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Career Advice

How to Avoid Burnout as an Employee

Posted by Jill Cotton

Career Trends Expert

Last Updated 4 July 2022
|4 min read

Feeling exhausted and disconnected from work? You’re not alone. New research from Glassdoor found that negative discussion around burnout amongst UK workers has increased 48% in the last 12 months - hitting record levels.

And although nearly three-quarters (72%) of UK workers think that annual leave is an effective way to reduce burnout, only a third (34%) say their employer encourages them to take all their annual leave. So it may be no surprise that just 3 in 5 (60%) employees used all their holiday entitlement last year - and 1 in 5 workers under 25 took no holiday at all.

Speaking about the research, Glassdoor economist Lauren Thomas says: ""Burnout levels have skyrocketed in the last 12 months - and companies need to take action. Placing employee experience at the heart of company recruitment and retention strategies will slow the upward trend of burnout we’ve seen over the past year and ultimately make workplaces healthier and more productive."

What Is Burnout?

Put simply, ‘burnout’ is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. The World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognised the word ‘burnout’  in 2019 as an occupational phenomenon. It defined the term as ‘a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’

The WHO classifies ‘burnout’ by three factors:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feeling of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy

Importantly the WHO makes clear that burnout relates to occupational stress and work environment, not other areas of life.

What Are The Causes Of Burnout?

Burnout can happen very suddenly or over some time. Either way, it will ultimately impact your productivity at work and can easily spill over into your life outside of work.

Common reasons for burnout include:

  • Unfair treatment in the workplace
  • Lack of communication or support from managers
  • Impossible to meet or pressurised deadlines
  • Work-life imbalance
  • The culture and values of the company are in stark contrast to your own
  • Bigger workload than you can manage
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Little or no control over your working conditions

What Are The Symptoms Of Burnout?

Signs of burnout can easily be confused with stress symptoms - but there is a significant difference. When stressed, you still feel able to control your situation. When experiencing burnout, you ultimately lose control of what is happening, and your enthusiasm for your job disappears.

Symptoms of burnout include:

  • Lack of sleep or constant fatigue
  • Anxiety about your workday
  • Distancing yourself emotionally from your job and those in the workplace
  • Increased frustration and irritation with colleagues and your work environment
  • Feeling negatively about your job
  • Reduced performance at work
  • Being cynical and critical of those around you
  • Using something to make you feel happy (food, alcohol, drugs, for example)

If you find it hard to put in the effort needed to do your job, burnout could be the root cause.  

 7 Ways To Prevent Burnout

Burnout is much more than being tired and not enjoying your job. Experiencing burnout means losing connection to the reason and purpose for doing your role. If this is your position, Glassdoor's career trends expert Jill Cotton offers these tips to regain control of the situation.

  1. Actively manage your time: Find a work-life balance that works better for you. Keep your to-do list in control, delegate or eliminate unnecessary work and prioritise important tasks. And always leave work at work - even when your office is at home.
  2. Ask for help: Lack of support is a key driver of burnout. But managers can't offer help if they aren't aware you need it. Speak up if your workload is too heavy or you are unsure what is being asked of you.
  3. Learn to say ‘no’: Know your priorities and assess each request made of your time. If you need to turn down the ask, be straightforward in your response and offer an alternative. This will build trust with your manager and make you more productive.
  4. Relax: Find ways to switch off and be present in all you do. Nurturing time with family and friends, yoga, meditation, mindfulness techniques and creative hobbies will help you wind down. 
  5. Exercise: This doesn’t mean an hour in the gym. Even a brisk 10-minute walk at lunchtime can be enough to see health benefits in and out of the workplace.
  6. Sleep: Use sleep to clear the mind, so you have space to tackle what the next day has in store.
  7. Rediscover your passion: If you have emotionally disconnected from your job, take time to analyse what you loved to begin with and what has changed. Consider whether it is a clash of values, the culture of the company, or the role itself before making your next move.
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