Modern day life has drastically changed the world of work, and with that comes more stressors and difficultly managing a healthy work-life balance, which unfortunately can result in burnout.
Many people in the UK today must juggle longer hours at work, bigger workloads, childcare, family life and social life, so it should come to no surprise that an estimated 3 in 10 workers in the UK experience burnout.
If left unchecked, burnout can be dangerous, developing into more serious mental, emotional, and physical health problems, so it is important to spot the signs as early as possible and learn what you can do about it.
Burnout is a physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion which can be brought about through long-term work-related stress which leaves a person feeling a sense of reduced accomplishment or loss of personal identity. This is especially common in workplaces across the UK today, with more people working in stressful jobs and being expected to undertake larger workloads.
Common symptoms of burnout include:
- A lack of satisfaction from achievements.
- Being cynical or critical.
- Feeling disillusioned.
- Feeling tired/drained all the time.
- Feeling helpless and trapped.
- Feeling defeated, detached or alone.
- Finding it difficult to go to work or get started.
- Finding it hard to concentrate on anything.
- Being negative.
- Feelings of self-doubt.
- Getting irritated easily by colleagues, your employer, or customers.
- Lack of energy to be productive.
- Taking longer to do things.
- Using alcohol, drugs, or substances to feel better.
- You get overwhelmed easily.
If these apply to you, then you are most likely experiencing burnout at work and should consider seeking support immediately from your trade union (us!), trade union rep, employer or a medical professional such as your GP or a mental health provider.
Burnout at work is typically brought on by poor workplace practices, policies, or a bad working environment. Common causes of burnout at work include:
- A lack of control over your schedule, workload, decision-making or assignments.
- Extremes of workload (if a job is too monotonous or chaotic, it can cause burnout).
- Lack of reward or recognition for achievements.
- No social support, especially for lone, flexible or hybrid workers.
- Poor relationships with colleagues or employers.
- Poor workplace dynamics.
- Unclear expectations or authority.
- Unfair treatment or bias.
- Unmanageable workload.
- Working in a stressful industry or sector.
- Working long hours without sufficient breaks.
- Work-life imbalance.
If ignored or left for too long, burnout at work can have serious consequences, including:
- Being more susceptible to illness.
- Heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Increased sadness, anger, and irritability.
- Lack of sleep and insomnia.
- Misuse of alcohol, drugs, or substances.
- Type 2 diabetes.
Burnout is something that doesn’t go away on its own – if left alone, it can develop into more serious mental, emotional, and physical issues, so it is important to recognise when you are starting to feel burnt out as early as possible and address it.
Unfortunately, along with ill mental health, burnout is also misunderstood and stigmatised, causing a lot of people who experience it to feel like they are alone, putting their health, wellbeing, and productivity at risk.
The most important thing you can do is recognise when you are feeling burnt out. Here are some things you can consider:
Speak to your employer
Your employer has a responsibility to keep you safe at work, including from burnout as it can lead to serious health problems which put you, and potentially your colleagues and customers at risk. They should work with you to change expectations, evaluate workload, change deadlines, and tackle any issues which are causing you to feel burnt out.
Speak to your trade union rep
Your Community reps are on-hand to support you at work with any issues you are experiencing, including when you feel burnt out or stressed. If you don’t feel confident speaking to your employer alone, your rep can talk you through it and help find the support you need.
Speak to your trade union
As your trade union, we are here for you – if you don’t feel confident raising this with your employer, or your employer is unsupportive, contact our member service centre to speak to one our trained advisors and see what steps you can take.
Seek emotional support
Simply reaching out to your colleagues, friends and family for support and collaboration will have a positive impact.
Seek medical support
If you have tried other recommendations and techniques and feel they aren’t helping – you can speak to a medical professional like your GP who may issue a sick note (also known as a fit note) to excuse you from work while you recover.
Exercise is key
It is proven that regular physical activity and exercise can help to deal with stressful situations and take your mind off work. P.S. As a Community member, you can get discounts and offers at over 3,600 gyms in the UK. Click here to find out more.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep will help to rejuvenate you, make you feel more relaxed, make you more productive and protect your health and wellbeing.
Not drinking enough water can negatively impact your mood as without it, your body doesn’t produce enough tryptophan which boosts your serotonin levels (also known as the “feel good” chemical).
Mindfulness is where you focus on your breathing and making yourself aware of how you’re feeling at every moment.
Learn something new
As a Community member, you also have access to over 650 free learning and training opportunities, including courses on mindfulness, improving your sleep and around mental health. If you are interested in taking our mindfulness course, click here to contact our Community Learn team who will be happy to help.
Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a legal obligation to support and manage employees’ health and safety, including from burnout. As a part of this, they must conduct a risk assessment if one of their employees are feeling burnt out which should identify what the issues are, and put measures in place to tackle them. Other ways they can support you include:
- Reducing your workload.
- Investigating the issue(s) and taking appropriate action.
- Implementing a wellbeing plan.
- Regularly checking in with you.
If your employer is unsupportive, or if they are the reason you are feeling burnt out, contact Community immediately for support.
That’s great that you want to support your colleague(s) experiencing burnout. Here are a few things you can consider:
- Encourage them to talk.
- Respect how they feel.
- Encourage them to seek support (this could be from their trade union Rep, employer or even their doctor).
- Don’t jump to conclusions.
- Respect their confidentiality. Don’t discuss how they’re feeling with others without their consent unless you are concerned for their safety and the safety of the people around them.
- Work together to find a solution to help them if they’re finding it difficult to find support.
At Community, we are dedicated to tackling the stigma surrounding burnout and ill mental health in UK workplaces – that’s why we offer courses for our members on becoming mental health first aiders. Click here to find out more.
We also offer learning courses on managing stress, techniques on reducing stress, reducing stress through meditation and visuals, improving your mental health and more. If you are interested in taking any of these courses or sign posting your colleague(s), click here to contact our Community Learn team who will be happy to help.
You may also be interested in encouraging your employer to create a safe working environment where employees are encouraged to openly discuss if they are struggling, or their mental health is taking a turn for the worst. If you are interested in looking after the health, safety, and wellbeing of your colleagues at work, find out more about becoming a Community Health and Safety Rep.
If you need help or advice, please contact us at email@example.com or on 0800 389 6332.
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