As part of Stress Awareness Month, we’re looking at dealing with burnout at work. Discover what burnout is, the symptoms and causes of burnout, as well as some tips for how to cope with burnout in the workplace.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a feeling of total exhaustion, both physically and mentally, when you have experienced a high level of stress for a long period of time.
What are the symptoms of burnout at work?
Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis, but some symptoms can be similar to those of depression. Emotional symptoms can include feeling unappreciated by coworkers or your boss, feeling unfulfilled and becoming easily irritable or tearful. The physical symptoms of burnout include headaches and muscle pains. In terms of your behaviour, you may become disengaged and withdrawn from your work, lack concentration and make mistakes in your work where you usually wouldn’t.
What are the causes of burnout at work?
Burnout at work is unlikely to be caused by one thing. More commonly, it’s the build up of several factors over time. These factors could include:
- Having a continuously high or challenging workload
- Job insecurity
- Low pay
- Lack of recognition at work
- Not much support from your colleagues or manager
- Experiencing unfair treatment in the workplace
Tips for dealing with burnout at work
Mental health is unique to everyone, however you may find some of the following tips useful if you are feeling burnt out.
- Talk to your manager
- Look into your options
- Make reasonable adjustments
- Set boundaries
- Prioritise breaks
- Don’t worry about calling in sick
- Consider that it might not be the right job for you
1. Talk to your manager
If you feel burned out or on the edge of burnout, it’s imperative that you discuss it with your manager.
They can support you in a range of ways, such as pushing back deadlines or reducing your workload by assigning projects to others. If the problems are to do with job insecurity or low pay, there may be something they can do in these areas too.
If you are experiencing unfair treatment, your manager should be informed as soon as possible. It is their responsibility to ensure everybody feels safe and supported at work and a good manager will take the steps necessary to change things if this is not the case.
Talking to your manager also has the added benefit of getting something off your chest. While talking about burnout won’t make it go away, you will feel less isolated.
2. Look into your options
More workplaces are putting things in place to support their employees’ wellbeing, so it’s worth having a look to see if there is anything at your work that could relieve burnout. This may be something small, like a coffee morning with your colleagues to discuss things that aren’t related to work. But they may also have larger support mechanisms in place, such as additional sick leave or support sessions with a trained mental health professional.
Long-term sick leave or taking a career break will give you a lengthier break from work, giving you time to recuperate and return to work if/when you feel ready. During this time, it’s important you don’t check your emails or do any work at all – as continuing to do small bits of work won’t improve your health.
3. Make reasonable adjustments
One way of managing burnout is to change parts of your lifestyle to relieve some pressure.
Work-related adjustments include adopting a flexible working pattern or working from home if it’s possible. For example, could you take a longer lunch in order to make time for exercise or doing a food shop? This would free up your evenings, giving you more time to relax and decompress after the working day.
You could also adjust your lifestyle outside of work. If you have caring responsibilities, is there a way that other members of your family could support with this? If you have a long commute and don’t have much time to cook in the evenings, consider things like meal planning to ensure you are eating well throughout the week.
There is also a lot to be said for having a weekend where you don’t do much at all. It’s easy to fill your weekends up with social engagements or household chores, but a weekend free of any commitments can really help you to switch off.
4. Set boundaries
When dealing with burnout, it’s a good idea to start setting boundaries with your coworkers. There are a few ways you can set boundaries at work:
- Put your out of office on – not just when you are on annual leave, but also at weekends and whenever else you are not working. This way you know anybody who emails you during this time won’t be expecting a reply until you’ve returned.
- Switch off your notifications – close down your emails and any apps like Microsoft Teams or Slack and focus on the task you need to get done.
- Allow yourself extra time – need to give someone a timescale for when your work will be finished? Add on some extra time to give yourself a bit of breathing room. Eventually people will realise they need to request work from you in advance.
- Remove work accounts from your personal phone – this is a slippery slope and could result in behaviour like checking your emails while you’re on holiday. Get ahead of this one by removing any work-related accounts from your personal phone.
Get more advice on creating a healthy work-life balance with our article.
5. Prioritise breaks
Make breaks a priority by building them into your workday in the same way you would a meeting.
Why not start with putting your lunch break in your calendar on your phone or computer so that you get a notification when it’s due to start? It’s easy to get engrossed in work and not realise that lunchtime has been and gone, so having the notification pop up should remind you to take your lunch.
If notifications don’t work for you, you could ask a colleague to remind you or even take their break with you. This way you can hold each other to account, meaning you are more likely to keep it up.
Once you have built up the habit of taking your lunch break, you can then build in shorter breaks throughout the day. For example, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Building a habit like this takes a bit of time, so start off small and eventually it will feel natural.
Do you work from home as part of your role? Our article has tips on how to be mindful when working from home.
6. Don’t worry about calling in sick
Part of the stigma around mental health and wellbeing is that being sick only refers to your physical health.
If you are feeling burned out at work or that you may be close to burning out, utilise your sick leave. In the UK, you can take sick leave for up to seven days without needing a note from a healthcare professional. After seven days, you will need a fit note.
When you call in sick, you don’t have to disclose any details that you don’t want to, just saying you are unwell should be enough.
7. Consider that it might not be the right job for you
There are lots of tips and tricks on how to cope with burnout. However, if you have tried the advice above and still feel burned out then it might be time to think about moving on and securing a different role.
When searching for a new job, keep your wellbeing in mind. You could look for positions that are less hours, have less responsibility, include hybrid or homeworking, or are in a slower paced sector.
Unitemps offers roles that suit a variety of lifestyles. From temporary and part-time roles, through to permanent and full-time positions, take a look at our vacancies.
If you secure an interview for a new job, ask questions that will let you learn more about what an average day or week would look like in the role. Ask about the team structure and the company’s values, as this will help you determine whether the business prioritises the health of its staff.
Take a look at our other articles for advice on applying for jobs, career development, life at work and much more.
Last updated on 6 April 2023Share this article