Burnout is a fairly common problem at the workplace. Burnout can be described as a state of mind an employee is in due to extreme pressure at work which makes him very exhausted and drained of motivation. The result of this state of mind is low productivity, difficulty in handling situations, inability to concentrate on work, loss of quality in work, irritability and in some cases, extreme mental fatigue that needs medical attention.
Why is burnout caused?
In order to deal with burnout, we first need to understand what causes it. We can identify three scenarios in which people face burnout:
Extremely high pressure at work is the primary reason for which people face burnout. This axiom has many aspects to it. Many people are motivated so strongly that they work for years on end on their area of liking and stay refreshed, energized and motivated. For instance, we have politicians, administrators, sportspersons and people in other high pressure jobs sleeping for no more than five hours a day on average and still showing no signs of being drained. So, what is the underlying cause of burnout? It will be safer to assume that pressure at work, rather than plain hard work that means many extended hours, should be the culprit.
It is the individual
Secondly, to a large extent, burnout is dependent on the individual’s ability to handle it. In this aspect, it is a lot like pain. Many people undergo the highest pain and still endure it. There are numerous examples of how patients have remained bedridden for years and have tolerated it, while others cannot withstand a pin prick. Management needs to understand how much ability an employee has for taking on workload without being a victim of burnout.
No work is as dangerous as excessive work
Contrary to what the common association with the term is; it is not just heavy and long hours at work that causes burnout. Although this is the prime condition for burnout; it can also be caused by the opposite extreme, when employees are so fed up of their work’s monotony that they get bored and reach breaking point because their creative abilities get suppressed by lack of outlet. Not everyone would perhaps like to associate this with burnout, but the problem of exhaustion caused by extreme ennui has to be acknowledged.
Ways of handling burnout
Since burnout is a real problem at the workplace in that it causes problems of lowered productivity and a host of other issues; it needs to be tackled in a two-pronged strategy: one, preventing it, and then, remedying it when it happens.
It is said that prevention is better than cure. Burnout is one of the areas in which this is perfectly appropriate. Burnout is not a cramp or a cough that catches immediately in response to a stimulus. It is more like hypertension or hearing loss, taking a long time to build up. Many times, it takes years to reach its full stage. During the buildup time, the person displays a few traits that could be signs that burnout is imminent.
Getting agitated easily, losing temper for no real reason, shouting at colleagues for silly reasons, trying to find an excuse to get a diversion from work –these are some of the early signs of burnout. This is not to suggest that management has to keep getting suspicious every time the employee wants to take his family to a movie. Everyone loves an odd day off work. But how frequently and how intensely an employee is exhibiting for these should be the indicator of judging if the breaking point is nearing.
Keep a watch on the employee with the tendency for burnout
Each human being responds to situations differently. Management has to understand which particular stimulus is triggering anxiety or stress in an employee. Is it more work? Is it the deadline? Is it lack of cooperation from colleagues? Or is it frustration of being denied time with the family? Is it the breathing-down-the-neck manager? The reason needs to be discovered and worked on. The person showing signs of buckling when there is a looming deadline should be given tasks with a generous deadline and so on. Management needs to understand the trigger in each employee prone to burnout. This will go a long way in addressing the root cause.
There are other remedies like getting the burned out employee to take a vacation or spend time with the family or go to a yoga camp. These are all quite effective, but are more of symptomatic redresses. They help a person get refreshed and come back, often to the same situation with the same problems. If the root problems lie unaddressed; it is a matter of time till the employee gets back into burnout mode.
The nub of the situation is about understanding the cause of burnout and taking care of it, and giving him the work he loves most. When we are engaged in work we love doing, there are very few chances of burnout. We do get exhausted, but this will be for the short term. People handle pressure well when they are doing what they like doing. Haven’t we heard the wise saying, something to the effect that hard work is doing something in which you are not interested? When overwork is caused by occasional exertion when the root cause is intact, temporary remedies such as the ones suggested above work.
43337 Livermore Common | Fremont| CA | USA | 94539