Although the entire May is dedicated to mental health awareness, exhaustion and stress in the workplace are always equally significant and commonly mentioned topics. However, these frequent issues often get interchangeable with another serious condition. Do you know how to recognize the signs of burnout? Throughout the years, everyone has been striving to discover new efficient ways to deal with it.
In this article, we will tackle this important subject. Use it as your guide, and make sure to spot the first symptoms timely. That way, you will be able to help an employee or colleague or deal with it yourself. Follow the tips we will list, and you will undoubtedly handle this alarming syndrome.
What Is a Burnout Syndrome? Learn How it Manifests.
According to the World Health Organization, this is an occupation-related phenomenon. It comes from chronic workplace stress. Although everyone occasionally feels tired and lacks the willpower to perform some daily tasks, this condition is much more than that. Sure, the early warning signs can seem mild. However, they can never be neglected. Continuous energy deficiency, negative views regarding work, and mental distance from the team and the job mainly constitute this syndrome.
What Are the Signs of a Burnout at Work?
The problem with the earliest signs is that they can easily be misinterpreted as “oh well” and “that’s life.” They are very subtle and can go under the radar. However, when the syndrome progresses, you can spot these symptoms:
- Detaching from the workplace and its culture and values,
- Lack of motivation and enthusiasm,
- Minimized productivity,
- Poor memory and frequent slips,
- Decreased decision-making ability,
- Bad sleeping schedule,
- Being irritable and overly sensitive to negative feedback,
- Increased cynicism.
These are some of the main alarms to keep your eyes open to.
What Burnout Is and What Isn’t?
Naturally, we have all asked ourselves – What are signs of employee burnout? But we must also wrap our minds around what aren’t the indicators of this condition. Although many erroneously take this term as a synonym for tiredness, that’s far from the truth. And also – many different diagnoses can be mistaken for burnout. Some people have other issues that need treatment, and their symptoms match the ones related to being burned out. Depression and anxiety can manifest quite similarly, which brings us into a dangerous slippery slow.
If you worry about your or someone else’s mental health, it is better to consult a professional rather than be diagnosed with something that seems obvious, but it rarely is.
How Can You Tell if an Employee is Secretly Struggling?
Some people aren’t good at verbalizing their interior struggles. That is why the managers (and colleagues) should keep tabs on them:
- Pay attention to their appearance,
- Keep track of their progress (and the lack of it),
- Think about the number of sick days they have recently requested,
- Be there for them if you see they are isolating themselves,
- Don’t undermine the fact they are getting frustrated more easily,
- Show compassion, but keep in mind the boundaries.
It is usually better to observe than to ask questions. When you see that someone is struggling, show understanding and make yourself available to them – in case they need you.
What Are the 5 Stages of Burnout?
It can start harmlessly. You see an inbox packed with emails labeled as “urgent” and you feel like taking a nap (or seven consecutive naps). No worries, we have all been there. You must do more with less strength or fewer resources, and you would normally feel more than competent to do so. And yet, this time around it feels different. Your motivation has been replaced with detachment and the company culture starts to seem foreign. Before contributing the state of numbness mixed with negativity and poor productivity to binge-watching a show a few nights ago, learn about the five stages of employee burnout:
- A feeling that something’s wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it – you just feel demotivated,
- The uncomfortable feelings grow – your entire system strives to find ways to manage all the stress, and you become increasingly easy to irritate,
- Numbing techniques become your ally – the third stage leaves you feeling way too overwhelmed and anxious to properly battle your problems, so you will most likely try to anesthetize mentally. Anything from eating too many sweets to chugging caffeine on (excessively frequent) breaks can occur at this phase,
- Overstimulating and still lacking the positive outcomes are the side effects of entering phase four. Deep dissatisfaction at work is the prime enemy, and the anxiety can kick in just in time to boost the negativity,
- Physical symptoms are now always present due to a chronic state of stress. Moreover, you now begin to experience habitual burnout. Physical and mental fatigue are only two indicators of reaching the trickiest stage.
