Define Burnout In The Workplace

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated February 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Do you feel exhausted because of your work situation, or as though you’ve lost some of the drive that you used to have to succeed? You could be experiencing job burnout. According to a Gallup study, 67% of people have experienced job burnout on occasion, with 23% claiming they’ve experienced it often. 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 take control of this area of your life again.

What is job burnout?

Do you feel exhausted or overwhelmed by work?

Job burnout, as defined by the World Health Organization, is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged work-related stress. It goes beyond occasional bad days or temporary fatigue; it has a significant impact on a person's physical and mental health.

Job burnout can impact both your physical and mental well-being. Signs of burnout in the workplace include:
  • Emotional exhaustion: Feeling drained and lacking energy to make it through the day.
  • Poor work performance: Diminished job motivation and only doing the bare minimum instead of going the extra mile.
  • Physical health issues: Experiencing headaches, stomachaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain as burnout symptoms.
  • Social withdrawal: Distancing from co-workers due to negative feelings or insufficient energy for interaction.

Various causes of burnout include unrealistic job expectations, unfair treatment, and insufficient work-life balance. To reduce burnout, prioritize self-care, seek social support, and maintain a healthy balance between your professional and personal life. Recognizing anxiety symptoms and addressing them early can help prevent employee burnout and improve overall well-being.

What causes job burnout?

Experiencing job burnout can result from various factors, both internal and external. While some might assume that burnout only occurs in jobs you dislike, it's possible to experience burnout in roles that were once fulfilling and enjoyable. Causes of workplace burnout can range from personal habits to organizational issues.

The Mayo Clinic identifies the following factors as potential causes of job burnout:

  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics: A hostile or unsupportive environment can contribute to burnout.
  • Lack of support: Inadequate resources or emotional backing from colleagues or superiors can increase the risk of burnout.
  • Work-life imbalance: Overemphasis on your professional life at the expense of your personal life can lead to exhaustion and dissatisfaction.
  • Lack of control: Feeling powerless or unable to influence decisions affecting your job can contribute to stress and burnout.
  • Unclear job expectations: Ambiguity in job roles and responsibilities can cause frustration and anxiety.
  • Monotonous or chaotic work routines: Repetitive tasks or overwhelming workload can lead to burnout.

Additionally, personality traits, job stress, and unfair treatment may also play a role in burnout. Mental health can be significantly impacted, and certain professions, such as health care, may be at a higher risk for burnout. Addressing these issues is crucial for promoting overall well-being and preventing burnout.

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. You could also begin to struggle with more chronic health problems because of constant stress. If you neglect burnout, it can continue to grow and impact other areas of your life, as well. The following are some ideas for addressing job burnout:

Find a new job

If you are experiencing job burnout and are unable to make any helpful changes within that job, you may want to consider a new career. There are some workplaces that don’t run efficiently or place much focus on the mental wellness of their employees. In these types of companies, it can be challenging to maintain your mental wellness.

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 to avoid job burnout.

Getty/Halfpoint Images

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 within your position’s scope or authority, 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 with the training that you need to be able to complete things more efficiently.

Address any unfair treatment with HR

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 these concerns 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

If you’re experiencing 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 you set for yourself and the time frames 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 places unrealistic expectations around your deadlines, consider talking to them to see if they can make adjustments. 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 fatigued, 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 boundaries 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 your job, it’s important that you look at the boundaries and expectations established in your relationship. You may need to communicate with your partner what your needs are to meet your workplace requirements as well as to keep your relationship healthy.

If you have a manager who 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

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

Do you feel exhausted or overwhelmed by work?

Job burnout can be difficult to handle. If your mental health is struggling and you feel exhausted day after day, it’s important 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.

Research studies have found that online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective method for treating symptoms of anxiety and depression, which may accompany feelings of burnout. Study participant responses indicated that online therapy was just as effective as in-person therapy in addressing these symptoms.

In addition to its effectiveness, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp offers additional advantages over in-person therapy. With online therapy, you can schedule a session on your own time, such as when you’re likely to feel more energetic and less consumed by feelings of burnout. In this way, attending therapy may not feel like another task you have to check off your list. Online therapy also allows you to talk to a counselor from the comfort of your preferred space – you can even wear your pajamas in bed, instead of having to dress up to visit an in-person counselor’s office.


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. Reach out to a qualified online therapist today to start reclaiming your life.

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