The start of a new year often brings rejuvenation and excitement about things that lie ahead. However, as time progresses, work overload, inadequate compensation, lack of appreciation and a host of other factors can find employees on the road to job burnout.
For employees with disabilities, this burnout can be compounded by accompanying issues, including lack of adequate accommodations, commute problems, and management of other disability-related demands.
What is Job Burnout?
Job burnout is a specific type of work-related stress that includes physical and/or emotional exhaustion and is characterized by varying factors. These can include:
- Lack of motivation or energy at work
- Irritability and/or cynicism
- Increased frustration
- Excessive absences
- Continual exhaustion
- Lack of sleep or appetite
- Constant isolation
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
- Lack of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Procrastination or continual errors on assignments
- Use of food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
How Can You Prevent Job Burnout?
Whether you are starting to notice signs of job burnout, or you feel that you’re already immersed in it, there are positive strategies you can implement to prevent it from taking a significant toll on you:
- Practice Self-Care – Often when we experience stress or other symptoms that lead to burnout, we tend to ignore ourselves first. When it comes to preventing burnout, it’s important to identify activities and practices that help sustain positive self-care. This includes practicing healthy lifestyle habits, such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting sufficient sleep, and doing some form of physical activity/exercise. Simply practicing these few things will ensure greater mental, physical, and emotional stamina.
- Take Needed Breaks…or even a Vacation – Sometimes stepping away from your computer a few times a day and stretching can provide the rejuvenation needed to remain motivated at work. Other times, a more extended break is required. While not everyone can afford to take a luxury vacation, sometimes taking a complete cut-off from work is necessary to prevent long-lasting burnout. Effective breaks include choosing not to respond to work-related phone calls or emails. Ideally, they also include participating in activities and hobbies that make you happy.
- Spend Time with Those Who Bring You Joy – Choosing to spend time with those you’re close with, including friends and family, can be very therapeutic. Not only does this serve as a stress reliever, but it can also provide a greater sense of identity, as these are the people who will be most supportive when times are hard. Also, when you choose to share about your experiences, family and friends are often the greatest sources of encouragement.
- Request Accommodations/Practice Disability Disclosure – Employees with disabilities can often experience job burnout when they don’t have the appropriate reasonable accommodations in place to help them effectively perform their job functions.
If you have a disability, you can speak with your manager or human resources department about how to request accommodations. While you’re not required to disclose your disability with your employer, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if you would like an accommodation you must let them know you need an adjustment for a medical-related reason.
- Connect with or start an Employee Resource Group (ERG) – For many employees, having an opportunity to connect with coworkers that have similar life and work experiences can play a significant role in preventing burnout. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) were designed to meet this need, offering space for employees with similar characteristics or life experiences to gather. While traditionally organized by race, gender, or culture, more recently, the emergence of disability-focused ERGs (Kellogg’s Kapable, Rolls-Royce’s Abilities Network, Lincoln Financial’s People with Disabilities group) has also proven beneficial for the productivity of employees with disabilities and their employers.
For people with disabilities, not only do ERGs provide opportunities for them to network and gain support from those with similar experiences, but they also provide opportunities to address disability-related workplace concerns. If your workplace doesn’t have an ERG that you can plug into, speak with your manager about getting one started.
- Seek Professional Guidance – Quite often, people seek guidance from a counselor or other mental health professional when they’re at their breaking points. However, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help before a concern escalates. Therapy not only can help provide solutions for traumatic or life-altering experiences, but it can also help you learn to manage your stressors and provide problem-solving techniques that will prevent burnout.
- Set Healthy Boundaries – Setting healthy boundaries can vary in form, but all typically yield positive results. For some, it may mean setting workplace boundaries around the timeframe you work (i.e. limiting overtime); the space you will work in (i.e. working in privacy); or how and when you will respond to messaging (i.e. not answering emails outside of office hours).
For others, healthy boundaries may need to be placed around workplace relationships, including limiting the amount of time you spend with those who come across negatively. Negativity has a general tendency to darken moods.
- Prioritize Your Time – A key symptom of job burnout is feeling overwhelmed. While sometimes we may not have the power to manage our job responsibilities, we can often manage our time. Taking opportunities to plan, delegate, and execute tasks based on their priority levels can alleviate feelings of being overwhelmed or overworked.
- Develop Realistic Goals – Often burnout occurs when we set expectations for ourselves that are difficult to achieve, and thus, we experience disappointment. Choose to take consistent moments to evaluate where you want to go, then revisit those often. A great tip is to make SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based) goals that are clearly defined and determine not to be hard on yourself if things don’t quite go as planned.
For additional support on how to prevent job burnout, contact the Getting Hired team.
Contributions to this blog were made by Andraéa LaVant of Solutions Marketing Group.