Jessica Pryce-Jones, author of the popular book, “Happiness at Work,” says we’ll spend close to 100,000 hours working in our lifetime.1 It’s no wonder that even those who enjoy their job can feel the effects of workplace burn-out at some point in their career. Working 40, 50, 60+ hours a week is tiring physically, mentally and often emotionally as well. And while you’re firing on all cylinders now, it’s important to prevent yourself from hitting a wall of exhaustion and stress later. Below we’ll discuss what workplace burn-out is and how you can learn to prevent it.
What Is Workplace Burn-out?
According to the World Health Organization, burn-out is considered an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”2 Symptoms are characterized as being:
- Exhaustion and lack of energy
- Feeling mentally distant from your work
- Negativity or cynicism toward your job
- Reduced professional efficacy2
Ways to Prevent Workplace Burn-Out
Once you’re aware of what workplace burn-out may look like, it’s important to take a few conscious steps toward preventing it. Here are several tips you can use to keep burn-out at bay.
Tip #1: Learn to Say “No”
Most of us want to be able to “do it all” at work. It’s natural to feel the need to please our coworkers and boss while being the best employees we can. While that’s an admiral pursuit, it’s important to recognize appropriate moments to just say “no.” Taking on too many projects can start to wear on anyone, especially as we take on work above and beyond our typical workload. It’s important to say “no” to some things when you need to. If you’re going to stay engaged and energetic about your work, then you need to choose what’s most important to you or necessary for your job.
Tip #2: Get Enough Exercise
Exercising is a great way to blow off steam and stay healthy. Regular exercise reduces levels of stress, improves self-confidence, prevents cognitive decline, increases productivity and improves memory.3 Even if you feel too tired to workout after a full day at the office, the benefits can actually help you to stay focused and happier. If you’re dreading hitting the treadmill, remember that getting a good workout in doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym/using equipment. There are plenty of creative ways to stay active that don’t involve a membership/making a home gym. Find a local hiking trail, walk your dog or go for a jog in a new place in your city.
Tip #3: Reflect on Your Accomplishments
When getting bogged down at work, it can be difficult to remember the tasks and projects you’ve already accomplished. If you’ve ever received praise from a client, boss or coworker, keep those words of affirmation close at hand. When you’re feeling down or stressed out, look back on those words and take a moment to reflect.
Tip #4: Get Enough Sleep
When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you simply cannot function properly. There are nights that you may have to stay late at the office, or you have a late evening planned to celebrate out with loved ones. There are times when you’ll inevitably stay up late on work nights, and that’s understandable. The important thing is to resist the urge to make it a habit. If you’re wondering how much sleep you really should be getting, remember that adults optimally need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to function and feel their best.4
Tip #5: Minimize Your Screentime
Staring at a phone or computer for hours at a time can really put a strain on your eyes. And when your eyes become strained, you start to feel tired. When you can, take breaks from screens - computers, televisions, tablets, phones, etc. If you’re looking for a screen-free activity, try stretching or yoga - anything that is relaxing and can take your mind off of work. I've personally also enjoyed using blue light filtering glasses!
Tip #6: Schedule Social Activities Outside of Work
Many of us are guilty of declining plans after work because we’re worn out and ready to head home. But when it’s doable, you may find that saying “yes” to going out can help you feel recharged and reenergized. It’s important to connect with friends or family while using this time to unwind. Chatting, catching up with your friends and staying away from screens offers you the emotional break needed to relax after work.
Tip #7: Use Your Vacation Days
You are given vacation, sick and personal days for a reason, remember to use them. When you can, make it a point to check your schedule well in advance and put aside some time to take off. It is key to relaxation, resetting your mind and maintaining a strong work-life balance. Stepping out of the office and away from your work can actually make you a better employee, as it allows you to return to the office refreshed and ready to go.
It’s hard to slow down, but these tips can help you create and maintain a balance between being a productive employee and feeling mentally and physically refreshed. If you find yourself starting to experience burn-out, take some time to reflect and figure out what you need to change to continue to be a productive member of your team.