How to Prevent Workplace Burnout



By: Stacy McClain, NASM-CPT

Are you feeling stressed out…like you can’t get ahead? Unmotivated? Underappreciated? Overloaded? Is it a struggle to get yourself to work every day? If you nodded yes to any of these, you may be experiencing or heading towards burnout.

As of June 2019, ‘burnout’ was officially classified as a clinical medical condition by the World Health Organization .” It is defined as, “a syndrome, resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed and is characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job (including negativism or cynicism), and reduced professional efficacy.

Burnout extends beyond the typical workplace stress and can be extremely costly for an employer. Employees experiencing burnout have a much higher risk for disease, take more sick days, are less productive in the office, and are more likely to quit. With an estimated two-thirds of full-time workers experiencing burnout on the job companies are paying up to $4.6 billion annually in missed work and increased healthcare costs.   

The good news is that burnout is a preventable and treatable condition and can be improved with deliberate and simple changes in lifestyle from both a leadership and individual standpoint.

For Leadership teams:

The people with the highest ability to change burnout statistics are those in power – managers, supervisors and executives. As a leader in your company, you set the tone for the company’s culture. There are numerous ways to reduce burnout among employees, and your support is vital to the overall success of the organization. Here are a few ways you can help:

Talk about stress and burnout: Discussing the signs leading up to burnout not only creates awareness, but also invites employees to speak up if they are nearing exhaustion. Not being able to handle stress is often viewed as a weakness in the workplace. Talking openly about burnout reduces the stigma, and creates a safe space for employees to ask for help before negative effects of burnout start to set in.

Assess the workplace: Each workplace and employee make up is unique. What works for one company, does not work for another. What works for a company one year may look completely different the next. Conduct regular surveys to assess problem areas. The survey can be as simple as “What are the top 3 sources of stress in your work day?” “What are your suggestions on how to make our culture better.” Once you get your answers, take action to improve.

Allow flexibility within the work day: Allow employees to take small mental or physical breaks throughout the day to relieve stress. Lead by example.

Focus on wellness: Promoting physical activity, stress management, and proper nutrition teaches employees healthy habits that creates resiliency and can aid in reducing burnout. Offering a wellness program as part of the compensation package signals to your employees that their health is a priority and that you value their wellbeing.

Build a positive culture: Employees who enjoy coming to work will burn out far less frequently than those who loathe their jobs. Hosting office events during lunch or after work and giving half days before holidays are a couple examples of actions that help boost morale. And on that note…

Recognize success: Every employee wants to feel needed and appreciated. A small compliment to someone’s work can go a long way. In addition to applauding employees for good work, it’s equally as important to recognize those that practice healthy habits throughout their day as well as work/life balance. Redefine success, and teach employees that good work doesn’t have to mean longer hours.

Give lower employees voice and control: Whether it’s asking for their advice in a meeting or giving them the freedom to plan their schedule or growth track within the company, employees need to feel purposeful in order to stay motivated in the job.

Provide education and development: Oftentimes, burnout comes from feeling stuck in the monotony of everyday tasks. Providing education and development gives employees the opportunity to grow and provides motivation to move forward.


For Individuals:

Unfortunately some of you reading this, may not have leadership support or be in work environments that you can easily change. In that case, you can still take action towards working against burnout. Here are some ideas:

Take breaks: Even if your office doesn’t allow long breaks during the day or flexible work hours, you can take mini breaks throughout the day. Go on a 10 minute walk during lunch. Take a 5 minute reset and listen to your favorite song. Do a lap around the office. Stand up and stretch.

Delegate tasks where you can: If you feel stressed out or overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do, ask for help.

Make friends with your coworkers: The support and comradery you gain through the relationships at work make you 7 times more likely to be engaged in your work.  

Create a space you love: Put a plant on your desk. Hang pictures of loved ones. Get a comfy chair. Bring your favorite coffee mug. You spend 8+ hours a day at work, design an environment that makes you happy.

Sign up for your own self-development courses: If your company doesn’t offer continued education, look for options outside your office. General Assembly offers a variety of courses in various locations. LinkedIn Learning , Khan Academy and Coursera all have great online offerings as well. You can also attend networking events to learn and interact with people from your industry. It requires a little extra effort, but sometimes taking matters into your own hands is even more gratifying in the end.

Find meaning in your quality of work: When you’re feeling unhappy and underappreciated in your job, many people tend to retaliate by reducing effort and doing the bare minimum. However this oftentimes just adds to your overall unhappiness and stunts growth. Instead, focus on producing high quality work. Your work is a reflection of you, and it is something you can easily control. Take back some power and tap into your internal motivation.

Exercise and eat right: Do not let your health take a back seat to stress. It will only make it worse. You need to have proper energy and strength to fight through the challenges. Make health a priority and view it as a tool to help you succeed.

Make time for the things that you love every day: Again, when stress comes in and you’re feeling overwhelmed, hobbies and free time seem to get pushed off. Those things are what give you life. Try to find a way where you can still have time to yourself and your passions (even if it’s only 10 minutes).

Talk to your supervisor: Even supervisors with good intentions can miss the signals of burnout. They may not know you need help until you ask.

Work somewhere that aligns with your values: You can only do so much. Sometimes a workplace just isn’t the right environment or the job doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. If you’ve tried all of the above options, and you are still feeling the effects of burnout, it may be time to find something that is a better fit with your values and goals.


Remember, the best option to reduce burnout is prevention. Know the warning signs, and practice habits that help you and your employees avoid states of prolonged stress and unhappiness.   

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