Coping with job burnout can feel like fighting an uphill battle. You’re more tired than you’ve ever been, you don’t feel fulfilled, you’re irritable, and you have a certain cynicism regarding work that won’t ease up. While not a medical diagnosis, job burnout can negatively affect both the people dealing with it and those around them.
What is Job Burnout?
The World Health Organization identified burnout in 2019 as an official diagnosis related to ongoing workplace stress. Coping with job burnout isn’t just the stress of a big project, a hard-to-please boss, or bothersome coworkers. While these things can be a factor contributing to job burnout, the overall impact of burnout is more significant than one or two aggravating factors of your work. It involves cynicism about your position, organization, and job as a whole.
You may be more at risk job burnout if you:
- Have a sense of having lost control in your work, day-to-day activities, or job environment
- Work in a helping profession
- Lack the proper resources you need to do your job well
- Have an off-kilter work-life balance (where work is tipping the scale)
- Experience dysfunctional dynamics in the workplace
These are just some risk factors for the development of job burnout. Let’s go a little deeper into what job burnout entails.
Defining Job Burnout
Job burnout encompasses a prolonged experience of stress and exhaustion related to work. Prolonged stress contributes to a range of mental and physical health conditions that can decrease satisfaction in life. Learning how to cope with job burnout can directly affect your health.
Christina Maslach, a sociologist specializing in burnout in various career disciplines, introduced the idea of the three dimensions of burnout.
The three dimensions of burnout are:
- Feelings of Energy Depletion or Exhaustion – You’re tired at work every day. You’re thinking of ways to get out of work. You desperately want to be home and in bed. These feelings happen every day of the workweek, not just once in a while.
- Increased Mental Distance From One’s Job – You feel negative or cynical about your job. You feel like what you do doesn’t matter. You show up every day and do the bare minimum.
- Reduced Professional Efficacy – You’re not accomplishing what you need to because you don’t care to go above and beyond. There’s not as much meaning in your work. Your task list is long, but you have no motivation to work on it.
These feelings are disheartening. Where work once inspired and excited you, now you’re uninterested.
Signs of Job Burnout
You may have experienced some of Maslach’s three dimensions before. But before you label yourself as burned out, take a look at more of the signs.
Signs of job burnout include:
- Increased Negativity – You can’t find the positives in your day-to-day.
- Declining Performance – Your work isn’t as good as it could be or as it once was.
- Ongoing Exhaustion – Your tiredness is evident every day at work.
- Avoidant Behavior – You do your best to avoid taking on extra tasks. You no longer choose to go “the extra mile.” And you’d rather not talk to many people during the workday.
- Persistent Apathy – Things don’t feel like they’re going to get better.
Look out for these signs in yourself. Don’t diminish any of these feelings. But if you experience one or two of these signs for a short period, it may be a sign of a rough patch at work. But it might not equate to full-on job burnout.
Causes of Job Burnout
What causes job burnout? This list details some potential causes, but there isn’t one specific thing that’s the ultimate cause of burnout.
Burnout can be a combination of the following factors:
- Poor Boundaries – Many people have begun working from home in the past few years. With remote work comes a sense of living at work. Where are the lines between work and home when your living room also serves as your office? Cell phones also mean there’s always an itch to check work emails or respond to messages from coworkers or supervisors.
- Boredom or Monotony – Doing the same thing day in and day out can lead to burnout. Repetitiveness can become dull quickly. And doing dull work every day can lead to negative feelings.
- Compounding Stressors – If a few things occasionally stress you out about work, that’s mostly manageable with some planning, collaborating, and negotiating. But if there are compounding stressors or stress that continues to build up, that contributes to feelings of burnout.
- Workplace Dynamics – Shifts in management or changes in leadership alter workplace dynamics. Even new coworkers, a change in the workplace, or different policies can change your everyday environment, leading to stress and burnout.
- Limited Agency – Having no control of what your job entails is frustrating and potentially stressful. If you feel like you don’t have much agency and are disappointed in how things are going, it can lead to stress and burnout.
Strategies for Coping
You’re confident that you are, indeed, coping with job burnout. Is there anything that can help? What are some strategies that can alleviate some of the negative feelings that come with burnout?
- Get to the Root of the issue – What’s the main source of your stress or upset at work? Take some time to identify what the causes are. Is there a group of coworkers or a team that, after you have meetings with them, you feel that stress creeping in? Are you disappointed in your compensation? Have your duties shifted in such a way that this is not the career you want anymore? Notice how you feel during your day-to-day activities, and make note.
- Take Action – What changes can you make now? Can you meet with management? Or if management is part of the issue, can you meet with the human resources department? If you feel you’re not being compensated fairly, ask for a raise. If you’re struggling with your schedule, can you work on a different one that fits your needs?
- Talk It Out – Whether with your boss or therapist, it’s helpful to talk about it. If you feel comfortable speaking with your boss about your concerns, they may be able to help ease some of your stress. All Counseling can help you find counselors in your area that specialize in job stress and coping with job burnout.
- Set Clear Boundaries – If you find your work blurring the boundaries of your personal life, try setting more firm boundaries. These boundaries could include turning off notifications for your work email from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., taking more leave, or creating a work-from-home area that separates the physical boundaries of work and home time.
- Find Support – Make sure you’re giving yourself enough social support. Without social support, the stresses you’re facing at work will be even more challenging. This support does not mean dumping all of your stress onto your partner or family. But it does mean making time for connecting over lunch, having an enjoyable day with friends where you don’t talk about work, or finding a supportive network elsewhere that you can unwind with. If this social support isn’t available to you or you need a different type of support, consider seeking a counselor. There is a whole range of counselors that can help you with various issues, including career counselors that specialize in helping you find your path.
- Practice Self-Care – You know that you need to take care of yourself, but be honest, are you doing it? Check your sleep schedule, make sure you’re getting exercise that makes you feel good, and eat food that nourishes your body. Taking care of yourself allows you to spend more energy figuring out how to cope with job burnout.
- Take a Vacation – You have paid time off for a reason! Use it. There are psychological benefits related to taking vacations, including improved mental and physical health, lowered stress, improved relationships, and boosted happiness. Allow yourself that time away!
- Engage Your Interests – Maintaining hobbies outside of work is part of caring for yourself. What are things you enjoy doing that don’t relate to work? Are you a fan of film, but haven’t watched the latest award-winner? Are you a passionate crocheter but haven’t tried that new pattern? Make time for your interests because doing so can help remind you that you matter.
How All Counseling Can Help
Job burnout is a real and growing issue for many people. You deserve the support a counselor provides in dealing with a stressful job, whether you’ve reached complete burnout or you want help adjusting to a new role. Use All Counseling’s online therapist directory to help you find a therapist to give you the tools for coping with job burnout.