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How to Fight Burnout at Work

By Maurie Backman - Jul 21, 2017 at 6:18PM

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Job-related burnout is no joke. Here's what to do if it's affecting you.

No matter your profession, it's natural to reach a point where you're less content at work than you've been in the past. That dissatisfaction might come as a result of recent pressure and deadlines, or a string of conflicts with a boss or coworker. And while a temporary bout of on-the-job frustration is nothing to worry about, if you've reached the point of complete and utter burnout, you'll need to do something about it.

Contrary to what some folks might believe, burnout isn't just some buzzword invented by millennials to describe their job-related woes. Rather, it's an actual clinical term. Mayo Clinic defines burnout as "a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work." And that sounds pretty serious.

Man burying his head under his lapop


If you're suffering from burnout at work, or feel that you're right on the edge, here are a few ways to address the problem -- before it gets worse.

1. Broaden your horizons

Doing the same tasks over and over again can wind up leaving you mentally and physically drained. If you're starting to feel perpetually worn-out on the job, it'll help to extend your responsibilities into other areas of the business. You might ask to switch over to a new team, or volunteer for an upcoming project that's different from the work you're used to. If you make an effort to keep your mind engaged, you're less likely to feel that your contributions at work are meaningless or unimportant.

2. Build up your skills

One symptom of burnout is questioning your worth as an employee, and feeling like your work is pointless. It therefore stands to reason that if you grow your skills and reach a point where you're able to contribute more to your company, you're apt to feel better about your performance. To that end, ask your employer for support in building your skill set, whether it's allowing you to leave early once a week to attend a class, or sponsoring your attendance at a conference or workshop. At the very least, you'll come away more confident, which can translate to good feelings on the job.

3. Work fewer hours

Even if you're constantly being praised at work, it's hard to feel content when you pretty much live at the office. In a 2014 Gallup poll, 40% of U.S. employees claimed they work more than 50 hours a week, while 20% said they put in more than 60 hours. Not only can overworking yourself produce major burnout, but it can also, at some point, cause your productivity to decline. That's why it pays to limit the amount of time you spend in the office, even if it means cutting your hours gradually. Regaining some precious downtime will help you better maximize the hours you do put in on the job, and you'll feel less drained when you're needed at the office.

4. Take your vacation days

It's estimated that more than half of working Americans don't end up using their vacation time in full. And that's a major mistake, because you need that time to recharge and give your brain cells a break. If you're suffering from job-related burnout, or are right on the edge, do yourself a favor and schedule some time away from the office. If you can't afford an actual getaway, spend an afternoon walking around a local park, or visit a museum you've been wanting to check out. You might even take a day off here and there to catch up on errands or much-needed sleep. No matter what you do, be sure to use the time you're entitled to -- because your sanity depends on it.

Job-related burnout is no joke, so the sooner you get ahead of the problem, the better. Not only can burnout mess with your mind, but it can also put your career at risk. Finally, don't hesitate to seek support from your employer in fighting burnout. It's in everyone's best interests to keep you feeling happy and energized, so don't be afraid to share what you're going through and enlist some additional help.

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