Too burnt out to read an article about burnout?

by Dominic Atkinson

In our first issue, we’re taking a deep dive into ‘Burnout’ and its impact on the hearts and minds of busy teams and managers.

There are two crucial pieces for combatting burnout in your life and work:

  1. Having time to feel human in your day
  2. Having time to feel proactive in your day

Now, while there’s a lot of advice out there about what ‘Burnout’ is and isn’t…

We’ve noticed one thing that isn’t spoken about enough: how to stop ‘burnout’ before it has a chance to develop.

This article is an extended version of our fortnightly Spark! Newsletter. Every two weeks, we share the latest career development and team performance insights, inspiring articles and podcasts, and free resources for teams and managers. Subscribe here.

Focus on burnout to unlock your team’s true potential

We’ve spoken with thousands of teams and managers over the years, and the reality is…

Too many of them haven’t considered the true impact of burnout or whether it’s a problem that an organisation can solve.

It also severely limits performance, preventing your business and team from achieving its goals. Not to mention the symptoms of burnout like low engagement, diminishing confidence and lack of focus.

This year's report by Mental Health UK surveying working UK adults found that…

54% agreed that a high or increased workload or volume of tasks at work caused them stress and may have contributed to burnout.
45% agreed that regularly working unpaid overtime caused them stress and may have contributed to burnout.
42% agreed that feeling isolated at work caused them stress and may have contributed to burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is when you are in a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, usually caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

Burnout is generally described as experiencing a deep sense of exhaustion, disengagement, and not having the energy to do the things you need or want to do. People experiencing burnout often feel hypersensitive to everything and everybody around them. Some also describe it as a feeling of being overwhelmed.

All of this can then lead to brain fog, frequent illnesses, headaches and a change in sleeping habits.

Burnout does not go away by itself, it is essential to work out the causes and then work towards addressing these. The World Health Organisation describes burnout as an ‘occupational hazard’, however, it can also be developed through non-work situations, such as parenting, caring responsibilities, and relationships.

“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long” — Michael Gungor

How to respond to Burnout?

Firstly, you need to give yourself time to relax. Then, look at your sleep, eating and exercise. Identify simple things that help you relax. It might be:

  • Listening to Music
  • Taking a bath
  • Going for a walk in nature
  • Spending some time with family and friends
  • Doing something creative, drawing, writing in a journal
  • Taking a break from technology

If you believe work is the source of your burnout, look for the cause. Below are six common mismatches which can lead to burnout at work:

  • Work overload
  • Lack of Control
  • Insufficient Reward
  • Breakdown in Community
  • Value Conflict
  • Absence of fairness

Do any of these resonate with you? If so, is this something that you can talk to your manager/director about to help you rectify this issue?

Five ways to manage burnout

  1. Look at your current situation and step back for a new perspective.
    Has your role changed from what it once was? Have you taken on more than you bargained for? Take time to reflect and honestly assess your situation. Even if it isn’t a solution, clarity can be a source of relief.
  2. Would having a break from your environment help?
    Would working elsewhere in your office, home or even abroad refresh you and give you a significant energy boost?
  3. Take time to breathe
    Whether you’re meditating for five minutes or just getting out of your environment and breathing fresh air, this helps you decrease stress and improve energy.
    Find a hobby — Identify something you can immerse yourself in, which will be a welcome distraction from work.
  4. Give yourself free time (but not scrolling time).
    Try not to be so busy. Sometimes, it is good to give yourself time to reflect and think about how you are really feeling so that you can resolve these issues early.
    Take a holiday — This doesn’t always mean going away, but it can simply mean putting the ‘out of office’ message on and not responding to emails. Give yourself time to think.
  5. Exercise
    Be it yoga, running, cycling, swimming, walking, or a fitness class, anything that you are truly engaged in can increase your endorphins. Endorphins make us feel happy, boost our energy, and help us get better sleep.

What workplaces can do to minimise burnout?

To protect colleague well-being, employers must overcome challenges posed by social and technological changes. Collaboration with employees is key.

This only works if management is comfortable supporting their colleagues’ mental health, whilst maintaining boundaries. This is typically outside of the skillset of most, compounded by management that may be under similar strain and experiencing burnout themselves.

So what’s the solution? At an organisational level wider awareness, regular check-ins, and peer support groups are helpful ways to keep the issues visible.

We would always recommend a professional intervention from a career coach who is mental health certified and who can cement the right process for an organisation and team.

Listen to our ‘Am I headed for burnout’ Podcast.

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Spark! is where we share the latest career development and team performance insights, inspiring articles and podcasts along with free resources for teams and managers.