In this article you will see what the red flags are and how to start paying attention to your personal burnout risk factors. It will help you address and eventually manage them actively. This article will get you started with some useful tips to reduce your risk.
Work-related burnout is a multi component and complex condition. Nowadays burnout reaches epidemic proportions and affects between 10 and 80% of the working population (1) so basically it’s never too far from popping up and taking us down.
Most of us have days when we feel tired, stressed out, overloaded, or unappreciated but if you feel like this most of the time, you may be at risk of or even be down with burnout. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight- it is a gradual process. The way it happens is similar to the metaphor of the ‘Boiling Frog’- if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then slowly brought to a boil, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. Like the frog, most people don’t notice what’s going on and don’t seek help until it is too late.
Keep calm, there are many ways to protect yourself or find a way out!
The first step is to recognize your specific risk factors
In general, several different factors have an impact on burnout onset. Those are the occupation itself, the working conditions and environment, the personal factors (personality, level of work-life balance, lifestyle), and the features of the modern socio-economic environment the person lives in (2, 3). In each person, they are weighted differently. Each factor has a specific weight for a particular person, and the combination between them builds an individually unique profile of the condition.
Are you ready to check out the most important risk factors for work-related burnout? Let’s take a closer look!
The occupation itself
Some jobs in themselves are risky for work-related burnout. Still, the correspondence between a person and a profession, the engagement of the employee, the feeling of contribution and meaning and the personal ability to manage stress are protective factors even in the riskier professions.
So, are you interested in finding out more about the top professions related to high stress levels? Here is a list of the occupations with particularly high burnout rates:
Healthcare sector: Physicians, Nurses, Psychologists, Social workers.
For-the-people professions: Teachers, School Principals, Attorneys, Police Officers, Public Administration
Performance-driven professions: Business Development and Sales, Designers, Software Developers, Workers in Retail, Property
Community-driven professions: Journalists, Vloggers, Gamers and similar professions, highly driven by public opinion and reactions to regularly-generated content
Low-pay and/or monotonous professions
Keep in mind that if you are working in one of these areas, it is in important for you to be even more aware and apply some preventative strategies to avoid burnout.
Tips: It is always better if you are working a job you love, that’s one of the best preventions! So think twice and choose your profession carefully as well as the organization you will work for. Look for something that lights the spark in you! At the same time, bear in mind that every dream job is exactly that, just a dream. Be prepared for a reality check and if there is a mismatch, take steps to adjust or change the situation.
If in your current situation it’s not possible to work what you really want, think about your personal goals and motivations to deal with reality.
Time to self reflect: Do I like my job? Do I feel engaged in it? Does it fit my personality and my life goals?
The working conditions and environment
Here are the most common environmental factors that may contribute to the onset of a burnout (3). Discrepancies between:
- Personality and profession;
- The requirements for the employee and his real capabilities;
- The pursuit of independence in the work and the degree of applied control;
- Efforts and underestimation of contributions;
- The absence of positive relationships with the work team;
- The lack of fair relations at work;
- Ethical principles of personality and work requirements.
Tips: Be aware of these factors when choosing the organization you plan to work for. If you like your job but you don’t like the conditions within the company, there are two actions you can take: focus on what is ‘changeable’ and make a plan or start searching for better opportunities. Keep in mind that leaving your job unexpectedly is not usually a good idea, instead think about a step by step action plan.
Time to self reflect: Are any of these discrepancies valid for my current situation?
Which discrepancy is most pronounced? What can I do about it?
There are some personal traits related to a higher risk of burnout. Here are some characteristics that are strongly associated with the condition (3):
- Perfectionism, a supercritical mind, nothing is ever good enough
- Controlling, rigid, a constant need to keep things under control, difficulty delegating
- Overachieving, driven by the need for continuous achievement or the so called overachievers
- Reserved, unable to set clear personal boundaries, lacking confidence
- Unrealistic, unable to set reasonable goals,
Tips: If you experience constant stress or even burnout, try to evaluate what portion of your current situation is due to personal factors, and which factors are environmental. No judgment, just observation, please! If you believe a significant factor is your personality, you can start working on that first. Otherwise, the scenario could well repeat itself no matter the specifics of the occupation! Changing personality traits is a highly ambitious but not impossible task. Professional help is always beneficial but you can start on your own, by gathering information and feedback from your close friends and family and becoming more aware.
Time to self reflect: Do I find myself in any оf these categories? Where? Why is that so? How do others see me? Do the two images match?
