20 Signs of Burnout at Work

Burnout at work is real. It’s a special kind of work-related stress. Burnout at work is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that can be tied to a loss of personal identity and reduced productivity. Does this resonate with you? Learn the signs of burnout at work and what you can do about it.

Signs of work burnout can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Impaired concentration
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased illness

 

If you think you might be suffering from this common condition, it’s time to learn the signs of work burnout. Recognizing the symptoms can help you address them.

What is Burnout?

The term burnout has been around for a while. Coined in the 1970s by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, the term burnout refers to a number of symptoms that are induced by work-related stress. It isn’t a medical condition, but some experts think depression could be the culprit behind burnout. Job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.

According to Freudenberger, burnout is most common in “helping” related professions. Doctors, nurses, social workers and other helpers might be more prone to burnout. In today’s work environment, though, burnout can affect anyone. Stressed out workers, homemakers and even influencers can suffer from burnout. Even you could end up feeling burnt out. You might describe this feeling as unable to cope, listless and exhausted.

20 Signs of Burnout at Work Increased IllnessA stressful lifestyle can put you under pressure and lead to burnout. Long hours, personal conflict, demanding supervisors and other common workplace situations can lead to burnout. As a state of chronic stress, burnout can lead to:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling tired and emotional, physical and mental exhaustion
  • Feelings of detachment and cynicism
  • Feeling like you’re ineffective or not accomplishing tasks

If you’re in the middle of a bout of burnout, you might feel like you can’t function on a personal or professional level.

In most cases, you don’t wake up one morning with a case of work burnout. Instead, it sneaks up on you, slowly lurching. This means it can be difficult to identify at first as it begins to settle into full-fledged burnout. You might not notice the warning signs until it is too late.

How Do I Know if I Have Burnout?

Because it isn’t a medical condition, burnout can’t be diagnosed by your doctor like a physical illness. However, there is a formal questionnaire you can take to see if you have burnout. The Maslach Burnout Inventory is a 22-question quiz that measures emotional exhaustion, personal accomplishment and depersonalization. While the test can be a reliable indicator, you’ll know in your gut if you’re suffering from burnout.

Another way you can tell if you are suffering from work-related burnout is by taking stock of certain signs and symptoms. Symptoms of burnout can vary. If you think you’re experiencing burnout, take a look at the 20 signs of burnout below. From there, you can assess your level of burnout and start making changes to combat it.

Signs of Burnout at Work20 Signs of Burnout at Work

Burnout is more than just job stress. Explore these 20 signs of burnout at work and see where you fall on this condition’s continuum.

