Have you noticed a significant change in attitude and performance in one of your coworkers or employees? Does the energetic new hire now seem so lifeless, and has their performance dropped consistently for the past few months? Watch out—you may be witnessing job burnout.
What causes burnout in the workplace? What are its signs and symptoms? More importantly, how can you support a coworker or a subordinate struggling with burnout?
People previously interchanged burnout with anxiety and depression. It used to be just a buzzword and was considered less serious than other mental health issues.
Not anymore. As cases of burnout rose during the pandemic, experts started to look more into it. A 2019 meta-study (Koutsimani et al.) found that researchers disagree as to whether there is overlap between burnout, anxiety, and depression.
In the same year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized burnout as a syndrome. Although WHO does not think burnout is a mental disorder or illness, WHO acknowledges the syndrome as an “occupational phenomenon” and a factor that can influence a person’s health status and cause them to seek health services.
Burnout has become so prevalent around the globe that it can be considered a crisis. Microsoft surveyed employees across 11 countries in 2022 to find out who were burned out at work. Of the 20,000 participants, 53% of managers and almost 50% of employees said they struggled with burnout syndrome.
What causes burnout in the first place, and why is it so widespread?
According to WHO, burnout syndrome results from persistent workplace stress.
When occupational stress is left unmanaged, it can result in mental health issues affecting a person’s personal life and work performance. Stress is also a major cause of other common mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders and depression.
Workplace stress can come in many forms. Some of them include:
Stress can also come from outside the workplace. Trauma, personal loss, or similar events can cause excessive stress that can become chronic if left to fester.
The 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) lists burnout syndrome as having three characteristic dimensions:
If you think a coworker is suffering from burnout, try asking these questions:
According to Mayo Clinic, answering yes to these questions may indicate burnout.
Recovering from burnout means beating its three characteristic dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.
If your coworker is exhausted from work because of endless deadlines and heavy workloads, it is time for them to step back. You need to help them replenish their physical, emotional, and cognitive reserves so they can function normally again.
Most companies nowadays offer unlimited paid time off (PTO), and everyone should take advantage of this. Some companies have enforced a “minimum PTO” policy; this means employees must take a minimum number of days off from work. You may also consider booking an educational workshop with me on the many ways to implement self-care more consistently in any lifestyle.
Doing the same tasks for years on end can make employees lose their focus. If you find a coworker has become cynical or critical of their job, you can collaborate and give them a new perspective.
Employees who work in companies that have a vested interest in their growth and goals report greater happiness and longer stays in the same organization.
Helping an employee to recognize their long term goals while also building a strong team around them can help prevent this loss of interest.
The best support you can give your employee is to make them feel they are not alone; in my signature MIND Fundamentals, this is Deep Connections. When employees know they can trust one another with their weaknesses AND their strengths, a true team atmosphere is created. Help your team build Deep Connections by creating atmospheres of empowerment, honest conversation, and trust.
You can get ahead of this concern by offering preventative and regular MIND Performance training. It is likely that if one employee is experiencing burnout, there are others. Providing consistent resources and training help employees recognize symptoms in themselves but also to catch symptoms in others and have ready options to offer their support.
Burnout can feel overwhelming, but you can overcome it. By prioritizing the person first and better helping them to recognize and reduce stress in work and their personal lives you can help them bounce back better than before.
Do you need help managing mental health in your workplace? Let’s collaborate. Leave me a message, and let’s talk!