The number of hours we worked on average skyrocketed during the pandemic, with workers on average logging into their computers for 25% longer than before. Over 44% of employees reported they were expected to do more work than the previous year. Homeworkers have also felt obliged to take shorter lunch breaks, work through illnesses, and be increasingly available to their employers at all hours of the day.
Undoubtedly, burnout from overwork has strong ramifications. The World Health Organization cites overwork as the single most significant risk factor for occupational disease, with those working longer hours seeing a 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of heart disease.
Burnout can have a ripple effect on other elements of your life. It leads to inadequate exercise, poor sleep, an unhealthy diet, and sometimes excessive drinking and smoking.
Exhaustion is the principal symptom of burnout. It’s profound fatigue that affects your ability to work effectively.
Burnout is often characterized by cynicism and erosion of engagement. You no longer feel invested in your work and instead distance yourself from it. This is essentially a defense mechanism; it’s an attempt to avoid the psychological damage your work is having on you.
Becoming less effective at your job is a common symptom of burnout. It’s a vicious cycle, with your higher levels of exhaustion and cynicism causing you to perform poorly at tasks, which results in you second-guessing your skills and often doubling down to work even harder.
How to Reduce Burnout at Work
1 – Talk to someone
Don’t go through this alone. Speak to others inside and outside your organization who are suffering from the same stressors. By banding together, you can offer support to each other, identify problems in the system, and come up with solutions to these problems.
2 – Make time for self-care
Time to replenish your physical and emotional energy is a requirement. Prioritize time for good nutrition, social connections, adequate sleep, and practices that encourage well-being, such as nature treks or meditating.
If your gut reaction to this is “I don’t have time for that!”, remember one of the main symptoms of burnout is reduced efficacy. So, by forcing yourself to spend time on self-care activities, you’ll ultimately be more productive and feel significantly more energized and content.
3 – Minimize stressors at work
Every job has some activities that, while essential, also cause you higher levels of unhealthy stress. From dealing with irate customers to meeting tight deadlines, these high-value activities can drain you to the point you attempt to avoid them.
Instead, make a list of the situations that cause you the most stress and think of ways you can reduce them. Perhaps you can put a plan in place so you’re better prepared in the future. Dealing with these stressors before other tasks means they no longer loom over you like a dark cloud.
4 – Change your thinking about work
Even if you take a long, relaxing vacation, if you’re just going to return to the same environment then the root cause of the problem hasn’t been addressed and you’ll again face burnout. Take a closer look at your assumptions about your work and workload. How can you change permanently change it for the better? Which tasks could you delegate or outsource to free up your time and energy? What resources do you need to wrestle back control over your workload?
Avoiding burnout is all about recognizing it’s a serious problem and taking strong steps to minimize it. Soon, you’ll be at the top of your game, performing far better than you ever have done while feeling much less stress in the workplace.