Six Tips for Avoiding and Addressing Burnout at Work

Much has been written about the recent increase in employee burnout. A quick search shows a variety of surveys on the topic, including Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey: Burnout Without Borders, Gallop’s Employee Burnout Causes and Cures, and Eagle Hill Consulting’s Federal Employee Experience Survey. While the surveys all look at different sectors, sample sizes, and time frames, one thing stands out: the majority – 50-75% – of workers have experienced burnout at some point.

That is a lot! According to the Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” They warn that unaddressed burnout can lead to insomnia, heart disease, substance abuse, and other illnesses.

Since this is a such a widespread concern, we decided to do some research. We asked Civilian Federal Employees for their ideas, and we heard recommendations from more than 200 of them! Here are our top six tips for avoiding and addressing burnout at work:

  1. Keep a balanced schedule: Feds ranked this as the number one way to keep burnout in check. Many of them felt extreme pressure navigating the pandemic while ensuring uninterrupted services for their fellow citizens. For those working at home, many worked longer hours given the lack of a commute and need to shelter in place.Scheduling is key for a balanced life, so prioritize energizing and refreshing non-work activities. Set a calendar reminder to take a lunch break, walk your dog, or connect with friends. Plan your downtime in advance and do your best to protect it. Time is a finite resource, so don’t overcommit or feel overwhelmed. This can be difficult, especially for parents and others of whom much is demanded, but making time for things you enjoy, and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, helps balance all areas of your life.
  2. Build movement and exercise into your routine: Feds ranked building exercise into their day as the second most popular way to stave off burnout. Check out Berkeley‘s University Health Services 50 Tips to Move More at Work.
  3. Build a transition routine: Before the pandemic, most Feds would not have ranked their commute as a highlight of their day. However, as the pandemic progressed, many missed the transition time their regular commute provided. Check out articles from The Washington Post and Harvard Business Reviewon transitioning between work and personal time. Remember to unplug work devices when possible on off hours, especially during meals and sleep time.
  4. Plan ahead for your vacation: Just planning a trip or staycation can help you recharge. It also lets your supervisor and team plan ahead. Check out this piece from Psychology Today.
  5. Talk to your supervisor: If you already feel burned-out, or feel yourself approaching it, offer your supervisor suggestions on how they can help. Approving a modified work schedule, being allowed to join an interesting project, or introducing a “meeting free” day can all make a big difference. Check out this piece from Sprout Social.
  6. Talk to your healthcare provider or agency’s employee assistance provider: If you are feeling the physical and mental effects of burnout, it might be time to speak with your personal health care provider or employee assistance plan for more personalized care.

Work burnout is real and can affect everyone. Figuring out which tools help stave off that feeling can improve both your mental and physical health.

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