Wondering if you’re on the road to burn-out? Well, the bad news is that if you’re reading this as someone who works in HR or an adjacent field, you’re already in a high-risk category. In fact, SHRM reports that 42% of HR teams are struggling under the weight of too many projects, and other research suggests that between 40% and 60% of all employees feel burned out from their work, with the incidence being higher for women, and higher for people in ‘helping professions’.
Although “burn out” is somewhat of a buzz-word at the moment, it’s a very real condition and one that can be difficult to recover from once you cross a certain threshold. However, there are two pieces of positive news about burnout…
- Firstly, it should never really take you by surprise.
There are almost always signs and indicators that help you identify if you or a team member is getting close to burn out.
- And secondly, there are many things you can do to prevent and recover from burnout.
Although severe burnout should not be under-estimated, for the vast majority of people some simple (but not necessarily easy) changes can turn burnout around.
But today, we’re focusing in on how to identify if you or a team member are headed for burnout.
Take the Burnout Quiz!
For each of the following questions, answer; Mostly, Often, Sometimes, or Only Occasionally.
The more symptoms you experience and the more regularly you experience them, the more likely it is that you are headed for burnout.
- Do you find yourself lacking in motivation to do your work?
- Are you more negative, critical, or cynical than usual?
- Are you low in energy and find it difficult to be productive?
- Do you find yourself wondering “what’s the point” or feeling disillusioned about your work?
- Are you procrastinating more than usual?
- Have your sleep habits changed? (Either struggling to sleep or sleeping more than usual)
- Are you using food, alcohol or drugs to feel better or numb feelings? Or do you have a loss of appetite?
- Do you have unexplained headaches, stomach issues, muscle pain or other physical complaints?
- Do you find yourself with low immunity and getting sick more often than usual?
- Do you feel more tired than you think you should feel?
- Do you find it hard to concentrate?
- Do you feel detached from others?
- Are you irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you feel less confident in your ability to do your work?
- Do you lack a feeling of satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you find it difficult to think of things to look forward to?
Disclaimer: This quiz is indicative only and should not be used in the place of proper medical or therapeutical advice.
What’s Causing the Burnout?
So if you’ve done the burnout quiz and there are signs that you or one of your team is headed for burnout, what can you actually do about it? The first thing is to understand what contributes to burnout.
Job burnout can result from various factors, including:
- High Workload leading to Poor Work-Life Balance
When work takes up so much of your time and energy that you don’t have anything left to spend time with family and friends, this can easily lead to burnout. Sometimes this can be a result of a particular situation, but also it can be difficult to set boundaries and individuals’ own expectations of themselves come into play too. Depending on the situation, it might require extra resources, or a reframing of expectations and timelines.
- Lack of Control over a Situation
An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — can contribute to job burnout. Increased flexibility and agency can help. Brainstorming problems for creative solutions can be a great way to get past this. Sometimes it can be as simple as asking for permission to make a change (or sending a clear message that team members are able to do this.)
- Lack of Clarity of Job Expectations
If you or a team member is unclear about the boundaries of your position, the degree of authority you have, or what your manager expects from you, this creates an uncomfortable feeling and can contribute to burnout. Regular check-ins, clear role descriptions, clear goals/KPIs/OKRs, and regular performance reviews can help mitigate this at work.
- Stressful Workplace Dynamics
A dysfunctional team, workplace bully, or toxic work culture can all create huge amounts of stress and are a known contributor towards burnout. In these environments, a huge amount of energy is often needed just to get through the days. Depending on the situation, this might require outside help, people to be moved around, or perhaps even thinking about moving roles yourself.
- Lack of Connection and Social Support
If you feel isolated in your work, personal life or both, you’re likely to feel more stressed. Even though you might be overwhelmed with work and lack energy for a social life, making time for connections is vitally important. Having allies you feel close to at work can be especially helpful.
Once you know these factors, you probably have a good understanding of how they apply to you. What can be trickier though is to see what to do with this knowledge. Often a person close to burnout is unable to see possible solutions, so it might be wise to discuss the situation with a trusted friend or colleague.
For instance, it might be that a change of schedule, a lunch time walk twice a week, extending a deadline on a project, regular meet-ups with a mentor, changing responsibilities slightly, or setting some new personal policies in place might individually, or collectively, be the change that’s needed.
The solutions to reverse your path towards burnout are often fairly simple once you think through the options, but of course making a significant change is rarely simple to do! If you or one of your team feels like you’re headed for burnout, there’s nothing more important than making some tweaks to get things back to a more sustainable, and more enjoyable work pattern.