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How To Avoid Burnout At Work

What's behind your burnout & how can you prevent it?

What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?

The Beginnings Of Burnout

It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.

Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;

What’s Your Type?

  1. Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. Put simply, you’ve been bored into submission. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up and spiralling deeper each day. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire. You need a new challenge. Time to find it.
  2. Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list that never quite seems to end. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout. Time for a break and a re-think in terms of work life balance.
  3. Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress. Time to renew, recharge and build your resilience up again.

What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?

Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.

  1. Mismatch in workload
  2. Mismatch in control
  3. Lack of appropriate rewards
  4. Loss of sense of positive connection with others
  5. Perceived lack of fairness
  6. Conflict with values

If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?

Beating Burnout

If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;

  • Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
  • Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
  • Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy they need to carry out their role?
  • Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?

If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;

  • Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
  • Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
  • Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
  • Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.

Sociodemographic and occupational risk factors associated with the development of different burnout types: the cross-sectional University of Zaragoza study (2011)

Jesús Montero-Marín,1,2,7 Javier García-Campayo,corresponding author1,7,8 Marta Fajó-Pascual,2 José Miguel Carrasco,3 Santiago Gascón,4,7 Margarita Gili,5,7 and Fermín Mayoral-Cleries6,7

Burnout risk in medical students in Spain using the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Student Survey. (2011) Galán F1, Sanmartín A, Polo J, Giner L.

Originally published at wp.me

Gill Crossland-Thackray is a Business Psychologist, Visiting Professor, and PhD Candidate. She is Co-Director of Positive Change Guru with her twin, Viv Thackray-Dutton and Director Of Koru Development. She is a member of British Psychological Association, British Neuroscience Association, Association of Business Psychologists, Chartered Institute of Professional Development and a Continuing Professional Development accredited trainer. www.positivechangeguru.com deliver bespoke Resilience at Work courses internationally.

Gill writes for a number of publications including The Guardian, Thrive Global, Ultra Fit & HR Zone and is currently working on her first novel. She splits her time between London and the Lake District. She can be contacted at [email protected] 

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