Burnout Overview Updated

Work-related Stress and Burnout

Work-related stress results from your job’s mental or physical demands being unmanageable. It can be caused by the actual work you do, your work environment, or your relationships with people in your workplace. As a result, you may miss work, make mistakes, or become injured on the job.

Symptoms of stress may appear as:

If work-related stress is left unmanaged, it can lead to a problem known as burnout.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a group of symptoms that occur as a result of high workplace stress. It can include:

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Increased negative feelings and apathy about your job

  • Decreased productivity

  • Increased self-doubt

  • Emotional exhaustion

  • Lower tolerance for stress

group of workers of different professions

Delaying care for burnout makes it harder to do things that help to lessen the symptoms. For example, you may avoid exercise, relaxing activities, and reaching out for support.

Burnout is linked to depression as well as early retirement. These associations show how important it is to identify and manage burnout symptoms early.

Burnout cycle

How does burnout occur?

Based on the Areas of Work-Life Model, there are six job-related factors to consider. They are:

burnout causes or factors

If you are content with your workload, compensation, company values, etc., it increases your job satisfaction and engagement. By contrast, problems in these areas contribute to burnout.

Consider your own job and make note of any areas that are challenging for you.

Workload

Work responsibilities that are beyond what you can realistically handle can lead to burnout.

Two factors that can contribute to workload imbalance:

  • Working from home often blurs the boundaries between work and home life. This can cause emotional and physical fatigue.

  • Shift work or travel for work are associated with a lack of routine and poor quality sleep. As a result, an otherwise normal amount of work can feel demanding.

Control

Lack of control exists when you feel you have little influence or say about your work. You just don’t “feel heard.”

When you have a sense of control over decisions that affect your work, you are less likely to experience burnout.

How do you feel about your ability to influence your work?

Reward

When you think about the rewards of your job, you most likely think about pay and benefits. Rewards also include recognition for your work. 

When you feel your reward is not equivalent to the work you do, you are likely to feel undervalued - yet another factor contributing to burnout.

Community

A lack of connection with your co-workers or supervisors may leave you feeling isolated. Those who feel supported by their manager report less stress. Similarly, those who feel supported by their co-workers report less emotional exhaustion.

Some examples of a harmful work community are:

  • Exclusion from lunches, after-work events, or trips

  • Inconsistent messages about your responsibilities

  • Misdirected blame for others' errors

  • Passive-aggressive communication

Fairness

You may sense you’re treated differently than others. It feels unfair when co-workers have lighter workloads and special privileges - not to mention better office space or higher salaries.

When the work environment seems unfair, it makes job satisfaction challenging and contributes to burnout.

What about your work environment - what makes it seem fair? Unfair?

Values

Your workplace’s values may be misaligned with your personal values. As an example, companies that put profit above all else are unacceptable to most of us.

Favorably aligned values may be:

  • Feeling that your work directly helps other people

  • Using your personal strengths in your day-to-day tasks

  • Having a company that excels at its mission

personal vs. organization values

When burnout is a bigger problem

While there are some aspects of burnout you can improve on your own, preventing and treating burnout also requires support from your supervisor, human resources (HR) team, and organization.

Organizational changes can improve workplace relationships and lessen the risk of employee burnout. For example, a company can improve:

workplace communication image

If you decide to talk with your supervisor or an HR representative about workplace burnout, make sure you have a plan.

Talking about burnout infographic

Your Goodpath program contains information on:

  • Building resilience - the ability to  “bounce back” or adapt to life stressors or challenges

  • Making lifestyle changes to prevent and lessen burnout

  • Time management to help with stress

Your Goodpath coach is also available to support you.