  • Forgetfulness: Have you found yourself forgetting meetings? Mild forgetfulness might mean you are experiencing burnout.
  • Chronic fatigue: Do you feel tired all the time? In the early stages of burnout, you might feel a distinct lack of energy. You might feel drained and depleted. This fatigue might also manifest as a sense of dread about your workday.
  • Impaired concentration: Lack of focus can be an early sign of burnout at work. As your burnout gets worse, you might start finding yourself unable to stay on task at work. This means you might not be able to get your work done and tasks could start piling up on you.
  • Insomnia: Having trouble sleeping? In the early stages of burnout, you might have trouble sleeping one or two nights a week. When you’re in the throes of an episode of burnout, insomnia might turn into a nightly ordeal.
  • Increased illness: When you’re not sleeping well, for any reason, your immune system can become weaker. This makes your body more vulnerable to colds, flu and other illnesses.
  • Physical ailments: Stress and burnout can do crazy things to the body. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms like unexplained dizziness, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal symptoms, shortness of breath and/or headaches, you might have physical signs of burnout. It is wise to see your doctor if you’re experiencing physical ailments.
  • Anger: If you’re feeling easily triggered and angry, it might be a sign of burnout at work. It might start as irritability and tension. As your burnout gets worse, it might turn into arguments with family members and colleagues and serious outbursts.
  • Loss of appetite: If you’re feeling work burnout, you might notice a lessened appetite. You might not feel hungry. This can lead to skipping a meal here or there. As burnout worsens, you might not want to eat at all. You might begin to lose weight and develop symptoms related to malnutrition like sluggishness and fatigue.
  • Anxiety: There’s more to anxiety than just feeling anxious. You might feel on edge with tension and worry. As your burnout gets worse, your anxiety might get worse, too. It might become so serious that it interferes with your ability to be productive at work. It could even cause problems with family members and in your personal life.
  • Depression: Feeling sad and hopeless isn’t normal. In the early stages of work burnout, you might feel this way occasionally. As your burnout gets worse, you might feel depressed all the time. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness might become overwhelming. If you become severely depressed and believe the world would be better without you, it’s time to get immediate professional help.
  • Detachment: Detachment can go hand-in-hand with depression. Detachment is a general feeling of being disconnected from your environment and the people around you. If you are feeling detachment at your job, you might emotionally or even physically remove yourself from your responsibilities at work. You might start calling in sick frequently, regularly stroll in late or even stop responding to emails and answering phone calls.
  • Pessimism and cynicism: Pessimism and cynicism can start out as shifting from a “glass half full” to “glass half empty” mentality. As it gets worse and burnout progresses, it can extend to feelings that you can’t trust anyone and have issues counting on coworkers and family members.
  • Loss of enjoyment: Have you lost all positive feelings about your job? Loss of enjoyment is a strong sign of burnout at work. If you don’t address what’s causing the burnout, it can extend into other areas of your life. You might try to avoid spending time with family and friends, avoid projects at work and start engaging in other forms of detachment.
  • Isolation: Detachment, pessimism and loss of enjoyment as you experience burnout can lead to isolation. It might start out as a simple avoidance of socializing. From there it can progress to anger when spoken to or changing your work schedule to avoid interactions.
  • Feelings of hopelessness: Feeling hopeless might be similar to depression and pessimism, but can also be a sense of apathy. If you are suffering from work burnout you might feel like everything is going wrong or that nothing matters. You might feel like work or even life are pointless.
  • Poor performance: When you’re experiencing work burnout, you aren’t on your game. Incomplete products and a growing to do list caused by poor performance on the job from chronic stress can make your performance do a nosedive.
  • Lack of productivity: Even if you’re working long hours, burnout can cause a lack of productivity at work. This might mean you feel like you’re buried under work and will never slog through it.
  • Exhaustion: People who are dealing with long term burnout are exhausted. They feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. They feel drained. They feel unable to cope. They feel tired and down.
  • Feeling numb about work: Get a promotion? You likely won’t feel excited about it if you’re dealing with burnout at work. You might feel emotionally distant from your job or feel very negative feelings about it.
  • Alienation: Do you feel detached or alienated from your peers and coworkers? People with burnout can feel separated and uninvolved from those around them.

 

Now that you know the signs of burnout at work, you can identify them in yourself and others around you. If you are experiencing any of these signs of burnout at work, let it serve as a wakeup call. Assess the level of stress in your life and reduce it before it becomes all-consuming. Burnout isn’t like a cold. It won’t go away unless you make some changes in your life and learn some stress management techniques.

Signs of Burnout at Work ForgetfulnessWhat Causes Burnout at Work?

Narrowing down the cause of work burnout can help you address and combat it. Job burnout can stem from many factors, including:

  • Work-life imbalance: A work-life imbalance occurs when work consumes so much of your time and thoughts that you don’t have room for other things in your life. If work is taking so much time and thought that you don’t have energy left for family, friends, hobbies and relaxation, you might burnout quickly.
  • Dysfunctional work environment: Do you have an office bully? Does your boss micromanage your workload? Do you feel undermined by your peers? If any of these situations apply to you, you might be stuck in a dysfunctional work environment. This kind of stress can cause you to burn out quickly.
  • Lack of control at work: If you feel left out of office decisions? If you feel like you have no influence on certain aspects of your job, it can cause you to feel burnt out. If you have control over your schedule, assignments or workload you might be less likely to burn out at work.
  • Minimal social support: Feeling isolated in your professional or personal life can cause stress. Minimal social support can cause you to burn out quickly.
  • Fuzzy job expectations: Having unclear job expectations can be stressful. Do you know what is expected of you? Are you clear on the chain of command within your organization? If you have questions about your expectations, you might feel stress at work.

