According to a recent article by NPR, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified career burnout as becoming incredibly pervasive in the United States. So much so that in 2022, its International Classification of Diseases handbook will redefine career burnout as a “syndrome” linked to chronic stress at work.
There’s no vaccine to prevent career burnout. However, there are simple steps you can take before you become severely affected. As a career coach for nearly 20 years, I’ve found that when clients are feeling burnt out or disengaged from their job, more often than not it’s a subtle change that’s needed, like a simple shift in perspective.
However, when you’re overworked and struggling to balance your life and career, it can be difficult to figure out what’s wrong, let alone how to fix it. Read below for three signs that you’re heading for career burnout, along with simple strategies on how to fix it:
Career Burnout Sign #1: You’ve got a pile of unused vacation days
Roughly 30% of employees regret not having work-life balance, according to LinkedIn’s latest research. It’s important to keep in mind that work-life balance means something different to each person. You’ve got to figure out what it means to you, and how you can go about setting appropriate boundaries to achieve it. For some professionals, their ideal work-life balance might mean taking more vacation each year. To someone else it might mean working shorter hours.
Long-term, it’s important to determine if your current employer or work situation will allow you to achieve the type of balance you are seeking.
Short-term, try the following strategies to achieve better work-life balance:
Take regular breaks from work
Whether it’s looking forward to a lunch away from your desk a couple times per week or a short walk in between meetings, taking even just 20-30 minutes a day for yourself can do wonders for your energy and morale.
Talk with your supervisor or manager about what you are willing to do. For example, are you willing to respond to emails on the weekends and / or after business hours? If you communicate with your work during your vacation and time off, that’s what will be expected of you.
There’s a reason the US has been given the nickname, “The No Vacation Nation.” According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States is the only country among 36 of the world’s wealthiest nations that does not require employers to give workers annual paid leave. Translation: take your vacation days, because nobody is going to encourage you to do it. Prioritizing taking time each year to disconnect and re-charge your batteries is absolutely vital to staying satisfied with your career in both the short and long-term.
Career Burnout Sign #2: You’re just going through the motions
A common reason workers feel burnout is lack of passion for and engagement with their job. But before you quit, sell your worldly possessions, and start a brand new career, take some time to do some self-reflection. Try to figure out why you are feeling passionless in your job. Do you need to make a major change, or can you take smaller steps in your daily life toward feeling less burned out (see related, How to Recognize and Cope with Burnout at Home)?
If you feel a lack of passion in your personal and / or professional life, consider taking the following actions:
Talk to your manager and see if there’s another area or project that you can become involved with
Taking on more responsibility can seem daunting and scary at first, but by stepping outside of your comfort zone you will acquire valuable new skills. Learning new skills will also allow you to “future proof” your job. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018 revealed that roughly 50% of US workers will need to acquire new skills to keep pace with today’s rapid technological advancement.
Move to another department within your company
Let’s say you’re working for a large corporation in finance, but you’re discovering that you’re more of a people person than a numbers person. You don’t necessarily need to get a job with a brand new company. What about taking the human resources manager out for a latte and picking his/her brain about what they do all day?
You might be wondering: if I’m already feeling overworked why would I want to add more to my plate? What I recommend to clients is to choose a side hustle that they actually want to do. If you pick a side gig just for the extra cash, you will most likely not stay motivated for long. But if you choose something that truly feeds your soul, it could leave you feeling more energized and inspired at the end of your day.
Try a new hobby or sport, just for fun.
InstaMeet, Meetup, and Active are examples of platforms that offer both online forums and in-person events and opportunities to network and explore common interests and passions.
Career Burnout Sign #3: Your stress is becoming unmanageable
Do you find yourself losing sleep, weight, or having increasing levels of anxiety, stress, or depression? Rather than suffer silently and allow a situation to get worse, take control and seek help. There are many tools and support to help professionals hone stress-management and communication skills:
- If your physical and / or mental health is deteriorating, seeking the help of a medical doctor, therapist, or coach. These types of trained professionals can do wonders for quickly identifying the root cause of your stress, as well as providing you with support and steps toward getting it under control. There is no shame in admitting you need help.
- LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare, and Udemy are examples of online learning platforms that offer an extensive variety of courses and training on topics like communication skills, time / stress management, leadership training, decision-making strategies, and much more.
- More of a book person? Check out Amazon for self-help best-sellers like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships.
- Seek out a mentor at work or in your field. Having a professional mentor who can be a good sounding board and who can hold you accountable can have a an incredibly positive impact on your career.
Try not to wait until you are miserable in your career to take action and make changes. Even the most satisfied professionals need to “work” at staying healthy and motivated in their jobs. Taking small steps periodically toward self-improvement in the short-term will have dramatic effects on your long-term career satisfaction and success.