Workplace burnout is a prime cause of concern, both for employees and companies. The inclusion of workplace burnout in the Handbook of Medical Diagnoses by the World Health Organization reveals the seriousness of this issue.

What is Workplace Burnout?

Burnout is the unceasing stress that physically and emotionally drains the energy and enthusiasm of an employee. According to the World Health Organization, workplace burnout has the following dimensions: 

  • Experiencing depleted energy levels and exhaustion. 
  • Develops a tendency of distance and elevated negative feelings towards their workplace and job.
  • Sense of lack of achievement at the workplace.
  • Consumes high time to finish simple tasks. 
  • Feelings such as days are wasted, unproductive, and unappreciated.

Workplace burnout often leaves the person feeling stressed and helpless, which decreases their productivity. More often than not, stresses that originate in a workplace seep into personal and social lives too. 

There is a thin line between feeling stressed and feeling burnt out. Stress occurs when a person is inundated with responsibilities. They usually feel better when they can get it under control. 

On the contrary, with workplace burnout, the opposite is true. Even if they are doing well in the jobs, employees may not feel satisfied enough or productive enough. This mindset eventually decreases their productivity and distances them from their jobs. In this way, workplace burnout is continual stress. 

How to identify workplace burnout?

Workplace burnout is not a clinically diagnosed condition. Hence, it may be tough to identify that a person is experiencing workplace burnout in the first place. However, human behavior reveals certain clues which when glued together give an understanding of the bigger picture. 

Here are some aspects that you can ask yourself to understand whether you are experiencing workplace burnout and the probable symptoms. Be sure to consider all points together, and not each of them individually (since individual factors don’t always point toward burnout, but together all of them do).

  • Chronic stress – Stress, as we learned earlier, is temporary and eases off when things are under control. On the other hand, workplace burnout is unceasing. Chances are that if the person is feeling stressed for more than a week or two, then it could be burnout. 
  • Consistent bad days – A few bad days every so often are common and expected at work. Burnout occurs when a person is not having any good and productive days at work – all workdays seem bad. This occurs when a company pushes too many demands onto a person, who is overwhelmed because they do not have the resources to accomplish the tasks. 
  • Feeling unproductive – This leads to scrambling to be productive with the resources that they do have. But the tasks are so huge and progress so little that the person comes away feeling unproductive — day after day, for weeks and months together. 
  • Lack of enthusiasm – The enthusiasm and excitement to go to work and accomplish projects are replaced with constant stress, the feeling of being unproductive, and surmounting pressures. 
  • Indifference and apathy – When workplace burnout stays with a person for more than a week, then they tend to distance themselves from the projects and work they love. The constant stress leads to a feeling of indifference, resulting in an uncaring attitude and apathy. 
  • Monotonous work – Workplace burnout occurs when the person is doing a routine, boring, and unchallenging work for a long time. The mind tends to become dull when it is not excited about its daily work. 
  • The threat with perfectionism – This trait is remarkable in people who are noted as high achievers. Aiming to become a perfectionist imposes immeasurable stress on the person. 
  • Performance pressure – People experiencing workplace burnout often have performance pressure at their work. They are likely sought out for their less-than-terrific work by their supervisors. 
Work pressure abstract concept vector illustration. stress management, work overload, chronic anxiety, physical health, emotional tension, deadline pressure, employee wellbeing abstract metaphor. Free Vector

How to Overcome Workplace Burnout?

Workplace burnout has so much to do with the work environment that the person is associated with. Subtle changes to the culture and attitude at the workplace could lead to a more relaxing atmosphere.

Seek those who matter

A large portion of the burnout is the feeling of a never-ending workload or that things are not manageable. 

  • Find good listeners – If you have a close friend or partner who is also a good listener, sharing your worry with them will ease the stress. 
  • Embrace positive environment – Humans as social beings, according to a publication in the National Institute of Health. We crave attention and love, and by seeking out those who matter to us to share stress, the worries become less daunting. Seek the guidance of people who can show you the situation in a positive light.
  • Reach out to coworkers – Chances are you are not the only person feeling that level of stress and anxiety. Those who work in the same company may be feeling that as well. Reach out to your coworkers for an after-office get-together to ease those tensions. 
  • Give way to positivity – Changing thought patterns helps. It could be learning to deal with negative thoughts or not being in a toxic environment with negative people. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Estimate what new skills you can learn and take the feedback constructively. Subtle changes in your mindset will fuel in you more positivity that keeps you pacing ahead at work in the long run.
Hang out concept illustration Free Vector

Take on reasonable amounts of work responsibility

  • Too much work can lead to stress – When there is too much on your plate, it can feel as if there’s no or very little progress. Humans tend to be encouraged with accomplishments. The drive to accomplish projects is good – it just has to be taken in the right doses. 
  • Talk to the boss – It’s always a good idea to get in touch with your boss and let them know how you feel at your workplace. If possible, request your workload to be reduced a little while you gain your energy back. Reducing the volume of your work means that you can accomplish the tasks that you do have. This will lead to a feeling of accomplishment, and things will start getting in control again. 
Businessman deadline problems cartoon Free Vector

Step back to rethink passions and motivations

  • The 9-to-5 is hazardous – When a person is stuck in the same go-go-go mindset, that’s when they begin to lose interest in their work. It happens even if they used to love their work before the workplace burnout set in. 
  • Take a step back to analyze your commitments – It is essential to take a break from work once in a while to understand where you are headed and check if that is the direction you want to be going in. In the chaos of everyday work and responsibilities, it is hard to take the time to think about the bigger picture. However, when burnout sets in, the very reason why a person joined a job may not feel interesting any longer. 
  • Lessen your work hours – Following up on the point to take on a reduced workload so that it is manageable, you could also request your supervisor that you want to work fewer hours. This way, you have more free time in the day to take on hobbies and destress.
  • Side projects – Work does not have to be all serious. It is possible to be productive at work and also work on side projects in your free time. You could take up projects in a different department in the same company. But this may come with responsibilities since it is the company’s resources and clients in the end. Or, you could start a hobby project of your own, outside of work hours. Working on creative projects takes the stress off the mind and refuels it to tackle the challenges the next day.

Balancing work and life doesn’t need to be elusive

  • Consider volunteering – The exact type of volunteering effort is entirely up to the person, as long as they give back to their community. Research suggests that finding the time to volunteer increases satisfaction and the sense of personal achievement. These traits often transfer back to the job and can increase your productivity. 
Social team helping charity and sharing hope Free Vector
  • Meet friends – The cycle of everyday work can leave one feeling disconnected from their community. It is all the more important to set up appointments (informal ones) with close friends. The plan could be to visit the new restaurant that opened up or to watch the latest movie in theatres. 
  • Define your boundaries, and don’t budge – As an employee working in a company, it is hard to say no. But you need to define your boundaries at work so that you are not inundated with calls and messages outside of work hours. You could let the calls go to voicemail, or set up the email such that any person reaching out to you receives an automatic reply that you are out of the office and will reach out when possible. 


Workplace burnout is stressful, emotionally draining, and can feel like an insurmountable obstacle sometimes. Recognizing the traits that lead to burnout and taking stock of necessary measures benefits a person to get back on track — one step at a time.

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