Breaking Down Burnout at Work

77% of people have experienced burnout at work. 

79% of workers feel “at or beyond workload capacity.”

1 in 4 professionals rarely, and sometimes never, take all of their vacation days.

These staggering statistics highlight a jarring fact: Burnout is here, it is impacting our workplace communities, and it is something we need to talk about. 

In this article, we’re diving into the nitty gritty on all things burnout. With expert insight from two of our recruiters, Sarah Morgan and Darren Hill, we’ll be covering what it actually means to be burned out, ways to recognize its early stages, and how it’s linked to imposter syndrome.

What it Means to Experience Burnout at Work

At its core, burnout is much more than a mindset shift or negative thinking. Burnout, in its truest form, is a type of work-related stress that stems from experiencing job demands that outweigh our ability to cope with them. 

Experiencing burnout does not mean that you are “weak” or “incapable”, and it doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong. It is, however, a signal that your energy may be spent on demands that don’t align with your well-being as a human. 

Posing lasting impacts on our emotional, mental, and physical health (both inside and outside of work!), discussing burnout in the workplace may be more important now than ever before.

The Types of Burnout

There are three commonly noted types of burnout, each featuring different causes and implications. We’ve highlighted each of them below.

Overload Burnout occurs when overworking leads to exhaustion. This is the most common type of burnout and one that most people are familiar with. 

Under-challenged Burnout refers to a loss of engagement or purpose at work. It occurs when you are bored or unstimulated by workplace tasks, and it can lead to rapid decreases in motivation and frustration. 

Worn-out Burnout factors into disengagement due to a lack of structure or support in the workplace. It is most prevalent when you find it difficult to keep up with work or meet expectations and can lead to high stress or uncertainty.

Burnout Looks Different For Everyone

As you can see here, burnout can (and does!) look different for everyone. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, but we can shed some light on the common signs, impacts, and types of burnout. 

As Darren explains best, “It’s important to acknowledge that burnout can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, if your work is complex or simple, if you’re a CEO or entry-level employee.” So, regardless of whether you’re days or decades into your career, the types of burnout above may play a part in your story. We are here to help you work through it.

3 Early Indicators of Burnout

Now that we have covered the basics and identified the various burnout types, let’s take a closer look at 3 key indicators pointing toward the early stages of burnout, as highlighted by Sarah and Darren.

1. You Can Feel the Physical Impacts

Whether it be reduced sleep, consistent headaches, feeling sluggish, or even being sick to your stomach, burnout can be a lot more than a mental mindset. In fact, the physical impacts of burnout may be the first, most notable sign of it being on the horizon. 

The research speaks for itself, as employees who experience burnout at work are reported to have a 180% increased risk of developing depressive disorders and a 40% increased risk of hypertension. 

While internalizing and processing feelings of burnout, stress can come to fruition within our thought processes, energy, and emotional well-being – all while contributing to our physical state.

2. The Thought of Logging Into Work Brings Anxiety

In addition to the physical impacts, if the mere thought of starting your work day brings you immense uneasiness, anxiousness, or heightened stress, there may be clear signs pointing toward the early stages of burnout. We’re not necessarily just talking about the “Sunday Scaries”, but rather, the clear-cut, wave of anxiety that one may feel surrounding their job.

3. You Feel Like You’re “Just Going Through The Motions”

Last, but certainly not least, if you move through each day with a mindset of “going through the motions,” there’s a heightened chance that you may be experiencing burnout. 

All things considered, work is supposed to be a place where you can put your expertise on display and contribute to a larger mission, and feeling like you are floating through each day can lead to decreased motivation, lower job satisfaction, and greater chances of burnout in the workplace.

3 Steps to Breakdown Burnout

The realization that you may be heading towards a state of burnout can be frightening. Here are 3 steps to break down burnout, process it, and strategically overcome it.

1. Take A Reasonable Step Back

Now, let’s be real – we’re not saying that you should neglect your work responsibilities or lower your productivity. However, taking a reasonable step back to reflect on the situation and process your thoughts can help you prepare to address your burnout. 

As Sarah recommends, “Take a breath and a step back (literal or metaphorical)! Take care of YOU and once you can see a bit more clearly, assess what is within your current control to change. For what is not, ask for help. Talk to your manager or HR, and flex that ‘no’ muscle for things that are not needed.”

2. Be Honest With Yourself and Those Around You

Once you’ve had a chance to reflect on the situation at hand, it may be time to have a serious conversation with yourself and those around you to talk through what you’re feeling.

Your emotions and thoughts matter, so don’t be afraid to share when you need additional assistance or help navigating your journey at work. In the wise words of Darren, “Nobody is perfect – producing perfection in the workplace is not always required or even possible. Sometimes, good enough will do”.

3. Set Boundaries

Let’s say that again – set boundaries

This goes for your coworkers, your team, and your work life in general. Setting clear boundaries between your work life and personal life, and then actually sticking to them, is one highly effective way to minimize overworking yourself and reduce the feeling of burnout.

As Sarah’s insight showcases, “Clearly define when it is work time and when it’s not. I know it is difficult in our remote and hybrid lives, but be sure to take a real lunch break, a real coffee break, or a literal walk around the block, and turn off notifications during your ‘off’ time if you need to”.

At the end of the day, your mindset and well-being are a top priority. Remember, you cannot pour into a new project or task with an empty cup, so start by setting the stage for your health in the workplace by implementing reasonable boundaries.

The Link Between Burnout and Imposter Syndrome

The effects of high stress levels and workplace fatigue are not limited to feelings of burnout. In fact, there is a strong link between burnout and imposter syndrome. 

The reason for this may not be surprising: When we feel anxious or uncertain, we may instinctively put up a mask and “fake it” in the workplace as we move through our everyday tasks. This leads to increased pressure to prove that we are capable of being in the workplace, and ultimately can contribute to burnout in the long run. 

As recent studies show, 42% of respondents believed they had experienced both imposter syndrome and burnout simultaneously. The reason for this is likely because both phenomena present themselves in similar ways.

So, if you feel you may be experiencing burnout or imposter syndrome in the workplace, know that you are not alone, and resources are available for assistance!

Resources to Look Into

If you or someone you know is experiencing burnout, here is a collection of resources that might help:


Online Resources:

  • Mind Tools offers articles and tools on managing stress and burnout
  • HelpGuide provides guidance on burnout, its symptoms, and coping strategies
  • Mayo Clinic outlines knowledge on job burnout, its causes, and prevention

Mindfulness Programs:

  • Apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer can help with relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Employee Assistance Programs are offered by many organizations and provide free, confidential counseling and resources for employees.

You Are Not Alone

If you have previously or are currently experiencing burnout, we’re here to say that you are not alone and no feeling lasts forever. Burnout can absolutely be an uncomfortable experience, and we hope the above strategies can help you take a step back to reflect and move forward on a positive note. 

And if you’d like to continue the conversation, our team would be happy to chat. Whether it’s a new role, a change in your career path, or guidance on additional ways to work through burnout, we are here

You’ve got this!

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