How to prevent job burnout

Do you get in early, stay in late, work weekends and still feel as though you’re burning the candle at both ends? If so, you are probably experiencing job burnout. It happens to the best of us – and left unchecked, work burnout can have a lasting and negative effect on our lives both inside and outside of work.

Many employees who have been tackling large workloads for months are slowly but surely losing their motivation at work. Extreme work stress brought on by long work hours and seemingly relentless deadlines can lead to low morale and reduced productivity – not to mention decreased job satisfaction.

Here are 8 warning signs that you may be experiencing job burnout:

  • You have trouble getting out of bed when you have to go to work.
  • You frequently turn up late for work.
  • You feel bad about your performance.
  • You feel withdrawn.
  • You watch the clock excessively.
  • Work stress spills over into other areas of your life.
  • You get into frequent disagreements with your manager or coworkers when you didn’t use to in the past.
  • You feel you aren’t making progress, despite your best efforts.

If these symptoms sound familiar, it may be time to make some changes! 

Top strategies to combat work burnout, help you renew your enthusiasm and get your career back on track:

Evaluate your role. If your company has experienced layoffs or has a hiring freeze in place, you might be shouldering more responsibility now than in the past. Although taking on new assignments can be a good career move, doing so can lead to burnout if the scope of your responsibility has expanded beyond what you can reasonably manage. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t try to shrug it off.  Instead, meet with your manager and be honest about your situation. Work with him or her to reprioritise projects or look for ways to delegate some of your work.

Look at your schedule. The way you manage your time can also affect your ability to rebound from job exhaustion. If you are overbooked or spending too much energy on non-critical initiatives, you may be creating additional pressure at work. Try keeping a simple record of your activities for a week and divide the findings into categories such as “researching”, “reviewing proposals” and “responding to e-mails”. Are you devoting adequate time to the highest priorities?

Identify your stressors. Understanding why you are feeling deflated can help you move in a more positive direction. Think about what has contributed to your burnout: Is it the feeling that projects are out of your control? Have your own actions made the problem worse? For example, you may have set an overly ambitious timeline for completing an assignment, creating unnecessary stress and obstacles to its success. Even small changes to your routine, such as seeking assistance from your manager when you have too many projects on your plate, can help brighten your outlook.

Ask for help. A common symptom of workload overload is a feeling of isolation. You may think you’re the only one who can review a particular document because you understand the project best, but someone else might bring in a fresh perspective – not to mention relieve some of the burden. It’s acceptable to let others know that you’re facing difficulties and request their assistance. Keep in mind that you would not be perceived as someone who complains a lot if you objectively outline the specific issues you are trying to address and ask for guidance.

Take a break. Make sure to allow time to periodically recharge. Even if you’re working long hours, you can counteract stress and maximise your performance on the job by taking five or 10 minute breaks throughout the day. Stand up and stretch or go for a short walk. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, try the staffroom or actually step outside the office for some fresh air. Use your annual leave fruitfully as well. Getting away from the office – even for a day or two – can give you a fresh perspective on your situation and allow you to return with new focus and energy.

A certain amount of stress is inherent in any job, but when the pressure gets out of hand, it’s important to act quickly. Burnout can negatively affect not only your overall job performance but also your personal life. By taking measures to reduce the amount of stress you’re facing, you can regain your motivation. And in time, if the stress persists, maybe its time to look for a new job.

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