How to avoid burnout at work
October 09, 2023

How to avoid burnout at work

Hybrid and remote working has a lot of positives — it’s great to be able to avoid the commute, schedule our own time, and have autonomy over our work. There are pitfalls as well, though.

Remote working blurs the lines between “working time” and “personal time”, making it harder to unwind and de-stress. This can quickly lead to burnout.

Here are some of the things to watch out for to help you avoid burnout at work.

Burnout symptons to watch out for

Burnout is an intense and prolonged experience of being both mentally and physically exhausted. It usually appears following a sustained period of stress and is often work-related. New parents and those acting as carers are also vulnerable to burnout.

So, how do you know whether you’re just a bit down or if you’re suffering from burnout? Here are some of the most common symptoms of burnout at work:

  • Low energy or always feeling tired
  • Insomnia
  • Needing more sick days
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Physical symptoms such as aches and pains
  • Increased vulnerability to infections and illness
  • Irritability
  • Self-doubt
  • Feeling overwhelmed

How to avoid burnout at work

People do eventually recover from burnout, but prevention is always better than cure. So, how can you avoid burnout in the first place?

Let's look at a few suggestions.

Understand your own stress

Most people will experience stress localised somewhere specific in their body. For example, you might realise that your heart rate increases, you feel pressure in your chest, or your neck and jaw muscles become tight. You might also have a nervous feeling in your stomach before starting tasks that stress you.

Evaluate what is stressing you

Are there particular tasks, people, or even locations that you associate with higher levels of stress? Make a list of the things that stress you most and consider whether they can be changed or not.

For example, if emails about a particular project make you feel stressed, you could talk to your boss about changing projects with someone else. However, if it’s emails from your boss leading to stress, you might not be able to avoid that.

Remember that you can’t avoid all stress. In fact, some stress is actually good for us, as long as it stays manageable. There might be small changes that you can make that transform unmanageable stress into something you can handle.

Try to find purpose in your work

One of the biggest protective factors in avoiding burnout is feeling as though you’re making a difference. This doesn’t mean that you need to be working towards world peace, but you do need to feel a sense of achievement at the end of the day.

If you don’t find purpose in your work, it might be time to consider finding a new role or career that’s a better fit for your values.

Examine your workload

Overly demanding workloads make burnout inevitable. Ensure that you raise problems with your workload to your manager to make them aware and see if it’s possible to drop some tasks or delegate to others.

Your coworkers can be helpful here — especially if they have Mental Health First Aid training. Ask for suggestions and support. They’ll often have resources that can help to reduce your workload.

It’s never easy saying “No”, so you might need to practice setting boundaries when others ask you to take on extra tasks. Remind yourself that your personal time is just as important as your work time and make sure that you protect it.

Outside of your work

Self-care in your personal time can also reduce the risk of burnout. You probably know all of the things you should be doing already, but try to make them a priority. Get some exercise, eat healthy food, and spend time with loved ones (and puppies!).

Learn more about burnout with Paws in Work

Burnout isn’t an excuse for not feeling productive at work — it’s a serious condition that can have a devastating effect on your well-being. Mental health training can help you to understand the risks and, hopefully, avoid them.

Obviously, we’d suggest our Burnout Masterclass as an essential first step here.

Keep yourself informed about mental health and well-being by signing up to the Paws in Work newsletter for news, helpful ideas, and important discussions.

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