In 2019, the World Health Organization updated its definition of burnout, classifying the consequences of chronic workplace stress as a legitimate syndrome. A 2021 survey by found that 52% of employees felt burned out as the pandemic wound down, versus 43% before it began.  

Are you feeling burned out? Here are strategies to take away the burn…

Identify what depletes you—specific circumstances—then reduce your exposure to them. When people experience burnout, they often feel that their schedules are crammed full—but only certain aspects of their lives might be producing most of the stress.

What to do: Track your activities and interactions. For each block of time during the day, note what you worked on…who you dealt with…how well this time helped you achieve your goals…and how drained or joyous it made you feel on a one-to-10 scale. After a week or two, review your notes to determine which of your activities are productive and directed toward your goals and which are more stressful than useful. Search for ways to avoid stressful, unproductive activities—could these be delegated to others, handled differently or eliminated entirely?

Coordinate with colleagues. Is burnout caused by workplace factors…or by how one employee copes with workplace factors? The individual employee side of burnout gets most of the attention, but research suggests that the organizational component likely is the larger of the two.

What that means: A significant percentage of your colleagues likely are feeling burned out as well—but they might not be talking about it. What to do: Brainstorm with colleagues about solutions for the issues causing the group to feel burned out. Frame this session as seeking efficacy/productivity strategies. Examples: A group of colleagues might resolve to schedule meetings only during certain blocks of time each week…or to cease work communication between 6 pm and 8 am.

Deepen your engagement with free-time activities. Engaging in relaxing activities outside the workplace can help control job-related stress. But when people are under that stress, they often feel too tired to do anything with their evenings and weekends…and even when they do, some portion of their attention remains focused on work responsibilities.

What to do: Prioritize self-care activities even when work is stressful. If you’re working at home, create an intentional step or two to signify the end of each workday. Example: Shut your laptop, then walk around the block to replicate a commute home. Experiment with “mindfulness” practices during your free time—spend 10 minutes focusing your thoughts on things for which you’re grateful and/or focusing on your breathing…and when engaging in enjoyable off-hours activities, strive to pay close attention to these experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.


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