We've all had days where we struggle to get out of bed and start our day or when we're pushing through fatigue to execute a crucial project.
But what happens when those days start to feel like the norm, and you can't remember the last time you felt motivated at work? That's burnout.
While we all experience bad days at work, burnout doesn't have to be inevitable. To help you stay in the groove at work, we will explore ways to avoid burnout and some signs of burnout to watch out for.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a form of work-related stress that manifests in physical and emotional exhaustion, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Burnout is not a medical diagnosis; however, researchers and experts believe other conditions, such as depression, or circumstances like family life and personality traits, can influence burnout.
No matter the cause, job burnout can negatively affect your mental and physical health, so it's essential to beware of its common causes, which we'll explain.
Common Causes of Burnout
Below are the most common causes of job burnout.
1. Heavy Workload
Overwork is one of the main causes of burnout and can lead to several health issues, such as weight loss, body pain, exhaustion, and more.
A study revealed that working 55 hours or more per week is associated with a 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease.
2. Feeling unappreciated
Paying employees their worth is essential, but adequate payment is only one part of the equation. Without positive feedback, rewards, and recognition among peers, it's easy to feel like your hard work is going unnoticed.
Feeling unappreciated or undervalued at work can build resentment toward your job, leading to burnout.
In a survey, 59% of employees said they’ve worked for a micromanager. And of those, 68% reported a decrease in morale, and 55% said it hurt their productivity.
It's hard to feel any motivation or passion for your work if your employer constantly tries to control your every move.
Feeling like your manager or employer doesn't trust you to do your job without someone looking over your shoulder adds stress. And stress is just one step closer to feeling burnt out at work.
4. Poor relationships or a lack of support
Feeling part of a community and having a support system is essential to maintaining mental health. A study shows 48% of workers lack emotional support when managing daunting tasks.
Without camaraderie among colleagues, it's easy to feel isolated — especially when looming deadlines and massive projects create stress.
Signs of Burnout
Burnout can sometimes creep up on you slowly before you even realize what you're feeling. To help you fight against burnout, here are some signs you need to look for.
1. Lack of Energy
No matter how much you love your job, there will be days when the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and work.
There will be times when you have to push yourself extra hard to complete a project or when you're counting down the days until the weekend.
However, the lack of energy associated with burnout goes beyond those moments. Burnout-related exhaustion is more chronic and less associated with a specific task or project. And it doesn't go away after a vacation or a relaxing weekend.
2. Cynicism Toward Your Job
If you question whether your work matters or you've grown disinterested in your job, that could be burnout reeling its head. This is especially true if you remember being much more enthusiastic about your work.
3. Changing Sleep Habits
Everyone has their preferred time to wake up or go to bed, but if your sleeping habits change drastically — you could be experiencing burnout.
For example, let's say you're a morning person who has no problem getting dressed and out the door by 7:30 a.m.
However, recently, you find yourself hitting the snooze button more often than not, or you don't feel energized for the day because you spent all night staring at the ceiling. This is a sign of burnout.
4. Drop in Work Performance
Perhaps you were always punctual in the past, but you've recently started missing deadlines. Or, you struggle with aspects of your job that you easily handle.
Exhaustion, disinterest, and disorganized sleep habits can all result in a drop in your quality of work.
How to Avoid Burnout At Work
I reached out to professionals across different industries for their perspectives on fighting burnout. Here are some tips they suggest:
1. Know what energizes you and what drains you.
Women's health professional Margaret Ruvoldt says she feels at her best when the energy she puts into work is less than what she gets from it. She says burnout happens when that equation no longer works.
"So I keep an eye on what gives me energy at work and what drains me. That answer is different for everyone — which is great because, on teams, we can balance one another," Ruvoldt explained. on teams
"If I’m solving complex problems, learning, and I have an opportunity to develop people — I’m getting a ton back," she said. "If the relationships are bad, the direction is unclear, or I’m in a role that doesn’t allow me to learn — I’m drained."
Ruvoldt says if she feels burnout, she seeks ways to move toward the things that give her energy and away from what drains her.
Pro Tip: Keep a list of aspects of your job that you enjoy and aspects that drain you. When you feel burnt out, refer to that list to see if you can shift your focus to less draining tasks.
