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Signs You’re Feeling Burnout at Work

In today’s interconnected world, where you can work from home and check emails on your phone, the line between your work and personal life is becoming more blurred.

And while this flexibility can promote a healthier work-life balance for some, it can also lead to burnout at work, with people struggling to switch off from work-based issues. If left untreated, signs of burnout can cause exhaustion, detachment, reduced performance, and poor mental health.

In this article, we will discuss what burnout may feel like, the symptoms you may experience, and how you can treat burnout when it flares up.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that’s caused by constantly feeling stressed or overwhelmed in the workplace. Your body starts to feel drained or depleted, while your mind has difficulty concentrating or feeling motivated.

Typically, these symptoms of burnout are most commonly associated with high-pressure jobs, but everyone can experience work burnout in their role. This could be the result of a lack of resources to do your job properly, a perceived lack of control over your role, or simply having too many tasks on your to-do list.

Outside of work, mental burnout can also be caused by factors in your personal life, such as stress about finances or mental health issues.

5 symptoms and signs of burnout at work

Feeling rundown or unmotivated and want to know whether you’re suffering the symptoms of burnout or just having a bad week? Read on for symptoms and signs your body is run down and feeling burnt out.

1. Exhausted all the time

While we all dread the sound of our alarm in the morning or daydream of getting an early night, exhaustion caused by burnout has very different characteristics.

Symptoms and signs of exhaustion from burnout can include:

  • Always feeling tired or sleepy.
  • Regular bouts of dizziness.
  • Headaches or migraines.
  • Sore or weak muscles.
  • Bodily aches and pains.
  • Mood swings.
  • Irritability.

If you’re experiencing these mental burnout symptoms caused by fatigue, then it might be time to reassess your working life accordingly.

2. Lack of motivation

Another common burnout symptom is a lack of motivation to complete your work – especially when you were previously enthusiastic about the role. This can range from struggling to get out of bed in the morning to constantly procrastinating to avoid starting the next task on your to-do list.

If you were once hyper-motivated and are now constantly feeling ambivalent about the quality of work you deliver, it may be time to consider a career change.

3. Constant frustration or cynicism at work

Everyone gets frustrated with their job from time to time. If you’re constantly feeling these negative emotions in your workplace, however, then it might be a sign you’re feeling burnt out.

For example, do you regularly struggle to get to sleep because you’re thinking about problems at work? Are you avoiding your colleagues and isolating yourself in the workplace? Does everything at work get under your skin?

Many of these frustrations could be a sign it’s time to move on, but they could also be signs of being burnt out, where a break is more important than a change.

4. Always feel stressed or on edge

For many workplaces and industries, stress is an unavoidable reality of the job. In fact, stress has been shown to improve productivity and focus amongst employees.

However, constant stress as a result of mental burnout becomes a real problem when it starts to detract from your performance, as well as your physical and mental health.

Maybe your work-life balance is skewed heavily towards your job, or perhaps tight deadlines are beginning to take their toll, and you’re feeling the burden of stress in the workplace. If left unchecked, this burnout symptom can cause long-term health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression. If you do notice these symptoms in yourself, then it is always best to speak to a GP.

5. Regular headaches or stomach aches

While many symptoms of burnout typically manifest mentally, your body also reacts strongly to feeling burnt out.

The most common physical symptoms of burnout are headaches or migraines and stomach problems, typically caused by your body feeling exhausted. If you’re regularly experiencing these signs of burnout at work or when you get home, then that’s your body telling you it needs a break!

How to treat burnout at work

Recovering from burnout at work is all about prioritising self-care, putting your personal needs in front of your professional demands. We recommend the following burnout treatments to get you feeling back to your normal self:

  • Book annual leave: Taking regular breaks from your job is such an important part of avoiding burnout at work. Even if you aren’t travelling anywhere or have anything planned, just unplugging from work could set you on the road to recovery.

  • Talk to your employers: If you’re feeling the signs or symptoms of mental exhaustion, it’s vital that you talk to your workplace about your struggles. Whether you speak to your line manager or a HR representative, you can find out what actions can be put in place to reduce your burnout recovery time.

  • Find a relaxing hobby: Burnout symptoms are often exacerbated by not being able to switch off from work, even when you’re trying to relax from home. To distract you from your workplace frustrations, we recommend finding a hobby that helps you blow off some steam. This could be joining the gym, learning how to crochet, or taking up painting classes.

  • Stop checking your work email at home: While it might not seem too taxing, checking your emails outside of working hours could be contributing to that burnt out feeling. In fact, studies have shown that constantly checking work emails can have a detrimental impact on mental health too. That’s why it’s important to switch off from work completely outside of working hours, helping you to feel more refreshed in your downtime.

  • Evaluate your options: If you’ve already tried the above and you’re still feeling burnt out at work, then it might be time to evaluate your job position. Be sure to speak to your friends and family first before making any final decisions and open up a clear communication with your workplace.

How can I help my employees showing signs of burnout at work?

If you’re an employer worried about burnout at work, there are steps you can take to ensure you create a happy and healthy environment for your workforce. This includes:

  • Listening to your employees: Constantly asking for feedback from your employees is a really good way to stop burnout at work before it becomes a problem. For example, if a worker is unhappy with scheduling or their workload, then you can address that ahead of time.

  • Prioritising work-life balance: Burnout signs start to appear when work takes priority over everything else in your employees' life. That’s why you need to be vigilant and not wait for the problems to appear, making sure that your workers leave on time, don’t work outside of office hours, and have the option to work remotely.

  • Encouraging employees to take time off: Many employees will avoid taking their allocated holidays – especially if the workload is stacking high. You should always remind your workers to take time off from their job, helping them come back refreshed and more productive, as well as supporting their health and wellbeing.

  • Developing an effective health and wellbeing strategy: Take time to ensure that any employee wellbeing provisions or initiatives are tailored to both your business and your people. A cohesive employee health and wellbeing strategy is crucial for supporting your employees, which, in turn, supports your wider business objectives.

For more information on how to better look after your employees’ wellbeing, head over to our mental health workplace hub. You can also find out how to keep your workforce happy and healthy by signing up to our employee engagement newsletter.

Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on May 2023. Next review date: May 2024.