Professor Sir Cary Cooper, advisory board member at Delamere Health, writes about the issue of burnout and how you can prevent it within the workplace.
According to a study into burnout led by Delamere Health, agricultural industries have felt the stress more than the other industries, with an 8.12% increase in average working hours in the UK over COVID.
But how do we know when we are experiencing burnout and what we can do to prevent it?
Burnout is when an individual physically and psychologically cannot do their job anymore; this could be due to heavy work pressures, long hours or workloads. It has become increasingly common during the nationwide lockdown, with searches for ‘signs of burnout’ showing a 117% increase.
What are the key signs of burnout in the workplace?
Burnout has three signs:
- Feeling exhausted;
- Negative feelings about your job role;
- Reduced effectiveness.
The key component to preventing burnout is identifying the symptoms as early as possible before the demand becomes too much, leading to depression.
Feeling worn-out is quite normal – especially during the coronavirus pandemic – with extended working hours and changes to the work environment.
But it is easy to recognise when you or a colleague are beginning to display symptoms of burnout.
Employees on the verge of burnout, due to either stress or increased workload, can begin to experience and display emotional and physical signs of exhaustion.
People begin to feel a lack of physical energy, but they also develop feelings of being emotionally drained and depleted.
A common sign of exhaustion is the lack of motivation to get out of bed in the morning, or day-to-day work life becomes more challenging than normal.
Over exhaustion and extreme tiredness can result in sickness amongst employees. The shortage of energy from burnout can lead to common colds and cases of flu.
Feeling sensitive and irritable
Aggressive behaviour is also a common indicator; this could be both within the workplace and outside of office hours.
Irritable employees may experience a level of sensitivity and aggression towards their family, friends and colleagues.
While everybody experiences some negative emotions within their job roles, it is vital to recognise when these feelings are becoming unusual.
Employees may begin to feel more socially withdrawn and find themselves disconnecting within the workplace.
This could be recognised as not getting involved with colleague discussions, negative attitude towards work and slipping job performance.
Changes to work motivation can lead to employees having additional days off or turning into work late. This is something employers should look out for before it becomes untenable.
How can you deal with burnout?
Recognising the three key signs are crucial. However, there are five strategies and tools you can use to avoid burnout even before you are burnt out.
Finding the root of the problem
Burnout can be a response to stress, increased working hours, changes to the work environment and increased workload.
But finding where the issue has stemmed from can be beneficial in helping you deal with the situation.
For example, if you are faced with unrealised working hours, it may be that you need to speak to your employer about decreasing your overtime and taking extended annual leave.
Ask for help
Getting external advice can give you a different perspective on the situation.
Counselling can provide you with a solution to the problem before it develops and help you to discover what is causing the burnout you are experiencing.
If counselling is not an option for you, reaching out for help to your friends and family during stressful times can benefit the situation.
Your employer may also be able to provide you with the support you need.
Eat a balanced diet
Healthy body, healthy mind. Eating the right food, drinking water frequently and keeping a balanced diet is one step in the right direction.
Foods are fueled with natural vitamins and minerals that can give your mind and body a boost.
Exercise and keep active
Keeping active and regularly exercising can give you a physical and emotional boost.
Take a short stroll or spend 15-minutes stretching after work. You do not need to hit the workout machines to feel motivated and enthusiastic.
Correct your sleeping habits
A lack of sleep or too much sleep can cause exhaustion and fatigue in the workplace. Breaking out of this pattern can drastically improve your day-to-day mood and motivation.
Drifting off at bedtime is a challenge for most people worldwide during this unprecedented time.
But there are simple ways you can improve your sleeping habits.
Try switching your nightly scroll on social media for a relaxing book or cut out coffee before bedtime.
Read more tips.