2. Keep the end in mind.
Consultant and HubSpot Admin Jon Martin says to keep the end in mind and to consider the big picture.
"In 25 years, what is going to matter — that you took your wife on a date, went to your son's basketball game, or finished building that killer HubSpot report?" Martin said.
He continued, "When we allow daily and weekly tasks to override our investments in what is going to matter long term, we start to need to find our significance in the short-term things."
Martin says a job is important but only because of what it allows.
"A job isn't an end in itself," he explained. "A job matters because it allows you to learn new things, make money, and work for organizations you care about. All those things pale when you put them into the perspective of time."
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to use your PTO to take time off to focus on things like family or your mental health.
3. Feel your feelings.
HubSpot partner Trish Lessard says burnout needs to be physically let out of the body in order to deal with it. For Lessard, that physical release can be through laughter, screaming into a pillow, or sobbing over a sad movie.
"Give yourself the permission you need to self-heal by feeling," Lessard said. "After the release, I usually find myself on a quest for some inspiration."
To find inspiration, Lessard will visit a bookstore or call up some friends.According to Lessard, the point is to stimulate the brain to release all the good it is designed to do.
"Burnout happens because we are human. We need to remember that being a superhuman isn’t being real," she said.
Pro Tip: Consider keeping a journal to reflect on your day and vent your feelings.
4. Set boundaries.
Client Engagement Associate Carter Warren says boundaries is critical to avoiding burnout.
"One example could be not responding to emails after a certain time," Warren said. "This could be a powerful boundary for preventing burnout.
Warrens said it’s also critical to be transparent with colleagues or customers so they have proper expectations for what communication will be like.
Pro Tip: Have designated "focus" or "no meeting" days on your calendar so your colleagues know not to disrupt your week with meetings or last-minute tasks.
5. Regularly assess your goals.
It's easy to lose sight of your goals as you dive deeper into work or take on new responsibilities. When that happens, data systems strategist Calan Smidt suggests regularly reviewing what's important to you.
"I do periodic review assessments on my personal and professional goals to ensure that what I am doing aligns with what I want to be doing, what I see, and where I want to go," Smidt said.
"If they do — I recommit," she said. "If not — I realign. Each time I do this, I get a jolt of excitement, focus, and always enrichment. A goal today keeps the burnout away!"
Pro Tip: Establish SMART goals to keep yourself on track and refer to those goals whenever you start to feel like you've fallen off track.
6. Have a designated work area.
Working from home has perks, but it can often blur the line between work and home life. And that imbalance can result in burnout.
"I think it's important in the era of hybrid work and work-from-home to segregate your work area so at the end of each day, you're not tempted to plug back in and send one more email," HubSpot Academy Instructor Trygve Olden said.
Olden suggests having a clear and distinct line to shut the work door and enjoy your personal time before going back to work.
Pro Tip: If your home is too noisy or not equipped to be productive for work, look into co-working spaces around your area, or consider going to your local library or quiet café to focus.
7. Ask for help.
You may feel alone when dealing with burnout, but that doesn't have to be true. Diego Silva of SendPulse said getting help made the difference when he experienced burnout.
"I felt exhausted at work due to the overload of activities," he recalled. "To deal with this situation, I sought medical help and made significant changes in my lifestyle and diet."
Silva says he also sought professional coaching guidance to redefine his goals and create a growth plan within the company.
"Today, I feel happy and motivated in my career — inspiring my colleagues to do the same," he said.
Pro Tip: You don't have to wait until burnout is causing significant issues at work, such as missing a huge deadline or a drastic change in performance.
As soon as you feel overwhelmed or stressed — speak to your manager or employee to create a plan.
How Employers and Managers Can Prevent Burnout
The duty to stave off burnout doesn't just fall on employees; it's also the responsibility of employers and managers.
As head of a team, an employer or manager must create an environment or workplace culture that empowers employees to speak up when they feel overwhelmed.
Leaders should recognize the signs of burnout and encourage employees to take time off to recharge. They should also create a company culture code that promotes trust and transparency.
Burnout happens to all of us, but it doesn't have to be the end of the world. Now you know the signs of burnout and what you can do to avoid or address it.
From here, you can devise a plan to help you stay focused and healthy as you work toward your goals.