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How to Prevent Burnout At Work

How to Prevent Burnout at Work

How to Prevent Burnout at Work

What is burnout?

Burnout at work - or "employee burnout" - is a term denoting a "negative emotional state" that causes people to become less productive, or fall ill, or even quit work, because they are intellectually and emotionally depleted, to the point where they cannot continue working.

Is work burnout preventable?

Employee burnout, like every problem, has specific causes which create and sustain its existence.

If we can identify and remove the causes of employee burnout, then we can help people who are already suffering from it and prevent it from happening to anyone else.

What are the causes of employee burnout?

There are four major causes of burnout at work, categorised into two major sets, each containing two subsets.

Intellectual overwhelm: The volume overload of people's intellect.

  1. Over an extended time, too much intellectual demand being imposed.
  2. A failure to prioritise properly.

Emotional overwhelm: Not enough or the wrong social support.

  1. Lack of social support.
  2. Too much of the wrong kind of social support.

Let's break each possible cause of burnout down further and look at how they can be prevented.

1. Too much intellectual demand

Intellectual stress, like all stressors, has three constituent parts: intensity, duration and frequency.

Here is the principle you must understand:

(Intensity) and (Duration + Frequency) are mutually exclusive.

A person can work hard (Intensity), or they can work long (Duration + Frequency), but NOBODY can work hard and long, without suffering a painful consequence: burnout.

Example: You can sprint flat-out, for a short time or jog for a long time, but NOBODY can sprint for a long time. It is impossible. If people work too hard for too long, they collapse. This is true of both the human body and the human mind.

Countermeasure: balance the workload.

We must not think that if a person can work at 100% intensity for a week, that they can do it again the next week, and again the week after. They cannot.

The work system must include recuperation.

Failure to recuperate causes failure.

Therefore, work managers must be cautious not to overload their best people, because if they do, they will crush them under too heavy a workload.

Point one: Balance the load.

2. A failure to prioritise properly

Nobody can do everything simultaneously. So, everyone should learn to prioritise. Prioritisation is the art of putting things into their logical order. Failure to prioritise means that we do things in the wrong order, which causes problems, errors and omissions. Which in turn, causes stress and can lead to burnout at work.

Countermeasure: learn to prioritise effectively

Learn to prioritise by following this link to our free prioritisation app. Or better still, attend our productivity training.

3. Lack of social support

Humans are social animals. If we are isolated for too long, we suffer. Lockdown has imposed social isolation on millions of people. That has negative consequences that must be compensated for.

Countermeasure: increase social support for colleagues, friends and family

What can we do? We must do everything possible to increase the intensity, frequency and duration of social support that we give to our colleagues, friends and family.

Whatever we can do to help, we must do.

4. Too much of the wrong kind of social support

We are affected by other people's emotions. If we surround ourselves with people who are angry, fearful, stressed and depressed, then that becomes a different kind of stress.

Countermeasure: minimise pessimism and defeatism

We should minimise the time we spend talking to people in pessimistic and defeated terms, because this only makes us feel worse.

We should maximize the contact we have with people whose conversation is optimistic, goal focused and enthusiastic.

We create and sustain positive mental attitudes, by learning emotional intelligence techniques. We maximise time spent talking about our plans to build a better future.

The next steps

If you want to know more about improving your productivity by eliminating employee burnout, please follow this link.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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