Burnout is called the “disease” of the 21st century, which, with the doubling of statistical indicators, has become especially relevant during the lockdowns all around the world in 2020.
Burnout is a mental condition that appears from chronic mismanaged stress at the workplace, which is also negatively supplemented by domestic stress, which has arisen in many families under the influence of the pandemic – introduced stay-at-homes, increased workloads, changed regimes, fear of losing the job, additional burden with children’s home schooling and the distribution of space and time.
Burnout was first described by the US psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. He assessed the symptoms of several of the hardest working volunteer doctors – energy depletion caused by excessive work demands, headaches and insomnia, “quick sulking and anger” and difficulties to generate ideas and find solutions. A “burnt out” employee looks and acts depressed and becomes less and less efficient despite of putting more and more hours in the job.
Widespread usage of the Internet and accordingly increased amount of information that we have to process every day, demanding attention to any kind of noise – conversations, TV in the background, constant message signals in the phone etc. and general life rhythm are additional factors to increasing number of burnouts.
Urbanization has been causing a struggle for free space in the cities, continuously rising real estate prices, more frequent traffic jams, and hidden competition for existing jobs. We live in an age when the psychological pressure is not to survive but to live according to the status – a new car or even two, a house in the suburbs, regular trips, clothes of recognizable brands. So, there is unwritten psychological pressure to work harder (or smarter) to achieve and earn more.
Paradoxically, in an age where we are only a click away from each other, we miss the human presence, the feeling, looking into the eyes and listening of others. The containment measures of the pandemic and lockdowns have made the situation even more critical – people have a desperate desire to bring back humanity and present social contacts in real life. In order to feel good, we need the presence of other people in real life, not on a smartphone.
What are the burnout symptoms?
The first step to a solution is to recognize the problem. The signs and symptoms of burnout include both emotional and later physical triggers:
• Independent dissatisfaction, bad mood, criticism and negativity;
• Low efficiency of activities, work starts to be disliked;
• Rapid mood swings – quickly sulking, sensitivity, pessimism, anger, feeling of emptiness, guilt, (emotionally the mind is asking for help);
• There is no private life, social life suffers – the person rejects, avoids friends, family;
• Lack of hope for the future – hopelessness, feeling of lack of control;
• Losing confidence at work;
• Weakness, lack of energy and motivation;
• Insomnia, headaches and stomachaches;
• Loss of immunity, colds, various infections;
• Anxiety, depressive thoughts.
An important indicator of burnout syndrome is that a person thinks and talks a lot about the problems that caused this syndrome.
There are several things that can contribute to burnout syndrome – these are both personal characteristics such as perfectionism, difficulty saying “No”, low self-esteem and the desire to be the best, as well as conditions in the workplace that create long-term stress such as – long working hours and heavy workload, lack of appreciation, lack of rest and vacation, uncertainty, lack of justice, poor workplace relations and several other factors.
Solutions to reduce burnout
When looking for solutions to reduce the burnout syndrome, there are 2 options: change yourself or change the environment.
When the employer notices the highest changes in even one employee, it is important to evaluate the work environment and all the above-mentioned aspects in relation to each of the employees. That is the time to create a safe environment and give the employees the opportunity to talk about their feelings. If necessary, there need to be an option to conduct employee questionnaires, encourage managers to promote valuable and deep conversations with employees, evaluate the prioritization and re-prioritization of duties.
The communication always will be the key solution in any relationship where a person is involved. Even if you as an employer have a lot of unknowns, however limited, but regular communication about the current situation – what we know, what we don’t know, what could be the development scenarios that are happening in similar other companies in the industry, which will affect the decisions we make, will always be better than silence, which can further lead to various rumors and insecurity, and additional stress among employees.
When you feel any of the symptoms of burnout syndrome, your task is to take responsibility and act, primarily finding what is causing the burnout. Setting boundaries with yourself and other colleagues, such as checking email only during work hours, limiting or temporarily giving up social media. Going for regular walks in nature and doing sports, devoting 7-8 hours to quality sleep. Don’t forget that your fuel is a high-quality, fresh and healthy food, just like a sufficient amount of water.
Additionally, I highly recommend the meditation which will allow your nerves to relax and regain balance. Meditation is the No. 1 natural stress reliever that relieves not only present stress, but also past stress. It ensures the immune system’s ability to work at full capacity and heal the body and spirit, relieving insomnia and anxiety.
When working remotely, remember, a routine still is needed – getting out of your pajamas, a schedule of when to start work, when to take a lunch break and 15 minutes of fresh air, it gives clarity to what to stick to. In addition, now you save the time you once spent on the road, so use it to your advantage – doing sports and going on interesting walks.
According to the World Health Organization classification, burnout is not classified as a medical condition, but as a workplace phenomenon. However, burnout can be the basis for medical problems, so act early.