During this employee health and fitness month, let’s talk about burnout at work. Work can be a source of pride, a social network, offer mental challenges, and so much more. It can also take a lot of time and energy causing people to sometimes experience what’s known as burnout – especially after the year we have all been through.
During a normal year, people can go through times of burnout from work. During 2020 (and into 2021), though, the additional stresses happening all around us likely worsened those feelings. We’ve all been through a lot and feeling overwhelmed or burned out is normal. But being normal doesn’t mean you should ignore it.
What is Burnout?
Job burnout is a type of work-related stress causing physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity.
Throughout the pandemic, many people showed up (virtually or in person) every day, even when it was difficult. Beyond the virus itself, this past year has asked a lot of each of us, with virtual school, cancelled plans and holiday celebrations, career set-backs or job losses, illness, and sometimes even loss.
Expecting to power through like nothing else is going on isn’t realistic; of course it has been hard, and that is on top of nearly half of working adults who were feeling burned out before the pandemic began. According to an Indeed.com study, 52% of people report feelings of burnout from work which is up from 42% before the pandemic began.
“Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it has distinct symptoms. Burnout can affect your physical and mental health. Some of the symptoms include:
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Lack of energy and productivity
- Being critical or cynical at work
- Change in sleep habits
- Loss of satisfaction from work accomplishments
- Being impatient with coworkers, customers, or patients
- Using drugs or alcohol to feel better
- Unexplained headaches
- Stomach or bowel problems
Employee burnout is always around. It can come and go. But what everyone experienced during 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic shifted employee stress and burnout. When the pandemic first began, the initial stress of the virus, possibility of a job loss, and shift to virtual working environments actually accelerated some people’s productivity. After months, though, the stress began to wear on people and the unknow factors of how long things would last, made it harder to manage.
With the causes of burnout listed below, it is easy to see how the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced these issues.
- Lack of control. Unable to influence decisions that affect your job (schedule, assignments, or workload), and lack of resources to do your work.
- Unclear job expectations. Being unsure about the authority you have or what others expect from you.
- Extremes of activity. A job extremely monotonous or chaotic, or swings between the two, requires constant energy to remain focused and causes fatigue.
- Work-life imbalance. When work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy for family and friends.
- The imbalance was stretched even more because much of what people balance work with: seeing friends, traveling, visiting families, etc. were cancelled for almost a year. In addition, working from home also blurred the lines between work and home, and meant people needed to find ways to separate the two often with children learning from home as well.