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Managing job burnout during a crisis


In 2020 professionals no longer have ‘a job for life’ and the younger they are, the more likely they are to want to move around.

Dubbed ‘the job hopping generation,’ nearly half of UK millennials plan to change jobs after two years. Their younger siblings Generation Z are similarly unfazed about career change, and would rather switch roles to work at a mission led organisation with purposeful goals.

With both groups dominating the workforce, their shared goal of seeking job satisfaction means some will find themselves in roles they no longer find rewarding, leaving them demotivated and wanting to seek new opportunities elsewhere. Faced with the reality of staying put until that opportunity presents itself, they may experience something called ‘job burnout.’

While job burnout isn’t a medical condition, it’s something that’s recognised by the likes of The World Health Organisation and the Mayo Clinic. Considered to be a form of “work-related stress”, job burnout presents both physical and emotional symptoms. However, it’s not only millennials or Generation Z professionals that experience it.

The condition affects employees of all ages and even people who want to stay with a business. Job burnout can be a symptom of depression, the result of a changing work culture, poor leadership and/or management, or workload related.

If an employee is acting burned out, managers may have to assess their management skills as well as the wider work culture in their organisation. While these conversations may require some eating of humble pie, they could improve the way a business operates, ensuring higher staff satisfaction and productivity in the long term.

Add to this the prolonged period of social isolation professionals are experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic, and job burnout could be affecting people who usually enjoy their jobs. This makes it important that employers understand the causes of job burnout in order to retain their best staff, recharge their wellbeing and maintain productivity.

Here are the common symptoms managers or colleagues may see from someone suffering from job burnout;

  • cynical behaviour
  • being overly critical
  • lack of motivation
  • trouble getting started
  • irritability and impatience
  • lack of energy
  • lack of productivity
  • lack of concentration

There are also symptoms that someone with job burnout could be experiencing that their colleagues are unaware of, such as;

  • feeling dissatisfied with work achievements
  • feelings of disillusionment
  • partaking in food, alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism
  • disrupted sleep
  • physical ailments such as headaches and stomach aches

If it’s established that a person isn’t experiencing burnout due to non-work related factors, such as depression or other personal issues, here are some of the potential causes of job burnout;

1. Feeling overstretched

The sufferer may feel they have little to no say in their workload, job priorities and work schedule. They may also feel that they are doing too much with too few resources.

2. Lack of leadership and work expectations

Feeling unclear about line management and what a manager’s expectations are can make anyone feel unstable in a job and can lead to burnout.

3. Poor work culture and relations

Feeling micromanaged, bullied by a colleague or a victim of office politics (including being a subject of gossip or being undermined) are all examples of a poor work culture which can lead to stress and job burnout.

4. A highly demanding or demotivating job

Whether a job is demanding and leaves an employee feeling they have a poor work/life balance or whether a role feels slow, monotonous and demotivating, both types of jobs require a lot of mental and emotional energy to navigate, which can trigger feelings of burnout.

While the warning signs of job burnout can appear extensive, there are things that employers and managers can do to support sufferers and alleviate their symptoms. These include;

1. Having an open and collaborative discussion about burnout

It’s important that employers create an environment where employees feel comfortable to approach managers or HR staff to discuss job burnout. The employee should feel comfortable to raise any concerns they have in relation to their workplace stress with the idea that solutions can be found and goals set to make them feel calmer, happier and re-motivated in their role going forward.

2. Encouraging wellbeing programmes and flexibility at work

Mental and physical health are essential to employee wellbeing and productivity, so whether it’s organising a Zoom fitness class, a yoga and meditation session, or even giving staff extra time in the day to go for a walk, try and implement a flexible pro-fitness and wellbeing culture at work, as this could prevent burnout during the coronavirus pandemic.


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