Imagine a single gorilla in the forest trying to gather all the bananas without help from a few others. Seriously, this is no monkey business!
Burnout is a very grave matter. UC Berkeley researchers Maslach and Goldberg describe job burnout as including symptoms of exhaustion, frustration, and anger, as well as feelings of ineffectiveness and failure, in their 1998 article in Applied & Preventive Psychology (7:63-74).
They point out that the typical response to worker burnout is to either quit, or stay and become less productive by doing the bare minimum. Staying at a job where you are burned out results in decreased productivity and can seriously damage your long-term career goals.
Quitting spontaneously without a plan is a poor idea as well. If you feel like you are on the verge of burnout or have already experienced burnout, here are a few things to ponder:
- Sometimes corporate culture can play a critical role in employee burnout. If your firm encourages an atmosphere based on fear and criticism, you may want to consider seeking a new role at a company that has a healthier environment. Research companies carefully to avoid going from the frying pan to the fire. This will include speaking to people that already work there and conducting internet research using websites that provide reputable insider information.
- Reevaluate all of your tasks. There is no sense in picking the bruised bananas off the tree or selecting the ones that aren’t quite ripe yet. In other words, if you are doing things that aren’t bearing fruit, consider paring down your responsibilities. (A double pun!) By identifying areas where you can save time, you will reduce your workload. This will not diminish your contributions – rather you will focus on the priorities and likely improve your productivity. Work smarter, not harder.
- Take frequent breaks. Even though you may be extremely busy, taking time to recharge your battery will help empower you. According to researchers, when you don’t take time to recharge, you actually become less productive. Professor Alan Hedge, PhD from the Cornell University Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory conducted several studies that conclusively determined planned breaks can measurably improve productivity. I realize it is hard to take a break when you feel that all of the work is looming over your head. I also know from personal experience that it is extremely important. In the long run, breaks will help you work more efficiently so you make fewer errors.
- If you have vacation time, use it to do something relaxing. Don’t plan to take time off and then spend it cleaning out your garage. Instead, do things you enjoy. Plan activities that will recharge your battery. According to a research study conducted in 2009 that appeared in the Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, spending time enjoying leisure activities outside of work leads to positive improvements in both physical and mental function.
While there are times a job change is in order, sometimes making a few practical modifications to your work situation and doing things to avoid job burnout is all that is needed. The main thing is to take your feelings of burnout seriously and address the problem before it undermines your career, your health, and your happiness!