Studies from the London Hazards Centre (4) indicate that work pressures today are more intense than a decade ago, creating the need for a balance between work and other aspects of life. Experiencing being over-worked in an extreme work environment has proven to affect the overall physical and psychological health of employees and deterioration of family life. If work is the only thing you are doing, thinking of, investing in, that can lead to work-related burnout.
Few people realise that getting time to yourself, out of the office, can actually boost your work motivation and performance! So, maintaining a work–life balance will help you reduce stress, boost your well-being and prevent burnout in the workplace. The balance depends to some extent on the conditions of the company and to a certain extent on you.
Bear in mind, that what would work best for one person does not necessarily mean it will work for others. “Work-life balance” means something different to everyone. Balance does not mean equal hours everywhere. It is more like a general sense of completeness in the various social roles and relationships. The easiest way to balance is through flexibility.
Tips: Consider whether changing shifts, re-prioritization, and delegation are possible in order to create some free time. Think about what is really important and enjoyable for you (that may be finding time for exercise or spending more time with the family or learning new skills), then put it in a schedule. If you always lack personal time, think about quality rather than quantity.
Time to self reflect: Do I feel complete, fulfilled and satisfied with the different aspects of my life? If I could change something, what would it be? If I dream about my life what would it look like?
Do you know that habits, daily practices, and choices have a direct impact on your overall wellbeing?
Research shows that factors such as abnormal mealtimes, frequently eating out, lack of sleep, no exercise, and over 40-hour working week, are associated with work-related burnout (5.). At the same time, empirical data (6) shows that physical health (e.g., exercise, healthy diet, quality sleep, relaxation) is negatively related to burnout. Thus taking proactive measures to maintain or improve your physical health is expected to help you prevent burnout.
Time to self reflect: What would I like to change in my lifestyle? Do I think I live a healthy life?
Tips: When introducing change, start with one thing at a time. When you choose an aspect you want to change, think about small steps you can start with and set some realistic and achievable, short-term goals.
Socio-economic factors are not always visible but they may favor an environment and personal attitudes that could lead to burnout. We live in a culture in which society is organized around consumption and the display of commodities through which individuals gain prestige, identity, and standing. It is mainly about fast economic growth, the constant pursuit of profit, and the objectifying attitude towards employees. Employees are often “consumed” and they in turn”consume” the organization. Sounds like a good deal, but can lead to feelings of emptiness, lack of recognition, and ultimately burnout. According to Glouberman, “Growth and Progress, the Fruits of Globalization Seem to Seriously Harm Societies and the Environment” (7). In contrast, employees who find their own purpose in their job are burning bright, not out, and managers who prioritize workplace wellness and stimulate work-life balance have more loyal and engaged employees and thus, greater profit.
Time to self-reflect: What really is ‘success’ for me? What does fulfillment mean to me? Do I find meaning in my job? Do I work in a healthy work environment? Do I feel free to communicate my needs?
Tips: Define what success really means to you. Make a list of your personal needs, interests, values, goals. Try to concentrate on them, rather than fulfilling the expectation of society, family, or friends. Pursue what will make you feel like your life is meaningful!
Time to reflect
How do you feel reading the article? Are you feeling satisfied, irritated, frustrated, sad, or thoughtful about something? Do you find yourself somewhere in between the lines? Where? What thoughts come up? How does your body feel? Can you identify some impulse?
- John Elflein. Share of adults affected by high stress U.S. 2012-2017. https://www.statista.com/statistics/728584/respondents-affected-by-high-level-stress-in-us/
- Lin Y-L, Chen C-H, Chu W-M, et al. Modifiable risk factors related to burnout levels in the medical workplace in Taiwan: crosssectional study. BMJ Open 2019;9:e032779. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2019-032779
- Christina Maslach, Michael P. Leiter The Truth About Burnout: How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It. John Wiley & Sons, 2.07.2008
- London Hazards Centre https://www.lhc.org.uk/
- Nien-Chih Hu, Tsun-Jen Cheng. The Associations Between Long Working Hours, Physical Inactivity, and Burnout.. Journal of occupational and environmental medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. May 2016 58(5):514-518 DOI: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000715
- Lea M. Naczenski, Juriena D. de Vries, Madelon L. M. van Hooff, and Michiel A. J. Kompier. Systematic review of the association between physical activity and burnout. 2017 Nov 20; 59(6): 477–494. J Occup Health. 59(6): 477–494.
- Ph.D. Glouberman, D., The Joy of Burnout How the end of the world can be a new beginning Paperback – March 1, 2007