Identifying, acknowledging and dealing with the threat of burnout

Angela de Souza discusses the struggles to avert workplace burnout and its subsequent effect on mental health.


Feeling depleted, detached or despondent? Lacking energy or suffering from lethargy? Sounds familiar? Well, you could be experiencing signs of burnout. Burnout is described by Mental Health UK as a ‘state of physical and emotional exhaustion.’ It is often caused by the pressures of the workplace.

In a survey of 1,500 workers, undertaken by employment website Indeed and titled Employee Burnout Report, they discovered that 52% had experienced symptoms related to burnout. And 67% believe that burnout worsened during the pandemic.

Common signs of burnout include feeling: Overwhelmed; Physically, mentally and emotionally depleted; Isolated from everyone around you; Defeated or deflated; Unproductive and lethargic.

Individuals regularly mistake burnout for stress. While stress is alleviated once you have gained control of the situation, burnout is rather sneaky. It starts eating away slowly and you seldom notice until it’s too late. Burnout even persists to the point of giving up on even the smallest of tasks, because you have simply lost hope in your ability to overcome obstacles of any size.

To quote an article by career coach Rachel Montañez, she says: “The old you has disappeared, and all you’re left with is the physical and emotional residue of burnout – and a shell of yourself.” Workplace burnout impedes career growth. It also hinders personal growth because of the knock-on effect regarding your general wellbeing.

All in all, it is vital that employers and employees tackle burnout seriously by introducing preventative measures. It is a topic which needs to be handled with the utmost importance and never ignored. Workplace burnout can be the result of a heavy workload, time pressure, and a difficulty to separate professional and personal life, along with a lack of support.

To paint a picture, being unable to cope with your workload may come from an inability to control and juggle the quantity of work you’re given. This is especially common where deadlines are involved.

This could result in longer hours, thus disrupting your work-life balance. As a consequence you take fewer breaks; you start to feel unrecognised; you lack fulfilment and your motivation drops. In short, you may discover that taking on longer hours is actually self-defeating.

Possible solutions:

Take control

Look at ways at which you may be able to delegate certain roles. This could help to create more time for certain tasks that may be considered more important or require special attention, or are particularly time-consuming and complicated. Clarify your job expectations. Are you being asked to carry out more work than you have ‘signed up to’? The key is always to develop a good work-life balance.

Flexible hours

Burnout can result in underperformance which ultimately leads to more pressure as you seek to improve the quality of your work. With greater workplace demands, comes more underperformance. It becomes a vicious cycle. Employers may be able to offer flexible hours that will allow you more control over your work schedules. Perhaps you can take the stress out of travelling by working from home two or three days a week, which may also help to maintain or even improve productivity.

Highlight what’s important 

Burnout often comes from a lack of personal fulfilment. Spending time doing enjoyable activities is the key to a happy life. And the knock-on effect is that this will boost your energy for when you go to work. Perhaps it’s spending time with family and friends, or engaging in some of your favourite hobbies, such as participating in a sport? Whatever it is, remember to make time for it. 


It may come as no surprise but by adopting a self-care plan will certainly help. We know that overcoming burnout can be a lengthy process. For that to be effective, both you and your employers need to accept that a person’s wellbeing has to be handled with care. By engaging in practices such as exercise, good sleeping habits, meditation, yoga and taking your food intake seriously, these are all steps in the right direction.

Ask for help

This happens in many different ways and from a range of sources: Maybe via your manager, a colleague, a family member or a friend. It provides you with a support system where you can share your worries, while receiving advice from someone who offers a different perspective.

Although the idea of putting yourself first is foreign for some people, it sometimes needs to happen. You need to acknowledge that however important you feel work is to your life, it should not be put above your own personal well-being. This must be the starting point in your battle to either avoid or recover from burnout.

In conclusion, it’s important to understand that employee wellness is the responsibility of both the employer and employee. We must never underestimate the importance of good mental health, while employers must provide healthy workplaces. Only then will this serious problem start to decrease.

Angela De Souza
Angela De Souza

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