In today’s demanding work environment, the spectre of burnout looms over many of us.
How can we avoid burnout in the workplace?
This is a big question when you consider that a 2021 Forbes study alarmingly revealed that over 50% of workers are experiencing burnout.
Why is this so? Do we really understand the signs of burnout so we can prevent it before it’s too late?
Hindsight: Recognising My Own Burnout
Reflecting on my first journey into management, I now realise that I went through burnout. And I wasn’t aware at the time, as I didn’t spot the signs. I hadn’t even heard of the term burnout. I didn’t realise that I was under so much pressure that I was not coping. I thought I wasn’t strong enough to be a manager.
Identifying the Signs
As managers, it is crucial that we become adept at recognising and communicating the signs of burnout both within ourselves and among our teams. Awareness is the first step before it takes over our lives and gets out of control.
Here are the 3 warning signs to look out for:
1. Physical and emotional exhaustion. Burnout frequently presents as a constant sense of tiredness. In my case, I was constantly exhausted; weekends were linked with extended sleep, and my nights were no exception. It was a never-ending spiral of exhaustion.
2. Detachment. This is a feeling of disconnect, not only from the work you are doing but also detachment from your team and other people around you. I lost my ‘mojo’, my passion for wanting to do the work I loved and enjoy life outside of work. I wasn’t as interested in my team and bringing them together. I also wasn’t as interested in having fun outside of work.
3. The feeling of being inadequate. I started to doubt my work and how effective I was in my accomplishments. I remember in one management meeting, going away and feeling hopeless that the work I was producing was of low quality, even though I had the highest-achieving team.
Recognising these signs in ourselves and others empowers us to take action before burnout becomes overwhelming. I consider myself fortunate; my boyfriend, now my husband said to me, ‘This has got to stop, you cannot keep going like this. It’s not natural.’ He intervened and urged me to halt the self-destructive cycle.
Without significant responsibilities at the time, I can only imagine how much harder it would have been had I been juggling parenthood.
We need to think of the people around us that it is affecting if we are approaching burnout. This includes our family as well as our friends and work colleagues.
Tips from an Expert
In a Mental Health Chats YouTube and Podcast episode for my Burnout series, I had the privilege of speaking with Denise Dixon, a counselor from Atlanta, Georgia, who specialises in helping people combat burnout. She shared invaluable insights on preventing burnout before it spirals out of control. Know her powerful tips on how to “Say No to Avoid Burnout”.
Spotting the signs of burnout is not just a personal responsibility but a duty we owe to ourselves and those around us—our team, our family, and friends. By understanding these warning signs and taking proactive steps, we can safeguard our well-being and foster healthier, more productive work environments.