Workplace Burnout: How to Understand it, Recognize it, and Respond to it

The United States workforce is experiencing pervasive, widespread burnout. Indeed, according to a recent study published by Gallup, Inc., of the nearly 7,500 full-time employees who participated, almost 25% reported feeling burnt out at work either “very often” or “always.” The extent of this crisis must not be overlooked. Workplace burnout accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in annual healthcare spending and has been linked to a range of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, gastrointestinal issues, and even death for individuals under the age of forty-five. Costs to a company itself can be substantial as well and can include lost productivity, high turnover, and a loss of talented personnel.

However, it is important to also note that these feelings are not solely caused by your chosen profession or organization. Rather, they can be induced due to a variety of factors, and in fact, many who experience burnout do not believe their jobs are the primary cause. In our society, we are often tasked with juggling personal and familial obligations, all of which may lead to additional stress within the office. Regardless, it is important to recognize the symptoms and know that while burnout is prevalent, it is certainly not inevitable. In determining whether you are suffering from burnout, Mayo Clinic instructs individuals to consider the following questions:

  1. Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  2. Have you become impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  3. Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  4. Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  5. Are you troubled with unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you begin experiencing these symptoms, you should be prepared take the necessary steps. Employers and employees alike should strive to collaborate and seek support from relevant channels within their organization. For instance, some companies utilize an employee assistance program and other similar services to address these issues. More importantly, experts also suggest dedicating adequate time outside of business hours to get proper rest, exercise, and other relaxing activities. While the term “burnout” is easily used in our society today, studies show that this problem is real and is not going away. Only when we understand this growing crisis, recognize true workplace burnout, and respond to its impact will we be better equipped to handle our stressors, both in and out of the workplace.