Every job has its ups and downs. But sometimes the downs last longer than they should. If your work environment is chaotic, demanding, unrewarding, or monotonous, and it’s been that way for months or even years, the trouble may not be your state of mind. It’s very likely you’re burned out.
Workplace burnout is a particular type of stress that can creep up on you. Certain jobs are notorious for being vulnerable to burnout – teachers can report burnout, or other jobs in industries that require caregiving and helping others can tax body and spirit and lead to textbook burnout. But employees in any career segment are susceptible if the job is stressful or simply unrewarding.
Burnout can be a drain – it can even have health consequences. But identifying its signs is the first step toward taming the flames and giving you the motivation to make a change for the better and start feeling rewarded by your work, not depleted by it.
Your score is 0. Congratulations. You are most likely productive and happy in your current job. Take someone who’s not feeling quite so motivated to lunch. You’d probably make a perfect mentor – or at least serve as a sounding board if they are experiencing the burnout blues.
Your score is 2-4. You’re burnout level is at a low simmer, but there are warning signs. Getting a handle on it before it’s an issue can mean avoiding the complications of long-term burnout – things like insomnia and low energy – even illness.
First, see if a positive attitude helps. Start by complimenting co-workers on their work or praising their dedication. Second, give yourself a break. Take regular breathers during the workday, or decide to walk with a co-worker during lunchtimes to break up the day. Third, assess your non-working life. Do you have something you are passionate about outside the workplace? It may mean training for a 5K, volunteering, or taking a class – anything that will provide fulfillment and challenge when work isn’t meeting those needs.
Your score is 5-8. It may not be full-on burnout, but you are definitely a little singed. It’s important to get a handle on workplace issues now before you enter into the red zone.
Start by reaching out. Meet with co-workers and discuss how they are coping with burnout. Then, reach out to a manager or supervisor for a check-in meeting. Now is the time to proactively address specific problems, and talk about how you might increase duties, decrease workload, or moderate after-hours responsibilities. Put a positive spin on your concerns. Instead of saying you are constantly distracted by co-workers, for example, say how much you value your “in the zone” time and discuss ideas about how to capitalize on it. Or, if you are bound to a cube and are feeling isolated, ask how you might get involved in connecting with customers or co-workers as a way to take advantage of your strengths as a communicator.
Your score is 9+. You’re in the burnout red zone, and you could be in danger of serious repercussions. Burnout is making you vulnerable to illness (things like heart disease and obesity), and it’s probably affecting your personal life and relationships.
If talking to your employer hasn’t led to improvements, decide to make a plan toward a job change. First, assess your interest and skills, and decide what aspects about your current job you enjoy and those you don’t. It might be a good time to reach out to a job placement agency. Discussing your interests and skills with a job specialist can help you see your career potential in a new light, or uncover opportunities with businesses that are hiring right away. They’ll also have resources for helping you build up your resume and present yourself well to those who will appreciate what you have to offer.
Finally, take your physical and mental health seriously. Burnout is serious business, and while its effects are real, dealing with them can make the difference between going down in flames and dusting the ash off your shoulders.
Local Help for Those Experiencing Workplace Stress
In Maine, the Maine Health Learning Resource Center has information and classes that provide stress management, mindfulness training, and support. In New Hampshire, 2-1-1 New Hampshire provides a variety of local services for those seeking to manage and reduce stress in the workplace.