Do you dread going to work each day? Does the job that you used to love now stress you out? Learn how to recognize – and reverse – job burnout.
You’ve started feeling cynical. You don’t get charged up about projects like you used to. You are worn out and unmotivated. Five o’clock can’t come soon enough.
Everybody has a bad day at work, or two, or even three. But if you feel like you’re trudging through every day, you might be facing job burnout.
Burnout is a common response to ongoing stress. Constant stress gnaws away at your physical and emotional health. Stress that doesn’t let up puts your “fight or flight” system into overdrive. Many believe that this may lead to chronic health problems, such as heart disease and depression. It can make existing health problems hard to manage, and it can increase the risk of on-the-job accidents.
Job burnout is a common problem in caregivers, health care workers, and teachers. But any job can lead to burnout if certain elements are present.
Building blocks for burnout
You’re at risk for job burnout if you:
- Have an unrealistic workload. Most people are willing and able to put in extra effort for a special project or an occasional tight deadline. Always facing impossible deadlines and not having the tools and resources to get your job done are major causes of job burnout.
- Are not rewarded or recognized for your work. Feeling truly appreciated and recognized is an important part of job satisfaction. This can come as public or private praise or as money in your paycheck.
- Lack of control and input. It’s frustrating to be responsible but have no authority to make decisions. Feeling powerless grows from not having chances to make an impact and solve problems.
- Feel you aren’t treated fairly. Unequal pay can play a big role in making you feel unappreciated. It’s also important for leaders to walk the talk, be authentic, and lead by example. Hypocrisy breeds resentment.
- Have no hope for change. Short-term stress is easier to handle because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope for change drops if there’s no carrot on the stick. This often leads to burnout.
It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout while you can still turn things around.
- Focus on outside-work activity. Find fun, fulfilling activities not related to work. They can help you recover from work stress and avoid the downward spiral of burnout. Nurture outside-work friendships. Supportive friends “on the outside” can often give you a fresh point of view. Outside activities and friends can also help you distance yourself from your work, build your confidence, and broaden your identity.
- Talk to your boss. If you are overwhelmed, ask your boss what he or she expects of you. Ask for the authority or resources you need to get your job done. If you can’t get what you need, think about moving to another department.
- Seek counseling, coaching, and mentors. If you feel you need help, get it. Counselors and employment coaches can often help assess your skills and see whether you’re in the right job or the right environment. Coaches can also help you find new avenues to apply your skills if a change is in order. Many companies have an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, to teach you skills to manage stress and learn ways to combat burnout.
- Sleep, eat well, and exercise. These are the tried-and-true building blocks for good health. Get enough sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Get some daily physical activity. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.