Avoiding Burnout: Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace

Avoiding Burnout: Strategies for Managing Stress in the Workplace
Photo by Christian Erfurt / Unsplash

Stress is a normal — and sometimes even healthy — part of life. Short-term stress can motivate you and focus your energy. But stress shouldn't consume your life. Chronic stress negatively impacts your physical and mental health and can quickly lead to burnout in the workplace.

Whether you're an employee struggling to cope with life's stressors or a manager looking to prevent employee burnout, staying informed on stress management is a good idea. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about workplace burnout, including how to prevent it, spot it, and fix it.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by prolonged or chronic stress. It's a problem that plagues workplaces across the country. And it's not contained to a single industry.

Workers in every industry are vulnerable to the effects of burnout. According to a recent study by Indeed, over half of all respondents reported experiencing burnout in a recent year.

Common burnout symptoms include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Chronic fatigue or feelings of exhaustion
  • Lack of interest or motivation in work-related activities
  • Decreased job performance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability or anger
  • Changes in eating habits

Experiencing job burnout may also exacerbate certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

How Burnout Affects Work Performance

When an employee's productivity begins to drop or seems disengaged, many managers misinterpret this as laziness and think a strict, tough-love approach is best. But the cause is likely burnout, which takes a serious toll on an employee’s overall well-being and negatively affects their work performance.

When you’re burnt out at work, it can be challenging to concentrate and make the smallest of tasks feel insurmountable. As such, turning up the heat or adding more responsibilities will do nothing to fix the problem.

Tips to Avoid Burnout

Taking proactive steps to manage stress is crucial before you get burned out. Luckily, these steps won’t take too much time or effort out of your day. You can make several small changes in your everyday life to help prevent burnout later down the road.

Get Enough Sleep

Women asleep in bed
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Good sleep habits are crucial for handling stress and maintaining energy levels throughout the day. Adults should aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

If you're like most people, you often get stuck in an endless cycle of scrolling on your phone while lying in bed at night. Unplugging from social media and establishing a consistent bedtime routine can be a game changer. Healthy sleep habits like this help regulate your body's internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep at night.

Exercise Regularly

Woman doing crunches on exercise mat
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Another simple way to avoid burnout is to prioritize your physical health. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help reduce stress levels and improve your overall mood.

Best of all, there's no need to invest in an expensive gym membership or spend hours a day doing high-impact workouts. Even a simple 30-minute walk each day can make a big difference in your overall health and well-being.

Take Breaks When You Need Them

Coffee mug and cookies
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It's vital to listen to your body and take breaks when you need them. Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help refresh your mind and reduce the risk of burnout. Take a short stroll around the office, do some stretches, or simply grab a small, healthy snack from the breakroom to restore your energy levels and improve your focus.

Giving Employees a Break from Workplace Monotony

As an employer, your role shouldn't be micromanaging your employees and dictating how they use every minute of their time. While burnout is more common than you might think (over 70% of workers reported facing burnout at least once in 2020), you’re empowered as a manager to prevent or reverse work fatigue within your team.

One way to do that is by organizing corporate events, retreats, and experiences to give employees a break from the monotony of work life.

According to the Areas of Worklife model, workload is only one of the six contributors to burnout. Another major factor is community.

Fun and engaging corporate events — not lectures from HR — are likely to boost morale, encourage cohesion and collaboration among team members, and reduce stress levels. All of these things go toward creating a positive and healthy workplace community.

Set Healthy Boundaries

 Boundary line painted on the edge of the road
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Taking work home with you can make it feel like your work consumes your entire life, and it's impossible ever to catch a break. That's why it's important to establish healthy boundaries between your work life and your personal life.

Additionally, don't bite off more than you can chew at work just to chase your boss's approval or praise. Know your limits and learn to say no when your plate is already full.

Practice Self-Care

Woman in bath with a glass of wine practicing self-care
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Today's pervasive grind culture can make you feel guilty for taking time for yourself. But self-care is essential to learning how to avoid burnout (and caring for your mental health and emotional health).

Identify activities that make you feel good and make time for them. The point of self-care is focusing on yourself and your wellness, shedding pent-up tension and stress, rejuvenating your body and mind, and replenishing your energy levels.

Your self-care routine could include taking a relaxing bubble bath while sipping a glass of wine, journaling, physical activity, drawing, playing video games, or hitting the links on your day off.

How To Deal With Burnout

If you or any of your employees are experiencing burnout, it's critical to address it and take steps to fix it as soon as possible. But remember that fixing burnout in the workplace doesn't happen overnight. It may take a few weeks or longer to build new healthy habits and readjust to a healthy work-life balance.

Identify Your Warning Signs

orange warning light of a construction vehicle
Photo by Marcel Eberle / Unsplash

It's important to recognize and identify your stress triggers and the signs of work burnout, so you know how to take action.

For example, are you having trouble sleeping? Has your appetite increased or decreased? Knowing exactly how your burnout affects you may make it easier to identify possible solutions. It will also give you a benchmark to compare against later on when you are tracking your progress.

Take Time to Recharge

Beach set-up—taking time to recharge
Photo by S'well / Unsplash

You can’t expect to run at 100% if you don’t give yourself the time to rejuvenate yourself and feel ready to return to your tasks. If you're experiencing burnout or feel overwhelmed, it's crucial to step back and take some time to recharge.

Recharging may involve taking a few days off work to escape for a vacation — or just staying in and relaxing over a long weekend.

Get Support

Couple Clasping Hands
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Burnout can cause you to withdraw from your co-workers unintentionally and loved ones and isolate yourself. As such, surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family members is one of the best ways to stave off burnout.

It's also a good idea to seek the help of a therapist, especially if you don't have any family nearby or any close friends you can confide in. Therapists can provide professional insight and advice and help you gain perspective on your situation. They can also help you learn and implement healthy coping skills for dealing with stress.

Reevaluate Priorities

Often, burnout takes hold because you're prioritizing the wrong things. Yes, work is important. But is it the most important thing in your life? The answer is no. The most important thing in your life should be your overall happiness and well-being.

That's why reevaluating your priorities is essential to recover from burnout successfully. Ask yourself, "What needs to change in my life to reduce my stress levels?" Once you know the answer, make the appropriate changes to your priorities.

Establish Boundaries

A lack of boundaries between your work and home life can allow burnout to take hold. Do you find yourself taking work home with you or answering work calls and emails when you're off the clock? Or are upcoming deadlines and performance reviews living rent-free in your mind? If so, it's time to establish some healthy boundaries.

Make clear distinctions between your work time and the rest of your life, and stick to them. These boundaries will allow you to enjoy your time away from work instead of letting work-related stress spill over into your personal life.

Healthy and clear boundaries will help you relax when you're off the clock instead of spending all your time dreading the next time you have to go in.

Balancing Work and Home Life for Career Success

Now that you know how to avoid burnout at work and recover from burnout when it occurs, it's up to you to implement these strategies in your workplace. Effective burnout prevention strategies can help you feel more empowered, confident, in control, and ready to advance in your field.

If you're a manager, it may seem counterintuitive to encourage your employees to work less or take time off and focus on themselves. But it will help your business long-term by improving performance and productivity across the board.

Contact our expert event planners for inspiration on how you can treat your team and boost morale.