Too much to do, countless hours spent at the office, finding it difficult to separate your professional and private life – more and more people face such problems on a daily basis. If this situation continues for a long time, it is probable that the work we used to like will not only stop bringing us satisfaction, but turn into occupational burnout. It is estimated that these issues trouble as much as one fourth of the working population. How can we tell if it’s burnout or just being tired? When should you see a specialist?
Being permanently tired, discouraged, lacking energy to do things, feeling bad – the symptoms of occupational burnout affect not only struggling employees but the people around them and the company itself as well. It is easy to get into a state like this, but difficult to return to normal. However, a lot depends on whether we choose to act to change this situation and to keep doing things to prevent such situations in the future.
Active and burnt out
‘Burnout syndrome is technically called psychophysical exhaustion,’ explains Andrzej Jeznach, PhD, life coach at Medicover Hospital’s Wellness Clinic. ‘It may be caused by prolonged exposure to stress at work due to factors such as excessive workload, an inappropriate reward system, or no time to rest. Other causes of burnout include disruptions to interpersonal contact and a discrepancy between one’s current position and one’s ambitions,’ he adds.
Contrary to common belief, burnout syndrome is not only limited to workaholics. Other people who are likely to experience this problem are managers and people working in companies that require high emotional and intellectual involvement as well as top performance. The risk group includes employees who often interact with other people (e.g. teachers and sales representatives) as well as people who professionally help others, including doctors and nurses.
Running low on energy and motivation?
There are many alarming signs that suggest occupational burnout – withdrawal, feeling lost and constantly absorbed in one’s thoughts, and feeling increasingly tired. ‘An employee who is experiencing burnout often develops an aversion towards their environment, assumes a passive stance, and is increasingly indifferent towards his or her duties. If his or her job involves teamwork, there may be problems communicating with other members of the team. Being unable to communicate with colleagues also negatively affects one’s attitude towards work, while being unmotivated reduces effectiveness. It’s a vicious circle,’ says Andrzej Jeznach, PhD. Some symptoms of burnout are distinct, but some are easily mistaken for one being tired or experiencing winter blues. How do we tell these apart? Most importantly, in the case of people with burnout syndrome the symptoms are not temporary and do not go away after taking time off work or after a weekend.
A healthy balance
Staying vigilant and identifying the symptoms of occupational burnout allows one to react quickly and to take the appropriate steps to address the problem. ‘It is important to stress that burnout syndrome is very difficult to overcome single-handedly. This disease requires seeing a specialist to undergo therapy,’ emphasises Andrzej Jeznach, PhD. Please also remember that, just as with other disorders, prevention is easier than treatment. What can each of us do to mitigate the risk of suffering occupational burnout? ‘It is important to take actions to ensure one’s so-called work–life balance. You need to organise your work to avoid overload and overlapping projects, and also to ensure you have your free time away from the company e-mail and mobile phone. This is necessary to be able to unwind and relax, spend time with your loved ones, pursue your hobbies, and engage in physical activity,’ suggests Andrzej Jeznach, PhD. If you find it difficult to introduce such changes on your own, you can ask a coach for assistance. During a consultation meeting, the coach will suggest what you can do to feel fulfilled both in your professional as well as private life.