Beware of the warning signs, and don’t underestimate the red flags when you see them.
Phase One Can Be Easy to Miss – Pay Close Attention!
What is the first stage of burnout? This is one tough cooky to crack. The initial stage can easily go unnoticed. The symptoms are very difficult to detect, and they resemble any other day that screams you should get more coffee – and more sleep. The actual changes are subtle, and yet you have a gut feeling that something’s off. However, notice the timing. Have you been overwhelmed by new responsibilities lately? Did you have to work long hours to finish everything on time? If you feel pressured and notice that your alarms are slowly starting to go off, take some time to reflect on that and recover.
Don’t Overlook the Burnout Symptoms
So your habits have changed, and your enthusiasm has fallen flat. You might want to ask yourself – How do I know if I’m burned out? Take a moment to listen to your body and see if its “check engine” light is on – if you feel perpetually fatigued, both physically and emotionally, look for other symptoms:
- Irritability and cynicism,
- Detachment from the rest of your colleagues and your line of work,
- Ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishments.
Additionally, if you think that you feel even more pressure due to a lack of communication and healthy relations at work, and if your deadlines are insane but your managers show minimal comprehension, you can skip the drama by acknowledging that the environment is toxic and you should look for a new full-time job or side gig.
How Can I Recover from Burnout Fast?
Rebuilding creativity and motivation isn’t easy, nor is it fast. You will most likely need some time to bounce back. And although you might feel like you ought to encounter a remedy swiftly, don’t sweat it if it takes longer than you’ve expected. Here’s how you can ease and ease your struggle and battle the symptoms:
- Learn to identify the stressors in your life, both professionally and personally,
- Establish new routines that you can stick to and beat the feeling that you constantly lack time to perform tasks and chores,
- Write your goals down and measure how much it takes for you to fulfill an assignment, so you can have a realistic agenda,
- Prioritize often – when you set your top priorities, revisit them every now and then to see if they are still realistic and valid,
- Balance your routines, take breaks regularly, but avoid unnecessary distractions while you are finishing your most important duties,
- Separate your working hours from your private time.
There is no way to say how long the rough patch will last. Still, you should follow these proven methods to reduce your stress and anxiety.
Still struggling to recognize signs of burnout? Download our burnout checklist.
How to Prevent Burnout at Work?
Healthy organizations that conduct everything rightly, starting from their hiring needs to maintaining a positive environment with a strong culture, always find ways to recognize the signs of burnout timely and stop them from increasing.
There are certain things managers must do:
- Communicate clearly and promote quality communication among the rest of the team,
- Hold regular 1:1 meetings,
- Focus on the positive aspects and paying attention to giving feedback properly,
- Remove the obstacles that prevent employees from doing their daily jobs,
- Set up clear and realistic expectations and milestones,
- Let people take breaks when they feel overwhelmed,
- Put employees’ well being before processes,
- Be aware of the importance of free time and encourage employees to separate their personal lives from working hours.
If all of these conditions are fulfilled, people will feel much better about going to work, and the overall employee experience (and candidate experience) will improve.
Take it Seriously: Burnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion
If you have read the symptoms, you know that this syndrome stands for much more than exhaustion. And it can have a far more damaging effect in the long run. It can adversely affect every single aspect of a person’s life – starting from harming their career. Unfortunately, the cycle doesn’t end there because the dissatisfaction often spreads to other segments of life.
Be Ready to Spot the Signs of Burnout – Personally and as a Leader
If someone seems to be a bit under the weather, don’t ignore their struggles. Although it can be only a temporary grumpiness or a simple discontent due to a failed diet of a constant traffic jam – be sure to pay attention. They might be experiencing burnout syndrome without even knowing it. And more importantly, they could be fighting a more severe battle with a mental illness. Anyhow, be compassionate and caring without crossing certain lines and becoming pushy.
And if you feel like you desperately need a vacation – give it some thought and discover whether you only feel enticed by Mediterranean paradises or you actually need to slow down. In either case, be kind to yourself. And what time is better to raise awareness and send good vibes than during Mental Health Month?