(Story by Dr. Laura Hamill originally appeared in U.S. News and World Report)
EMPLOYEE BURNOUT IS real – those days when work and life stressors leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and cynical. We’ve all been there. Whether you’ve been on overdrive working 12-hour days, or putting the needs of your family, friends or job over your own, burnout can affect your physical, mental and emotional health. Burnout is a common challenge that many of us will face at some point in our career, so it’s important to know what factors contribute to burnout and how you can battle it.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout results from prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job. But it doesn’t just happen to anyone. You’ll often hear people say, “I’m totally burned out” when they don’t like their job or are frustrated. This isn’t burnout. In most cases, this is disengagement.
The catch is, you have to first be “on fire” in order to burn out. This means you’re totally into your work and you’re giving it your all. When you’re highly engaged, you’re more productive and focused at work which can lead to increased performance.
However, you can’t be “on fire” forever. Without intentional support from your manager and organization, your energy and productivity can wane, leading to stress overload and burnout.
The Truth Behind Burnout
Research shows burnout happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being. Ultimately, these top performing, highly engaged employees will leave. The most common causes of burnout are sparked by organizational issues: from job pressures to role conflict and ambiguity, lack of support from managers, lack of feedback and participation in decision making.
Burnout leads to lower productivity, stress-related health issues, increased substance misuse, anxiety, depression and decreased self-esteem. It also can be “contagious,” leading to greater personal conflict at work and “spillover” into life outside of work.
The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. When it comes to battling burnout in your job, here’s four ways you can help yourself (and others) beat it:
1. Foster a well-being mindset.
Mindset is key to your success and the organization’s. An established attitude about a situation sets the stage for how people handle or recover from certain circumstances. For instance, one person might handle stress head on, while another might crumble from the pressure. With a focus on personal development, growth and communication – foster a well-being mindset that supports a positive outlook and puts your self-care first.
[See: What Keeps You Young?]
2. Adjust your workload to provide recovery time.
Recovery time is crucial. And everyone deserves a break. Work overload, tight deadlines and running on empty can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy – and ultimately cause you to burn out. Some people even find it hard to step away from the office. A recent study by Kimble Applications found that 21 percent of Americans left more than five vacation days on the table this past year. Work with your manager to prioritize your projects, see what tasks you might be able to take off your plate and give yourself your well-deserved time off to recharge.
3. Connect with others for support.
A support system not only takes you far in life, but also at work. In fact, social support positively relates to important factors that impact stress, health, well-being and engagement. Social connections can help guard against burnout. According to Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage,” social connection is one of the greatest predictors of happiness and reduced stress. Build a community of friends, coworkers and mentors who you know you can rely on.
4. Find your purpose.
True engagement comes when people feel good and live with a sense of purpose. And helping employees connect to their purpose at work is key for burnout prevention. What motivates you at work? What values are important to you? When you know how your role directly impacts the company’s mission and have clear goals, you can find and stay connected to your purpose.
With a great culture, a supportive manager and a role that provides meaning and purpose, you’re more likely to feel engaged at work. Burnout can happen to your best employees. And we know this common phenomenon is an organizational issue that requires organizational changes. With the help of these best practices, you can prevent burnout and stop it in its tracks. Because when employees have high well-being and feel supported by their organization, it’s a win for everyone.