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How can you identify and prevent burnout at work?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress, which leads to reduced professional efficiency. It is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) but is not considered as a specific medical condition. Burnout can thus be termed as unmanaged psychological stress that can happen in any place associated with a persistent set of circumstances, such as one’s home, school, college, or workplace.

Historically, workplace burnout has received the greatest attention as it is related to industrial productivity, commerce, and economics. Furthermore, most of the information and research have focused on what companies, organizations, employers, or managers can do to reduce workplace burnout, while data on what employees can do to avoid burnout is more challenging to come by.

It is not easy to avoid burnout because the root causes are usually beyond our control, such as unmanageable and unrealistic expectations at work. This, in turn, can lead to persistent fatigue and other physical and mental symptoms. Sometimes it is easy to confuse early burnout symptoms with workplace stress. So, to avoid getting fully burnt out, it is essential to learn to spot burnout and to deal with and overcome related issues. Burnout should never be taken lightly, as it can jeopardise your mental and physical health and your career prospects.

Burnout is most often marked by persistent feelings of exhaustion, which will not go away even after availing of a short leave. Furthermore, there is also disengagement from work and a drop in personal productivity or efficiency. It’s not just simply feeling tired. Burnout brings emotional trauma and can deeply hurt the spirit of a person. This is why one must take care to avoid burnout at any cost. Quitting a job may be one of the prices to pay, though it should always be the last option. And such an extreme situation can be avoided if one learns how to prevent burnout.

First, you should remember that burnout can happen to any employee, from the CEO to an office assistant. Though the work conditions and reasons may vary, the personal health consequences are similar for all. Some of the most evident signs of initial burnout are feeling tense and unappreciated at the end of each workday. Actual body pains and aches can be there. Constant anxiety about falling behind in work and being fearful of what the next day of work would bring are also common.

To avoid burnout, you must identify it at this stage before your feelings advance to aggression, depression, or total disengagement with work. Once you recognize feelings of burnout, you need to check whether or not chronic conditions of burnout are present. In the workplace, burnout is usually related to unclear goals, unrealistic job expectations, poorly managed teams, excessive workload, lack of support from the boss, lack of recognition or appreciation, and repetitive work that is monotonous.

If these reasons are not present, you may have only workplace stress and would not be heading towards burnout. One of the easiest methods to test this is to take a short leave. It is not burnout if you feel enthusiastic, energized, and rejuvenated to return to work after the break because burnout is persistent and dissipating. To avoid burnout, you need to analyze your job and circumstances to determine whether you are facing illogical and unreasonable work demands or have too many conflicting priorities and diversions at the workplace.

Once you confirm that the circumstances for burnout are present, the first thing you ought to do is to start taking control by defining boundaries and gaining more autonomy over your goals and deadlines. Put more focus on self-care like workouts, sleep, and family time. Team up with others at the workplace to build a supportive community. Learn and deal with stress and rediscover your purpose in life and career. Be sure of what you are doing and why you are doing it, and find ways to put in your best efforts and performance without getting stressed out. Exercise regularly, learn how to relax, and reach out for support and professional help. But with all said and done, if you can’t bring things under control, look out for another job, but always prevent getting burnt out at all costs.

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