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Burnouts: when your job burns you out

Burnout, or job burnout, is a form of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that arises in conditions of lasting, intense stress at work. It takes hold gradually and more or less quickens, depending on the individual’s ability to withstand stress. The process starts with an enthusiastic, very energetic attitude, and very high goals as well as a high level of personal investment in the job. When the efforts made do not meet one‘s personal demands and those of one’s employer, the individual doubles his or her efforts, but does not receive the expected recognition. Disillusionment and a strong feeling of frustration then follow, expressed as a loss of motivation and of prospects, as well as a multitude of negative sentiments. The afflicted person ends up being extremely discouraged, loses all interest in his or her work, family and friends, becomes aggressive, and is no longer able to work.

Symptoms of burnout

Burnout manifests itself through different physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms. From a physical standpoint, it is characterized by continuous fatigue and a variety of problems, often stress-related: pain, gastrointestinal disturbances, persistent viral infections, skin problems, insomnia, weight fluctuations, etc. Emotionally, job burnout can cause a loss of motivation, frustration, anxiety, or despair. The individual has a negative attitude towards him or herself and towards others. At the cognitive level, burnout is expressed in particular as memory loss and difficulty concentrating. The person also becomes vulnerable to developing an addiction (alcohol, drugs, etc.). Just a few of these symptoms can serve as a warning and prompt a request for the aid of a health-care professional or a psychologist, in order to reassess personal and professional priorities, and to then take appropriate action.

Factors that contribute to job burnout

Burnout can happen to any worker. It is the result of individual factors and work-related problems. Perfectionists, people with a high level of professional conscience or who are unable to delegate, along with introverts, people with low self-esteem, and the emotionally unstable are all at particular risk of burnout. At work, several factors can lead to burnout: intense stress, work overload, lack of independence, poorly-defined responsibilities, imbalance between the effort made and the recognition received (pay, esteem, respect, etc.).

Preventing burnout

In a company, the prevention of burnout is the responsibility of both the employees and the employer. This can be achieved primarily by reducing stress factors.

As an employee

  • Surround yourself with supportive people and discuss your problems with friends and family.
  • Watch out for stress-related symptoms, identify their causes, and find solutions.
  • Do not let frustrations build up; discuss the organization of work with your colleagues and superiors, in order to define changes that would be helpful to you (more realistic and more gratifying objectives, list of priority tasks, etc.).
  • Learn to say no to excessive tasks, and learn to delegate.
  • Take your mind off things during lunch and for a few minutes each hour of work (music, stretching, meditation, etc.).
  • Set hours during which you are available for work and stick to them, especially by cutting off means of communication (Internet, cellphone, etc.).

  • Analyze your lifestyle and eliminate those habits that contribute to stress, such as the overconsumption of stimulants in food and drink (coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco, etc.).

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take the time to enjoy life. Devote some time to recreation.

As an employer

  • Define the roles and responsibilities of your employees clearly and fairly, show confidence in them, and include them in decision-making.
  • Show your recognition with marks of appreciation: respect, encouragement, possibility of promotion, a pay raise, etc.
  • Encourage communication and mutual aid, and settle conflicts quickly by discussing them openly.
  • Do not create inequalities or too much competition between employees.
  • Be available to listen, and pay attention.
  • Create pleasant working conditions that are compatible with personal life: reasonable, flexible hours, well-organized workspaces, appropriate tools, childcare service, etc.

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