Most of us feel stressed about our job from time to time, but what happens when we feel stressed all the time? If you’re feeling overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and detachment from your job, and a sense of ineffectiveness / lack of accomplishment, you could be experiencing burnout. The long-term impact on your physical and mental health from job burnout can be serious. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its International Classification of Diseases. While doctors need to be careful to rule out adjustment disorder, anxiety and other mood-related disorders, the classification may help highlight the need for work-life balance for workers.
Leaving the job that’s causing the problem might seem like the obvious solution, but that may not be the answer. It might not even be viable since you need financial security, energy and drive to secure a new job. Plus, many experts believe that the burnout will simply follow you to the next role.
The best approach, therefore, is to avoid burnout in the first place. Here are our top tips.
Tip 1: Work with purpose – This isn’t just a warm and fuzzy idea. When we have a purpose to our work other than simply earning money to live, it can help avoid burnout. Look at the deeper impact of what you do every day and ask yourself: Does the work you do make a difference to your company? How does your work impact other people? Do you feel a sense of satisfaction? How could you add more meaning to what you do every day? If you think you might be in the wrong role, you could talk to a career consultant to help you find your ideal career.
Tip 2: Complete a job analysis – When we feel overwhelmed by work on a daily basis, it can be difficult just to ‘catch up’. To clarify where you’re spending time while understanding exactly what’s expected of you, it helps to analyse your job requirements and track your time for a few days. You can then work towards eliminating or delegating tasks that aren’t contributing to desired outcomes.
If you feel like you have too much work to handle, discuss it with your boss. Come prepared with details about your workload and why you believe it’s unrealistic, as well as ideas about how to address the issue.
Tip 3: Establish working hours – It’s often easier said than done, but setting boundaries for yourself and others is important. If you work from home, walk away from your office space at a set time each day. If you work in an office, try not to take work home unnecessarily. Leave work at a set time to spend planned time with family or friends. For many people, it takes a personal emergency for them to reschedule something important at work. Turn that around and give your personal time the same respect – try not to ‘reschedule’ it unless absolutely necessary.
Tip 4: Switch off – Any device that’s keeping you connected to work should be turned off outside of work hours as much as possible. If you’re spending time with your family or partner, this is especially important. We need uninterrupted time to focus on personal relationships. Even if you just switch off for an hour or during a meal, try to do it every day. Turning off technology allows us to focus on our relationships, which goes a long way towards preventing burnout.
Tip 5: Take time out – Make sure you take your annual leave each year, try not to work weekends and include some ‘me time’ every day (more on this in our next tip). At a minimum you should schedule two weeks off each year. This doesn’t mean you need to book an expensive holiday. Stay at home and enjoy what your local area has to offer. Time off helps you feel refreshed and recharged you so you can be more productive – and less stressed – when you return to work.
Tip 6: Schedule something enjoyable every day – This could involve exercise, a lunchtime walk or coffee catch-up with a friend or colleague, gardening or cooking. It could simply be going to bed 30 minutes earlier to read a book or spending some quiet time doing nothing. It’s easy to find enjoyable things to do that aren’t expensive or time-consuming, and it will make a difference to your stress levels.
Tip 7: Exercise regularly – Exercise is a well-known stress reliever and it helps increase energy and productivity at work. That said, when you’re feeling overwhelmed it can be hard to find the time to fit it in, let alone the motivation to start. Try getting up a little earlier, exercising during your lunch break or involving co-workers in your physical activity. Read our previous article for tips for a more active workday.
Tip 8: Learn stress management techniques – Most of us experience short-term stress at work and that’s normal. But when it’s prolonged or not managed well, it can contribute significantly to burnout. If you’re prone to stress, learning how to manage it is key. Strategies might include deep breathing, meditation, relaxation, getting more sleep and exercise – but just changing the way you think or react to certain situations also helps. The power of positive thinking! Talking to someone about how you feel might also help alleviate stress.
Tip 9: Take back control – You don’t need to be available for work all the time and you aren’t obliged to say ‘yes’ to everything. Learn to say ‘no’ sometimes and take back some control.
If you’ve been in the same job or industry for several years, it’s common to feel a lack of energy or motivation. But job burnout is different. It’s also preventable. So don’t wait until you reach that point – start taking steps today to manage your stress levels and protect your health and well being.
Are you unhappy in your job? Are you counting down the days to the weekend and ready for a change? Our Career Counselling and Career Coaching Service can help. Find out more.