Workplace burnout is an emotional exhaustion that manifests itself in a loss of interest in one’s work, colleagues, and fulfillment of professional obligations.

Burnout is psychological exhaustion that manifests itself in a loss of interest in one’s work, colleagues, and fulfillment of professional obligations.

The burnout syndrome is characteristic of all professions, but burnout occurs especially among specialists who are forced to communicate closely with people during the performance of their duties.

A clear example of professional burnout can be demonstrated by doctors or teachers with a great experience. In these cases, burnout can manifest itself in specific jokes, a more superficial attitude to the problems of their patients or students.

Symptoms of workplace burnout

The term was coined by Herbert Freudenberger, who observed his colleague’s and his psychological reactions to excessive and stressful work in a free drug addict clinic.

Occupational burnout can manifest itself in the following behavioral features::

  • Loss of energy, exhaustion: individuals with occupational burnout often have sleep problems (insomnia, hypersomnia) and even when they sleep a lot, they feel exhausted. Even when they do rest, they get tired easily.
  • Distancing from the job: the person becomes indifferent and even cynical about the job that was once a source of joy and pleasure.
  • Reduced efficacy: due to the aforementioned problems, an individual with burnout syndrome becomes less and less productive.
  • Feeling of indifference, emotional exhaustion, exhaustion (a person cannot give himself to work as it was before);
  • The development of a negative attitude towards their colleagues and clients;
  • Negative professional self-perception is a feeling of one’s own incompetence, lack of professional skill.

What does it mean to be burnout in real life

Let’s say that you’re working as an accountant in a big corporation. As of recently, you’ve started to feel strange- it becomes harder and harder for you to get up in the morning, you lack the motivation that was once so prominent, etc. So you come to your workplace, as usual. You say hello to the security guard, automatically. That guard, with whom you sometimes exchanged a few words, now didn’t even deserve your shortest glance- you didn’t even look at him. Then, as you come to the office, there are all these other people, whom you equally despise. Whenever some of them come to your table, you cannot shake off the impression that these people mean absolutely nothing to you.

Reasons of mental burnout

Psychological and mental exhaustion can occur for a number of reasons that complement and reinforce each other.

In general, burnout occurs in people of mature age from 27 years old to 40-45 years. During this period, people experience several personality crises, reassessment of their values, and also a person tries to achieve as many life benefits as possible.

Based on this, the following causes of occupational burnout are distinguished:

  • Workaholism – the more a person works, the less he rests, which leads to fatigue, constant mental stress, and stress. Sooner or later, a person will hate the source of constant stress and just want to relax.
  • Vulnerability or perception of criticism – the work becomes part of the personality, therefore any criticism, remark or even advice can be perceived as a rude remark or discontent. Again, this situation creates stress.
  • Lack of change – well-coordinated work is good, but if you perform the same actions every day for 10 years, mental fatigue will arise and interest in fulfilled duties will disappear.
  • Personal crises – thanks to them, a person is able to revise his life scenario and change it for the better. But personality crises also accompany a review of professional activities, evaluations, and the search for answers to the questions: “Do I want to do this? What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”

As most stress-related mental health problems, burnout syndrome (occupational burnout) can be caused by both acute and chronic stress.

Occupational burnout

There are many ways overcoming burnout. If you look in general, then you can deal with burning in 2 levels:

  • Organization-wide – when the organization starts to change so that its employees have the best possible work environment, these kinds of reforms can take years to be completely implemented.
  • At the employee level, when an employee himself tries to diversify his work environment, to reconsider his attitude to work, stressful situations, develops lability. For instance, you can simply decrease the number of work hours. One of the best ways to slow down the pace is to take regular breaks from work, especially during stressful periods, when there’s a lot of work.

In case of symptoms of burnout syndrome, employees themselves can help themselves, following these tips:

  • the use of “timeouts”, which is necessary to ensure mental and physical well-being (rest from work);
  • determination of short-term and long-term goals (this not only provides feedback indicating that the person is on the right track but also increases long-term motivation; achieving short-term goals is a success, which increases the degree of self-education);
  • mastering the skills of self-regulation (relaxation, ideomotor acts, setting goals and positive internal speech help to reduce the level of stress leading to burnout);
  • professional development and self-improvement (one of the ways to prevent burnout syndrome is the exchange of professional information with colleagues, which gives a sense of a wider world than the one that exists within a separate team, for this, there are various ways – continuing education courses, conferences, etc.) ;
  • avoiding unnecessary competition (there are situations when it cannot be avoided, but excessive desire to win generates anxiety, makes a person aggressive, which contributes to the occurrence of burnout syndrome);
  • emotional communication help to occupational burnout (when a person analyzes his feelings and shares them with others, the probability of burnout is significantly reduced or this process is not so pronounced), in addition, it is important to have friends from other professional areas in order to be able to distract from your work;
  • maintaining good physical shape (do not forget that there is a close relationship between the state of the body and mind: malnutrition, abuse of alcohol, tobacco exacerbate manifestations of burnout syndrome).

Burnout is less relevant for people who have experience successfully coping with professional stress and who are able to constructively change in stressful conditions. Also, people with high self-esteem and confidence in themselves, their abilities and capabilities are more resistant to him. An important distinguishing feature of people who are resistant to professional burnout is their ability to shape and maintain positive, optimistic attitudes and values, both in relation to themselves, to other people and to life in general.

In the Appendix, you can assess how mentally drained are you, use the burnout scale  (it is for personal use only). You can always fill in the burnout scale we’ve put in the Appendix- if your answer is “yes” to most of the questions, chances are that you will develop classic burnout syndrome.

Each of the following questions you can answer with yes or no. The sum of “yes” answers will be your burnout score. Needless to say, this kind of scoring is by no means something that should be taken for granted. Maslach’s burnout score is calculated differently- for the best assessment of burnout, you will have to fill the full version of Maslach’s burnout scale. 

  1. I feel empty at the end of a workday.
  2. I am extremely tired when I get up for work.
  3. I cannot deal effectively with my work problems.
  4. I feel as if my colleagues aren’t real persons.
  5. It seems like my job is making me less and less emotional.
  6. I don’t feel personally involved in my work.
  7. I don’t care about my colleagues.
  8. It’s hard for me to create a good atmosphere in the workplace.
  9. I am frustrated by my job.
  10. I am working too hard.