You also might have a few traits that make it more likely for you to experience burnout at work. These traits might include:

  • Basing your personal identity on your work
  • You feel the need to be all things to everyone
  • You have a large workload, which often includes overtime work
  • You feel you have little or no control over your work
  • You work in a “helping” profession like health care, education or social work
  • Your job often feels monotonous and you spend too much time on social media

The above factors and trait can all lead to job burnout. Ignored job burnout can have great consequences. Consequences of on the job stress and burnout at work can include serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, substance abuse, Type 2 diabetes and more.

It is important that you learn how to cope with burnout at work to prevent serious consequences.

20 Signs of Burnout at Work PessimismHow to Cope with Burnout at Work

While it’s good to recognize the signs of burnout at work, it’s even better to try to correct them. Here are a few steps you can take to cope with and correct burnout at work.

Get Moving

Getting regular physical activity can help you cope better with stress and burnout. Exercise can release endorphins, which make you feel good, and can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Take it a step further by trying a calm form of exercise like yoga or tai chi, which focuses on intentional movement, body awareness and breath work. These forms of exercise can help you relax and promote good health.

Examine Your Options

Is there anything your supervisor or human resources officer can help with to alleviate some of your stress and burnout? You might be able to work together to redefine expectations or come up with solutions to the problems in your workplace. Work with leadership to set intentions and goals. Examine your work and set priorities. Determine what needs to get done now and what can wait.

Seek Out Support

Even though it might be counterintuitive, reach out to those around you when you're feeling signs of burnout at work. Reach out to loved ones, friends and even trusted coworkers and let them know how you’re feeling. They might be able to offer support and collaborate on solutions to what is causing your burnout.

Get Some Rest

Insomnia can be a major sign of burnout at work. Even if you can’t sleep, you can rest. Sleep and rest protect your health and can help restore well being. Consider taking a day or two away from the office to catch up on rest. You can rest by binging on Netflix, reading a book, or sitting with your toes in the sand at the beach. As long as your mind is calm and your body is restful, you are restoring your mind and body.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the art of present moment awareness. It’s harder than you might think. Mindfulness involves focusing on the flow of your breath and focusing on what you’re sensing and feeling in that very moment. It allows present moment awareness without judgment or interpretation. When practicing mindfulness at work, this might involve looking at situations with patience and openness.

Learn a New Way to Relax

Consider exploring new programs that offer a way to relax. Many community centers and fitness studios offer classes in yoga, tai chi, meditation and more. If you’re coping with stress, consider a slow yoga practice like yin or restorative yoga. These kinds of classes will help you stretch out tense muscles and will help you breathe out stress.  Tai chi is a graceful form of exercise known for intentional movement and breathwork, which can also lead to stress reduction. Meditation is about awareness and healthy perspective. Looking into these methods of relaxing can help reduce stress levels and prevent burnout. Need help getting started? There’s likely an app for that. Comb through your app store for programs that will guide you through meditation and even basic yoga poses.

Limit Alcohol and Stimulants

Substances like nicotine, caffeine and alcohol may give you a boost or help relieve stress, but they can do more harm than good. All three can have negative health impacts and make stress worse in the big picture. Drink more water, stop smoking and avoid alcohol when you’re experiencing signs of burnout at work.

Enjoy Your Pet’s Company

Clinical studies have shown that spending time with a dog or cat can cut anxiety levels and even lower your blood pressure. Walking with your dog is great exercise and can lower cortisol levels and increase endorphins. Pets bring joy into our lives and can be great stress reducers. Don’t have a pet? Consider reaching out to a local animal rescue and adopting a furry friend.

Consider Professional Help

If negative thoughts, stress and burnout are making your life miserable, it might be time to talk to a counselor or therapist. Many employers offer an employee assistance program (EAP) which could cover your access to mental health services or even cover the cost of counseling.

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of burnout at work, it’s time to be proactive. Take your mental health and your career path into your own hands by identifying signs of burnout at work and making strides to address it. Your health could depend on it.

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