4 Major Signs of Work Burnout and What to Do About It

Do you know how many hours a year the average person spends working? Over 2000! And if your first thought was ‘that’s way too many’, then you might be part of the 21% of Aussies who feel overly stressed out at work. Work burnout is a real thing and many people experience it at one point throughout their career. It’s preventable but sometimes the signs of work burnout are harder to spot than you might think.

Because burnout can lead to more concerning health problems, it’s important to identify it before it happens. Find out what the most alarming signs of work burnout are and what you can do to stop it in its tracks.

What is work burnout

Work burnout refers to the growing exhaustion, increasing dislike and reduced capability at work. Think of it as a candle which is continually lit until there is no more wax to be burned. At one point, you will simply have no energy, desire or motivation to keep ‘burning’ (working).

The term ‘burnout’ was first coined by American psychologist, Herbert Freudenburger where he described it as ‘the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to product the desired results’.

It is caused mainly by job stress that builds up over time, but outside stress such as family life can contribute to burnout.

4 Signs of Work Burnout

There are a host of signs and symptoms that indicate that you (or someone else) is experiencing burnout, but they can all be grouped up into 4 major signs.

Major Sign 1: Separation from work tasks and activities

Burnout individuals tend to have growing irritability, frustration and cynicism towards their work. Whether this dissatisfaction is aimed at their own work, the company itself, their working conditions or towards co-workers, it slowly grows the more burnt out they become.

Dissatisfaction with work isn’t just limited to outbursts of anger or frustration either. Burnt out individuals may feel distant, unattached and numb to their work. The absence of motivation or enthusiasm at work can be one of the earliest yet prominent signs of workout burnout.

Major Sign 2: Emotional exhaustion

Emotional exhaustion refers to the general sense of tiredness amongst burnout individuals. They may feel constantly drained, bored, spent or tired. They may seem less enthusiastic or outgoing at work and will usually feel very little desire to get their work done.

Talking to coworkers may seem like a chore to them, and they can be difficult to talk to whether they’re overly cynical, seem distant or absent minded or have no energy in conversation. While a little bit of stress or exhaustion is normal, emotional exhaustion is not, so it’s important to deal with it once identified.

Major Sign 3: Reduced work performance

Reduced work performance comes with the feelings of apathy and frustration that burnt out employees feel. Their work might be sloppy or not to their usual standard of work. They also might miss deadlines or show up to work late and looking dishevelled. They can also be almost non-existent in meetings, lack creativity and will have difficulty concentrating on even the most basic of tasks.

Major Sign 4: Physical Illness

When stress gets to the point where individuals are burnt out, they might show signs of actual physical illness. This is ‘burnt out’ at it’s most ‘burnt out’. Individuals might have physical complaints like headaches or migraines. They may feel lethargic or experience upset stomachs.

What to do when you spot these signs

If you or anyone you know is showing signs of burnout, it’s important to address it as soon as possible – before it leads to more concerning issues such as declining mental health. Here are some ways to combat the signs of work burnout.

Taking a break

Whether you choose to step away from the desk for an hour or go on a well-deserved vacation, taking a break from work is a great way to stop burn out in its tracks. After all, burn out is the result of the accumulation of stress over time so when you step away from the source of your stress, you’re not letting it accumulate further.

It’s also important to do no work-related activities when you take a break. You might be pressured to check your emails but this will only add to your stress. Put the phone away, sit back on your favourite massager and enjoy your break properly!

Get into hobbies

Sometimes all you need to do to prevent burnout is to release your chronic stress in other places. While we don’t recommend turning to alcohol or drugs, we do recommend finding hobbies where you can positively release your frustration or take your mind off work.

Some examples include gardening, cooking, video games, art or lego-building. As long as your chosen hobby gives you joy and peace, and doesn’t aggravate your stresses, you’ll find yourself returning to work each day feeling better.

Talk to a friend

If you’re lucky enough to have a confidante or trusted friend to lean on, you can tell them your problems and vent all your issues out. A truly understanding friend will take it all in and provide helpful advice if needed.

The key word is a ‘truly understanding friend’. Picking the wrong person or someone who doesn’t respond the way you were hoping for might just make you even more frustrated.

Call it quits

If everything is too much for you to handle, and a break is not enough, you may have to quit. Quitting is not the cowards way out – it’s important to know when you’ve had enough and it’s time to call it quits. The important thing is to make sure you’ve tried to work it out and you’ve given it your all before recognising that it’s time to quit your job.

It is also a good idea to have another source of income ready and that you have enough time in between jobs for you to refresh yourself.

Treat burnout before it’s too late

Burnout is a serious condition and its effects on your mental, emotional and physical health should be enough to make sure that you don’t reach that point. Make sure you’re always taking time to rest and recharge and find a work/life balance that works for you.

Looking to find more ways to treat the signs of work burnout? You might just find it at the OSIM Wellness Hub. The Hub is your go-to place for articles and blogs that help you live a happier and healthier life. Check it out now!

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