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In the fast-paced and demanding landscape of the modern workplace, burnout has become an increasingly prevalent issue. Individuals and organizations must proactively address employee burnout to maintain a healthy work-life balance and foster overall well-being.
In this article, we’ll explore eight effective ways to lessen burnout at work, with a focus on individual strategies, scheduling, and organizational approaches.
What Is Burnout?
Let’s start by defining what burnout is. Burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, representing the culmination of prolonged stress. The World Health Organization offers this burnout definition: “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
In her 2021 article for the Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders recounts her experience of nearing burnout. She expressed how she found herself “constantly fatigued, irritated, and grappling with a sense of both unfulfillment and underappreciation” without initially recognizing the looming threat of burnout.
Exhaustion is the central symptom of burnout. It comprises profound physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue that undermines many employees’ ability to work effectively and feel positive about what they’re doing. This can stem from the demands of an always-on, 24/7 organizational culture, intense time pressure, or simply having too much to do, especially when you lack control over your work, dislike it, or don’t have the necessary skills to accomplish it.
This dampens the employee’s well-being, lowering their want for professional growth or career advancement. Instead, the employee can feel even more physically exhausted and it can foster negative feelings towards the work they do, and can even lead to questioning their career path and health problems in the long run.
This is also called role conflict, which leads to a perceived lack of control; being under pressure from several, often incompatible, demands that compete with one another.
When you experience burnout, it adversely affects physical health, psychological well-being, and workplace performance. Beyond its impact on individuals, chronic workplace stress and burnout mixed with increasing job demands and tight deadlines can detrimentally affect organizations, resulting in decreased work performance, increased employee turnover, increased absenteeism to deliberately miss work, and overall disengagement.
It doesn’t stop in the workplace. Career burnout can also spill over into your personal life, negatively impacting your well-being and your relationships with friends and family, increasing emotional exhaustion.
To see if you are currently experiencing burnout, Psychologist Christina Maslach developed the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the inaugural clinically grounded assessment of burnout, which examines three dimensions:
- Exhaustion: Persistent feelings of depletion and fatigue.
- Cynicism: A sense of detachment from both your job and the individuals in your professional sphere.
- Ineffectiveness: The perception that your performance consistently falls short of meeting expectations, leading to a pervasive feeling of inadequacy in your work.
With this assessment, there are several early warning signs of burnout including harboring a negative and critical attitude towards work, anticipating work with dread and desiring to leave once present, experiencing low energy levels, and diminished interest in tasks.
Physical complaints such as headaches or illness start to appear, you experience heightened irritability towards team members or clients, a sense of work lacking meaning or impact, and emotional withdrawal from colleagues or clients.
The perception that one’s efforts and contributions go unnoticed or unrecognized. These indicators collectively highlight the multifaceted nature of burnout and its impact on various aspects of an individual’s professional and personal well-being.
What Are 8 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout?
So, how do you avoid burnout? If you’re already in the thick of it, how do you overcome burnout? Here are 7 ways.
Establish Clear Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life is paramount in beating burnout. Clearly define your working hours and adhere to them to reduce stress.
This boundary helps prevent the blurring of lines between work and leisure, contributing to a healthier and positive effect on your work-life balance. Set your own time for breaks and lunch, and make sure you stick with these times.
As a supervisor, encouraging clear boundaries can empower employees to make a healthier everyday routine and a more positive work environment.
Take Regular Breaks
Breaks are not a luxury but a necessity for sustaining productivity and reducing burnout. Incorporate short breaks throughout the day to recharge your mind.
Recent research suggests that 10 minutes is the ideal time for a microbreak, which can help workers recover and replenish energy. They’re also proven to be beneficial for your well-being and job performance.
Use this time to step away from your workspace, stretch, or engage in activities that promote relaxation.
Prioritize Self-Care and Exercise
Invest time in self-care activities, including regular exercise, maintaining a nutritious diet, and ensuring sufficient sleep. Prioritizing your physical and mental health is essential for building resilience against workplace stressors.
Always remember that your physical and mental health and well-being should always take priority.
Engage in mindfulness meditation by seeking a quiet space, settling into a comfortable position, and gently closing your eyes. Direct your attention to your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly, fostering relaxation and mental clarity over 5-10 minutes.
Explore progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) by systematically tensing and then releasing each muscle group, starting from your toes and moving upwards through your legs, abdomen, chest, arms, and face. Focus on the soothing release of tension with each phase of relaxation.
