Burnout symptoms at work include feeling exhausted, unmotivated, and unable to cope with your daily tasks. If left unaddressed, it might cause serious difficulties in fulfilling personal and professional commitments. For this reason, it’s important to recognise the symptoms as early as possible and take action.
What about burnout
The facts speak clearly: burnout does not happen overnight, it builds up. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” that occurs when “chronic workplace stress has not been successfully managed.”
“Burnout symptoms usually arise quite late in the process when people have repressed stress signals for a longer time”, explains psychologist Ida Dommerholt. “The first response to increased stress is commonly a striving phase, where we are able to take on a much higher load.”
Burnout derives from a persistent imbalance between job demands (e.g., workload or pressures) and job resources (e.g., flexibility or support). Exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced performance are the three primary defining characteristics of this state.
Nevertheless, each individual reacts to workplace stress in their own unique way. Research has shown that people don’t manifest burnout in the same way or for the same reasons, as these vary according to the external context (e.g., job environment) and internal resources (e.g., coping mechanisms).
One size doesn’t fit all
While burnout at work is not a new concept, the pandemic has intensified the stress and vulnerability of employees. For many, remote work disrupted the work-life balance and blurred the line between high and unrealistic job expectations.
According to Deloitte’s mental health report, half of the survey respondents indicated that they had experienced at least one symptom of burnout, which they primarily attributed to increased job demands, a low level of interpersonal interaction, and a lack of healthy boundaries.
Notably, job burnout does not have a univocal root cause and, in fact, it can be distinguished into three sub-types:
Overload burnout is the widespread image we all have of burnout. It is very common and occurs when an individual overworked and exhausted keeps working at an unsustainable high pace in the pursuit of recognition or reward.
Just as overworking can lead to burnout, so can a lack of passion and engagement. This burnout results from feeling underappreciated or underrated in the job you do. It typically happens when employees are not stimulated or committed enough in their careers.
As humans, we need a purpose to function properly. This type of burnout derives from feeling helpless and hopeless. It happens when employees lack sufficient guidance and cannot meet job demands.
What symptoms to look out for?
Whatever the cause, work burnout symptoms can affect us physically, mentally and emotionally. Like any other condition, burnout is best managed when early symptoms are detected and treated. The early indicators of burnout can be subtle and generally include:
- Feelings of exhaustion and inability to cope: this might look like feeling constantly depleted, suffering from headaches, stomach aches and fatigue. It could also manifest through trouble in relaxing, body weakness, getting sick more frequently, disrupting meal patterns, and general numbness.
- Increased mental distance and emotional fragility: these symptoms can show up as avoidance, irritability, procrastination, lack of focus and cynicism. Other typical indicators are feeling emotionally drained and incapable of meeting deadlines or completing tasks.
- Productivity loss and reduced professional efficacy: this could manifest as unwillingness to interact or connect with colleagues, lack of creativity, sense of inefficiency and frustration, lack of pleasure in the job and a general sense of alienation.