Burnout: It's a Very Real Thing.

For many of us while we were growing up, the concept of burnout was largely seen as a slang term: a word that was aligned with just getting tired, bored or maybe even a little bit lazy.

With the increasing awareness surrounding mental health - and perhaps the rising pressure of success and to be constantly "on" that comes with the omnipresence of social media - the issue has become more highly investigated in the medical community. While specifically termed as not a medical condition, in May of 2019, The World Health Organization officially declared that burnout is:

"...a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."

And if you feel this way, you're not alone. Smart phones and email access can equal a never-ending work day; and the tendency to define one's self by work can result in an inability to disconnect. According to psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, the addiction to screen time and thus, inability to do the things one really wants to do, forces individuals into survival mode and can decrease their humor, flexibility, and even productivity levels.

Not only that, but when an employee doesn't feel their personal goals and the wider goals of their employing company align, this can lead to burnout as well. Michael Baer, PhD, an assistant professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, told Thrive that the imposition of company goals can result in an eventual state of emotional exhaustion from the employee, after which he or she may experience burnout. The declaration of organizational goals may initially benefit cognitive performance, but if not invested, the emotional level in which an employee experiences his or her work can eventually lead to a loss of motivation.

Increasing competition and connectivity also can lead to a desperate feeling from workers when they feel like their schedule is out of their hands. If a company is constantly focused on increasing profits and outsourcing jobs, employees may feel they have no other choice but to work around the clock to prove their worth.

Tips for managing burnout

So what can you do to avoid burnout and continue high-level productivity?

Ask for help. A good boss should be made aware of one of their employees feeling overwhelmed - before the feeling reaches a breaking point. Keeping others in the loop and asking for help is important for a healthy work environment.

Respect your boundaries. This can mean logging off when you are home or having family time, or wearing headphones when you work so as to not be interrupted by a chatty co-worker.

Have a say. Baer's team explained that when an individual took on leadership roles, they felt more invested, and therefore, productive. Employees who took on projects were more likely to see where there work was actually making a real impact, and thus less likely to feel unmotivated.

It's important to prioritize the prevention of burnout, rather than planning on dealing with it after it's already occurred. Recognizing that burnout is a real issue in the workplace, and should be cared for as such, can only lead to a more productive future for any company or individual.