Practice deep breathing exercises by inhaling deeply through your nose for a count of four, holding your breath for another four counts, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth for a count of six. Repeating this pattern for several minutes promotes stress reduction and a sense of calm.
Alternatively, take a nature walk or engage in moderate exercise as a refreshing break. The combination of fresh air and physical activity can effectively clear your mind and elevate your mood.
Learn to Delegate Tasks
Preventing burnout means that you should acknowledge that you can’t do everything alone. The American Psychological Association reports that in 2020, employee stress is among the top sources of stress, with 61% of people reporting it as a factor in their stress. Work overload leads to low productivity and negative emotions.
Companies should strive to prevent workplace burnout in the first place by focusing on employee well-being and manager support at every organizational level.
Connect each employee’s role to your organization’s mission and values. Connecting roles to how jobs directly contribute to the goals of the company helps reinforce why each employee’s role matters. This reminds your employees why are they valued in the company and their purpose.
When employees are burned out, companies and managers need to take an active role in helping the employee recover. When you set clear expectations for your employees, you can foster autonomy and good relationships with those whom you work with.
When assigned to be a leader to a team, delegating tasks distributes the workload and fosters a sense of collaboration within the team as well as decreases employee stress levels. Trust your colleagues to handle their responsibilities, and focus on what truly requires your attention.
As a supervisor, you can help employees recharge by getting out of the office and getting active by implementing walking meetings.
20-minute walking meetings have an agenda, which typically includes any current challenges and potential solutions, updates on projects and tasks, employers provide feedback and coaching, and make employees feel recognized for their work.
Facilitate Remote Work Opportunities
While the idea of working from home is not novel, managers can contribute to destigmatizing it and ensuring equitable policy application by integrating it into regular practice.
Allowing employees across all levels to work remotely, it not only saves commuting time and expenses for employees but also serves as a tangible demonstration of the organization’s trust.
The provision of remote work options can further alleviate the stress of time management, benefiting employees who need to navigate essential medical appointments or those who are working parents or caregivers seeking to manage their home life responsibilities effectively.
Set Realistic Goals
For burnout prevention, avoid setting unattainable expectations for yourself. Break down larger tasks into smaller, achievable goals. Realistic goal-setting not only makes your workload more manageable but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you progress, which lessens the risk of burnout.
Setting goals that are too high for yourself can be one of the root causes of some people’s burnout. Getting a heavy workload to aspire to that unrealistic goal can lower productivity, and can even lead to low business results in the long run.
Foster a Supportive Work Environment
Create an environment that encourages open communication and mutual support. Positive, strong relationships with colleagues and superiors can serve as a buffer against workplace burnout. Feeling connected to a supportive community enhances overall well-being and reduces stress.
Learn to Say No
Recognize your limits and be assertive in declining certain tasks when necessary. Saying no is a skill that helps maintain a balance between your professional and personal commitments, helps reduce stress, and provides more control over your work.
How Can Employees Prevent Burnout?
Individuals play a crucial role in preventing burnout. Employees can actively contribute to a healthier work environment by communicating workload concerns with supervisors, utilizing available resources for stress management, and prioritizing self-care. Building a strong support network within the workplace can help to manage stress and prevent burnout.
How Do I Avoid Job Burnout on My Work Schedule?
To avoid burnout in your work schedule, implement effective time management strategies. Prioritize tasks based on importance and deadlines, allocate breaks strategically, and communicate openly with your team about your workload. Regularly assess your schedule to ensure it remains sustainable in the long term.
How To Encourage Employees Against Job Stress
Organizations can play a pivotal role in preventing job stress among employees. Encourage open communication, provide resources for stress management, and foster a positive work culture that values employee well-being. Offering flexibility in work arrangements, recognizing achievements, and promoting a healthy work-life balance are key initiatives that can contribute to reducing stress and preventing burnout.
Different Types of Employee Engagement To Combat Burnout
Employee engagement is a powerful tool in combating burnout. Consider implementing various engagement initiatives, such as team-building activities, skill development programs, and recognition programs. Creating a sense of purpose and connection within the workplace enhances job satisfaction and reduces the likelihood of burnout.
Addressing and preventing burnout requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses individual efforts, effective scheduling, and organizational initiatives.
By implementing these strategies and fostering a culture that prioritizes employee well-being, individuals and organizations can work together to create a more sustainable and fulfilling work environment.