How to Recognize and Remedy Burnout at Work

30 Jan 2023

Job burnout takes its toll physically and mentally, and it’s common among all employees. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly three in five of employees have reported negative impacts of work-related stress and burnout. These impacts include dwindling interest, motivation, energy, and a lack of effort at work. These are often due to major adjustments people had to undergo, regardless of their passion towards their work. It can, unfortunately, happen to anyone without us knowing it. But, by recognizing and learning more, we get a better chance of giving remedy to our burnout and carrying on.

There is a misconception that burnout is the same with stress. In both cases, they can occur at any time to anyone. But, stress is one thing. With burnout, you begin to cope in ways that are neither sustainable nor healthy. Unlike stress, burnout is not cured through extended vacations. To put it simply, stress is often short-term, while burnout is long. Continued stress can be a cause or a symptom of burnout, which is why it’s important to know the signs.

Types of Burnout: How to Recognize And Remedy 

Since 2019, burnout has been an officially recognized phenomenon by the World Health Organization. This prompted a massive campaign in researching mental health in the workplace. Luckily, most companies listened and have taken measures to actively engage and create avenues against burnout in offices.

Researchers at the University of Zaragoza have differentiated the types of burnouts. In the article published by PLOS One, burnout types are not differentiated based on workload amount or function. Here, burnout categories are based on the individual’s coping strategies to stressors. How you respond to a huge amount of paperwork or receiving no recognition for your efforts is what defines your burnout. Of course, they are not always consistent, and it can change based on the circumstances. But, knowing what type you are undergoing is key in knowing how to remedy the burnout.

What differentiates the types of burnouts is your response to it. This means that we all have different means of coping through burnout; and our coping strategies are not always healthy. 

Overloaded Burnout

Burnout by overload means that you have an active response to stressors or workload. Your focus once presented with things that may stress you out is through problem-solving. While this may seem like an efficient remedy, this type of burnout is commonly associated with exhaustion. Here, getting the job done becomes the number one priority even at the expense of your health and personal life. 

Working tirelessly on your workload is detrimental to your performance.

According to the previously mentioned PLOS article, signs of overload burnout may range from feeling sluggish, exhausted, having frequent headaches, or even just a general degradation of your physical and mental wellbeing. The simplest way to know if you are overloaded is to ask yourself, “how much personal time do I allow myself every day?”

To Remedy is to Vent and to Establish Boundaries

This burnout type is common among ambitious people. The ones who cannot say no or do not want to disappoint others and thrive on accomplishment. Therefore, there are two areas of concern to focus on: alleviating emotional needs and managing expectations:

  • Remember to vent. Overload by burnout needs emotional relief to mitigate the physical effects of exhaustion.
  • Take less work. Remind yourself that output suffers when we do more than we can manage. It will always be a case of diminishing returns.
  • Establish strict boundaries. Learn to say no to your boss or co-workers.
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you are tired.
  • Be mindful of our daily time budget. Learn to allocate time for your professional and personal life.
  • Your work will not always be polished. Recognize that your output will never be perfect all the time.
  • Strive for consistency rather than perfection.

Lack of Development Burnout

People thrive in areas where they can better themselves professionally or personally. Whereas overload breaks you down physically, burnout via lack of development degrades your emotional resolve. Nothing kills passion more than stagnancy. Which is a shame especially when there may be nothing too stressful about your work and everything can go perfectly. But, as soon as you see yourself unfulfilled and without any means of growth or exploration, it can ruin a good career. 

People burnt out by lack of development find themselves in need of something more. The signs often include dreading going into the office or feeling disconnected from your work. Creating a strong barrier between you and your tasks is often an unhealthy coping strategy for someone who does not see themselves proudly in their career.

To Leave the Monotony, We Have to Ask Ourselves then Ask Others

The overarching effect of this burnout type is the feeling of a lack of autonomy. To break the cycle of redundancy, it will begin with finding the initiative and latching onto it. Once you’ve understood what you want to do, and that you want to break the cycle of monotony, only then can you take steps towards it. There are five dimensions of wellness that we can use as a guide in taking initiative:

  • Physical. Remember to stretch every few minutes on the hour at work. Remaining in a static position is not good for you and getting up can break the monotony.
  • Emotional. Reward yourself after a task, and give yourself a small treat, anything that will give you further motivation.
  • Spiritual. Take a few minutes of time to just sit in silence every now and then during your workday. Check in with yourself to see how you are doing.
  • Intellectual. Ask your boss if there are any courses or training programs you can enroll yourself into.
  • Social. Talk to an officemate you’ve never or have not spoken as much with before. Making new friends is a great way to be excited for work.

Neglectful Burnout

The neglect burnout type is in direct opposite of the previous two types. Unlike overloaded burnouts, the neglected burnouts do not do excessive work. Whereas overloaded burnouts cope actively (problem-solving focused), this one reacts passively (dissociation). When overwhelmed, people experiencing this type of burnout tend to shut down and immerse themselves in abandonment of work, where they will slowly disengage. 

This is common for those who easily become anxious or freeze under pressure. If you notice yourself dissociating when given a challenging or unfamiliar task, then this is you. Burnout due to lack of productivity is not great, especially with deadlines looming. Unfortunately, this is a symptom that builds upon itself. Neglecting work causes you to become burnt out, which adds more to the neglect. From then on, it’s just a vicious cycle unless it is addressed.  

Remedy the Burnout by Self-Care

The best way to address this type of burnout is through an outside perspective. We never really know how bad it has become when it is just us. We must also keep in mind that work is uncontrollable. However, we can control how we handle it; whether it’s with a tired mind or a clear head:

Morning routines focused on self-care help set the scene for a productive day.
  • Ask your co-workers for feedback. It might just be the wake up call you need.
  • Redecorate your office space. Check to see if there is any way to make your desk space more efficient.
  • Practice better self-care. Establish a morning routine like washing your face.
  • Go on a jog before work.
  • Wear clothes to work that make you feel great.
  • Give yourself affirmations in the mirror. 

The Remedy to Burnout Varies

Addressing burnout wildly varies from person to person. What some find to work for them may not be the same for others. You may get any of these in an odd mixture, but these are the foundational types to keep in mind. Therefore, the easiest way to know about burnout is to recognize your burnout and start from there. In fact, one of the lessons from remote work was introspection. We were forced to understand how we ourselves work outside of the office, delineate boundaries, and know how we can destress. We all cope in different ways, and it is up to us to hold ourselves accountable in ensuring that these strategies of coping are sustainable and healthy. The harsh truth is that it will always begin with us, but that just means there is only one person to ask about it.