Define Burnout In The Workplace

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday

Do you feel exhausted because of your work situation? Do you feel like you’ve lost some of the drives that you used to have to succeed? You could be experiencing job burnout. It can feel like a frustrating and hopeless situation, but there are things that you can do to address it. Understanding how to define burnout and what you can do if you’re experiencing it can help you to take control of this area of your life again.

According to a Gallup study, 67% of people have experienced job burnout on occasion, with 23% claiming they’ve experienced it often.

What Is Job Burnout?

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Simply put, job burnout is when a person has reached a point of exhaustion within their job. They lack the motivation that they used to have for their work, have negative feelings towards the job, and experienced a detrimental decline in their mental health because of it.

Symptoms Of Workplace Burnout

Job burnout is more than having an occasional bad day at work. And, it’s more than feeling tired at work because you’ve been a little busy lately or haven’t gotten as much rest.

Job burnout can impact both your physical and mental well-being. Signs that you are experiencing burnout at work may include:

  • Feeling Drained – You may struggle to contact like you have the energy to make it through the day.
  • Poor Work Performance – You may lack the care over your job that you used to. Instead of trying to go the extra mile, you may find yourself just trying to do the bare minimum.
  • Physical Symptoms – Job burnout can leave you with headaches, stomachaches, digestive issues, and chronic pain.
  • Distancing From Co-workers – Burnout can cause you to pull away from others that you work with. This could be because you start to have negative feelings about those you work with or simply because you don’t feel that you have the energy to interact with them.

What Causes Job Burnout?

Some people believe that burnout at work comes from not liking your job. However, it’s possible for you to experience burnout at a post that you used to enjoy and find fulfilling. While it is possible that things outside of your control are causing your burnout at work, it can also be caused by something that you are or aren’t doing that are within your control.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as possible causes of job burnout:

  • Dysfunctional dynamics in the workplace
  • Lack of support
  • No work-life balance
  • Lack of control
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Monotonous or chaotic job

Why You Should Address Job Burnout

There are many reasons why you should address job burnout. If you allow it to continue, the problem can continue to grow and impact you in more ways. For example, you may start to struggle with anxiety and depression over going to work. Or, you may begin to struggle with more chronic health problems because of the constant stress you are under.

Left unchecked, job burnout can continue to grow and impact other areas of your life as well.

What You Can Do To Address Job Burnout

Find A New Job

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This may not be the first conclusion that you should jump to, but if you are experiencing job burnout and are unable to make any changes that can help, you may want to consider looking for a new job. There are some workplaces that don’t run efficiently or place a focus on the mental wellness of their employees. In these types of companies, it can be challenging to maintain your mental wellness while being employed by them.

If you feel like no matter what you’re doing is making a difference, it may be better, in the long run, to make a career move in order to avoid job burnout.

Talk To Your Manager To Gain Clarity Around Your Role

If your job burnout is due to a lack of clarity around your position, talk with your manager. Sometimes clearing up any beliefs or expectations about the job can help reshape how you feel about your position.

If you believe that you have taken on tasks that do not belong with your position, this is also something that you should address with your manager. They may be able to work with you to reassign tasks or to help provide you the training that you need to be able to complete things more efficiently.

Talk To The HR Department To Address Any Unfair Treatment

If you’re experiencing workplace burnout to unfair treatment, it may be time to talk with the HR department. If you feel that your manager is playing favorites between employees, discriminating, or showing any unjust behaviors, it’s worth addressing with the HR department.

Sometimes the people in management positions are not adequately trained to lead, which can cause them to place added stress on their staff. This is another type of situation that the HR department can address.

Renegotiate Deadlines

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If you’re experiencing job burnout because of unrealistic deadlines and expectations, it can help if you’re able to renegotiate those terms. If you own your own business and feel burnt out, it can help to look at the deadlines that you set for yourself and the time frames that you’ve established for your work. You may find that specific jobs take you longer than you expected, so re-establishing timeframes and deadlines may help ease the stress and pressure that you’re under.

If you feel like a manager or your boss has to place unrealistic expectations around the deadlines that you have, consider talking to them to see if any adjustments can be made. It can help if you have the facts on hand to support why you’re asking for an extended time frame. For example, you can let them know that with additional time, you will be able to do a more thorough job instead of trying to rush to meet a tight deadline.

Set Boundaries With The People In Your Life

If you’re feeling burnt out, it may be helpful to look at setting boundaries with the people in your life. Even though you feel like you’re experiencing job burnout, it can be helpful to look at the edges that you set with people in your personal life as well.

For example, if your spouse expects you to never have to work overtime or bring projects home, but you can’t really make that happen with the job that you have, it’s important that you look at the boundaries and expectations that are established in your relationship. You may need to communicate with your partner what your needs are in order to meet your workplace requirements.

Or, if you have a manager that is continuously expecting you to work overtime or answer work calls when you are on personal time, you may need to set up a boundary for yourself. If you feel like you’re never off the clock, even though you’re not at work, it can be hard to get the rest and time to recharge that you need. Being upfront with your manager can help address the situation.

Learn Time Management Skills

Some people struggle with burnout and stress at work because they lack proper time management skills to stay on top of their tasks. It may not be that there are unreasonable deadlines that you are expected to meet. It may be that you spend time on activities that you shouldn’t, such as browsing social media, or you struggle to work efficiently throughout the day.

One example is to work on the most important task first thing in your workday. Most people experience their highest levels of productivity mid-morning. So, it may be helpful for you to plan your day to take advantage of this time.

Learning proper time management skills can help you to get the work done that you have in a better way, reducing the amount of stress that you experience.

Make Time To Do Things That Recharge You

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Make time to do things that you enjoy, and that recharge you on a regular basis. This could be going for a hike, having coffee with friends, or reading a good book at the end of the day. The activity that you do is not what matters, it’s that it helps to re-energize you so you can be ready for the next day.

It’s not uncommon for people to cut out these activities when they feel stressed. If you feel like you have too much to do and not enough time, it may seem like these activities are the most natural things to cut out. However, doing so can have a negative impact on your mental health and wellness.

Talk To A Therapist

Job burnout can be difficult to handle. If your mental health is struggling and you feel exhausted day after day, it’s essential to address your situation. One way that you can do this is by getting the professional help of a licensed therapist like those at BetterHelp. They can help you identify the areas that are causing you trouble and learn strategies that can help you cope with workplace stress and burnout.

Some level of stress may always exist within your job. But you shouldn’t be feeling burnt out on a regular basis. If you are, there are many strategies, such as the ones above, that can help you reach a healthier place within your career and life.


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