Workplace & culture

9 Ways to Help Yourself (and Others) Avoid Burnout at Work

Burnout at work is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion. But have no fear! We explore ways to avoid (and come back from) it.

Burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion and one which we most often encounter in our work lives. Burnout at work has many causes. Basically, if it can cause you to stress, it can lead to burnout. The current pandemic is no exception and in the last year, there has been a rise in burnout at work.

“Burnout is the result of too much energy output and not enough energy self-invested. In other words, it’s burning too much fuel than you’ve put in your tank.”

Melissa Steginus, Self Care at Work: How to Reduce Stress, Boost Productivity, and Do More of What Matters

So, how do we avoid it? Let’s take a look at 9 ways to keep burnout at bay.

How to avoid burnout at work

Take vacation days

Show your employees that you value their mental health and want to help prevent burnout at work. You can do this by ensuring they have ample paid time off (PTO). For some, it can be hard to justify the loss of pay in order to avoid burnout at work. PTO helps alleviate this worry.

Set clear expectations

Clear expectations can help employees retain a sense of control because they understand what is expected of them. This can, in turn, help keep burnout at work to a minimum. This responsibility is shared between the employer and employee – if you are unclear on your work expectations, do not be afraid to ask questions.

Allow for “downtime” at work

This could be allowing employees to close their office door and work uninterrupted or allowing music to be played through headphones or in the background. It can also help to keep stress down if employees are able to personalise their workspace. This can be either with personal items or simply being allowed to rearrange their equipment to their preference.

It is important as well to have open communication between coworkers, and to be understanding of someone else’s need for time to get things done. Do you need their help immediately or can it wait? Is there another co-worker you could approach for assistance?

Show support for mental health

This could be as simple as an open-door policy for employees to come to managers or HR with issues. Even just allowing an employee the opportunity to vent and verbalize their frustrations can be cathartic and help alleviate stress.

Other ways to show support for mental health is to include therapy coverage in your benefits package. It is also important to ensure that everyone has access to information for crisis lines and suicide prevention lines. Often burnout at work comes along with stressors outside the workplace. Many crisis lines are happy to just talk to someone about their everyday stress or frustrations and feelings. 

Show your appreciation

Thank you gifts can go a long way to reduce stress by showing employees they’re appreciated. Throw a pizza party and give employees an hour or two to just hang out. Gift cards for items like groceries can help alleviate financial stress.

If your budget allows, treat your staff to a relaxing activity. This could be a group activity or an extra treat like hiring a massage therapist for the day. (This option may or may not be viable due to COVID-19 restrictions. Follow public health directives in your area).

And, it’s not just up to an employer to thank people! Even small things like a thank you or words of encouragement from a co-worker can improve the work environment and reduce stress. 

Recognize that stress exists outside of work

To help staff cope with responsibilities outside of work, be accommodating. This could include flexible hours to allow parents to care for their children (and during the pandemic, allow them the time to homeschool their children when needed).

Allow for rest when needed

Sometimes you need an extra break and a few minutes to decompress and recentre yourself. It is important to recognize and respect personal boundaries and limits. 

Our personal lives can greatly affect our mentality going into the workplace and our ability to withstand stress levels. A key component of reducing your risk of burnout at work is to ensure you are taking care of yourself outside of the workplace.  Important things to watch for are:

  • Amount of sleep
  • Exercise and activity levels
  • Maintaining hobbies and activities that reduce stress

Bring mindfulness to work

Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress.  Some employers have taken mindfulness and mental breaks even further and created safe spaces for employees to decompress, take a nap, and unwind. This could be comfortable furniture in the break room, nap pods, special lighting to help regulate melatonin and more. 

Reduce toxicity in the workplace

It’s important to be understanding when employees are stressed and need an extra break, more time on a project, or a few days off. When employers react negatively to employees’ needs, it can cause the employee more stress and result in them ignoring their needs or suppressing their stress until they fall into burnout at work. Instead, be accommodating while also working with the employee to ensure the work that needs to be done still gets done.

How to support others when experiencing burnout at work 

Give them space

This could be a long weekend, a short vacation, or even a leave of absence. If your employee has burnout from work, giving them time to recharge for a short period of time will be more beneficial than pushing them further into burnout at work–and potentially losing them for good. 

Communicate openly

Find out if there is anything in their workplace or their role that is particularly stressful. Is there a way to change this or reduce their exposure to this stressor? 

Also, talk to your employees about what they need to be able to heal and come back to work. How can you support them? 

The best way to help employees deal with burnout at work is to, of course, reduce the risk of burnout before it happens. Keep communication with employees open, and be accepting and ready for continuous feedback so that you can provide a healthy and supportive work environment.

We all need it know more than ever!

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