to one of Gallup studies, organizations are facing a huge employee burnout crisis. This study found out that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience work burnout. According to another WHO study, burnout costs the global workforce an estimated $1 trillion in lost productivity each year.

Yes, burnout is not a new concept, but it’s getting more and more common especially after the lockdown. The increasing numbers of work-from-home burnout cases are terrifying. But if it causes so much additional stress and problems to the company then why don’t we pay enough attention to this phenomenon? Maybe the reason is in the answer of what are the actual causes of employee burnout.

Main Causes of Work Burnout

There’s a common belief that job burnout is an individual problem and can be solved only by the person who’s going through it. There are plenty of articles that can “help you” cope with burnout – “learn to say no, create your personal space, do more yoga or workout sessions, have a “me time” at your workplace”: all of these statements sound extremely helpful and easy to follow, right? Then why are more than half of your employees burnt out? Maybe it’s not them, but you?

For example, a survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup found the top five reasons for work burnout:

  • Unfair treatment at work – favoritism by a manager or mistreatment by a coworker can be one of the main reasons for employee burnout. The healthy work atmosphere weakens when employees don’t trust their supervisor or are being treated poorly by their coworkers.
  • Unmanageable workload – everyone needs a break. Your best-performing employees can shift to hopeless if all they receive from you is more work.
  • Lack of role clarity – managers must always make employees’ responsibilities clear and persistent from the very beginning. Employees have to spend their energy on work, not on attempts of understanding what duties do they have at the workplace.
  • Lack of communication and support from their manager – according to Gallup, Employees who strongly agree that they feel supported by their manager are about 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  • Unreasonable time pressure – strict time management can cause a lot of stress if you establish unreasonable deadlines for your employees.

It seems like the main reasons for work burnout are caused by companies themselves. So, it’s important to remember that having a high work burnout rate is most likely caused by a toxic work environment.

How to Deal with Burnout at Work

Okay, maybe the title of our article is a little wrong: work burnout is not unavoidable. Yes, many organizations still don’t know what to do with job burnout. But you can prevent employee burnout by leading and managing your employees in the right way. If you’ve chosen to have a non-toxic and employee-friendly style of leadership then you have all chances to avoid work burnout at your company. Yes, it can be a hard task for supervisors: not letting work burnout happen to their employees but also inspiring them to achieve their full potential.

Still, some proven methods can help you:

  • Create an environment where employees can be honest and share their concerns with the management team. This is one of the easiest steps for preventing burnout.
  • Be clear with your employees about their positions and responsibilities. Being vague is not going to help you in any way. So, make sure that your employees always know their rights and responsibilities.
  • Have equal and adequate management style. Always treat your employees with respect and be sure that they treat each other respectfully as well.
  • Don’t overwhelm them with a huge workload. If you keep giving them new work before they manage to finish the previous one then make sure to set priorities between their tasks.
  • One of the best ways of treating burnout is making a change. A change in position can literally save you from losing an employee.
  • Sometimes the only way to treat burnout is changing the workplace altogether. So, don’t get upset if your employees choose to leave your company after all of your efforts. Perhaps in this case it’s not you, it’s them that need a new start.

Employee burnout can be one of your main concerns at the workplace. It’s increasing with a distracting speed, especially after the lockdown and you should be alarmed if you notice signs of burnout at work in your employees. But you must remember that these people are also lost and often don’t even realize that they’re experiencing burnout (or that their job is the cause of the burnout). So, make sure to pay attention to your employees’ worries, treat them right, to make a safe environment that’ll prevent burnout causes as much as possible. And always remember that being busy and being burdened at work are two contrasting things that shall not be confused.


Leave a Reply