June 15, 2023

How to Protect Yourself from Career Burnout

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Employee burnout is on the rise in the U.S. According to the 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report, 59% of American workers are experiencing moderate burnout levels. That’s an increase from 52% in 2021.

What does career burnout look like? According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s work-related stress that can manifest into physical and/or emotional exhaustion. It’s also associated with a loss of personal identity and a sense of reduced accomplishment. Some symptoms include:

  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.
  • An increased feeling of cynicism at work
  • Lack of motivation at work
  • Negative emotions at work, including anger, sadness or impatience.
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of energy to be consistently productive

Burned-out employees could also feel physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach problems. According to the American Psychological Association, most people will experience work-related stress at least monthly, with 79% of employees citing negative impacts including physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion and cognitive weariness.

Work shouldn’t harm your physical, mental or emotional health. Here are some tips on  protecting yourself from career burnout.

1. Set Boundaries

Licensed therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab wrote an excellent book called “Set Boundaries, Find Peace,” in which she explains the importance of creating clear guidelines to protect your safety and comfort in relationships. Boundaries apply at work, too, and they can help prevent you from becoming a victim of being used or  abused by an employer.

To set effective boundaries, Tawwab advises to:

  1. Honestly assess what workload you are capable of managing.
  2. Communicate when you’re feeling overextended, ideally to your manager/supervisor.
  3. Feel confident saying “No” to requests you don’t have the time or energy to fulfill.

Some examples of setting boundaries at work might look like:

  • Saying “No” when you’re asked to take on tasks that will stretch you beyond your  limits.
  • Requesting a conversation with your manager when you identify an unreasonable  amount of work.
  • Asking for help when you need it.

Beyond what’s required of your job description, you shouldn’t feel the need to take on extra tasks when you don’t have the capabilities to do so. Boundaries rely on clear communication in order to be effective. Having conversations regarding boundaries can be challenging, but they give you the opportunity to practice your communication skills and establish guidelines that help you protect your energy.

2. Safeguard Your Time

Time is one of the most precious assets we have. You can’t replace it, and there are only so many hours in the week for you to fulfill your professional and personal goals. Some ways to protect your time include:

  • If your company offers time off, take advantage of that to help maintain a work-life balance. Don’t let your vacation days go to waste or continually roll over.
  • If you request time off, you’re entitled to take it when it’s granted. (If your employer asks you to come in when you have time off scheduled, feel comfortable saying “No”).
  • When you need  to focus on work, feel empowered to block time off in your calendar. (If you’re invited to  attend something during a  time you’ve blocked off- talk with your manager about how they can accommodate you).  

When you have time off work, be OK with unplugging. A vacation isn’t a vacation when you’re responding to work emails or calls. When you’re taking time off, make it clear you won’t be accessible during that time.

3. Communicate With Your Manager

According to Gallup research, managers are the single most important factor impacting employee engagement, affecting 70% of variance in team engagement. Frequently communicating with your manager can help you prevent burnout.

Gallup recommends frequent one-on-one meetings between a manager and each person they manage. If you’re not already meeting with your manager one-on-one, ask to schedule a half-hour meeting with them at least every 2 weeks to discuss:

  • How you’re feeling about your current workload.
  • Any roadblocks you’re facing and things you need to address with them.
  • Whether or not your strengths are being utilized at work, and suggestions for ways you can more regularly use your strengths at work.

These conversations will help your manager provide you with the support you need to succeed. They can also help you develop your role, so you’re doing work you enjoy and begin to excel at.

If you feel like your manager isn’t giving you the support you need, consider talking with human resources or another leader at work to discuss your concerns. Other people that your supervisor manages may be facing the same problems. Voicing them can help improve things at work.

4. Take Care of Yourself

“Self-care” has been a hot topic in recent years for a good reason. If you’re not eating nutritiously, not exercising, or getting enough  sleep, it can negatively impact your energy levels and exacerbate problems at work.

Make sure to schedule time for daily exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, as well as two days of strength training for all muscle groups.

Take care of your mental health with activities like journaling, meditation or pursuing hobbies like playing a musical instrument or reading. Eat foods that provide you with vitamins and minerals that help you reach optimal daily nutrient levels. Avoid drugs and alcohol, which could cause physical health issues that affect your work performance.

If you’re stressed to the point where you’re neglecting your health or  using substances to cope, talk with your manager about your workload or the tasks you’re doing. Explain that you’re having difficulty maintaining work-life balance because of your job and see what support they can offer.

Healthy habits in your non-work life can help you better manage work stress and prevent burnout. If work is affecting your ability to practice healthy habits (for example, you rush through your lunch break every day and feel sick after), identify the causes and work on addressing them.

Career Burnout Impacts Your Whole Life

Sometimes, career burnout remains an issue, even when you’ve communicated with your manager and have taken the steps to better control your workload. In that case, it may be time to look for a job at a new employer that’s committed to supporting employee work-life balance.

If you’re open to new opportunities, connect with the recruiting team at AccruePartners. Based on what you’re looking for and how you want to use your strengths at work, we’ll pair you with the best job opportunities available! 

Connect with us online, or call (704) 632-9955 to talk with our recruiting team.

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