It’s Sunday night. You’re curled up in your comfy pants binge-watching the latest season of “Stranger Things” and wondering if you’ll get fired for calling out sick if you polish off the rest of that bottle of Merlot. The thought of heading to another day of the grind tomorrow? Unbearable. But do you know how to avoid burnout in the workplace?
To answer the question, “How to avoid burnout in the workplace,” you need to assess yourself for signs that you’re fed up. Once you recognize you’re feeling burned out, you can take the following proactive steps to get your groove back. You spend a lot of your life at work — so here’s how to make those hours less taxing.
1. Learn to Set Boundaries
It’s tough to say “no” at work. After all, you want to earn a reputation as a go-getter, not someone who does the minimum to get by. However, we all have a limit to how much we can accomplish in one day.
When your boss or coworker asks you to take on a new project, pay attention to your feelings before you respond. If your initial reaction is, “I can’t possibly handle one more thing,” respect that feeling. Explain politely but directly that you’re working on another project and that you need to maintain focus.
2. Get Adequate Sleep
Sure, you love sleeping in on Saturday. But doing so to excess can result in sleeplessness during the week. To perform at your best, practice good sleep hygiene by hitting the hay and awakening at roughly the same time daily. You can always sneak in an afternoon siesta, but keeping regular bedtimes helps program your sleep-wake cycle to function properly.
Work the night shift? Install blackout curtains to cut outside noise and light. Consider investing in a bed canopy to further cut out light and increase privacy so you can get your Zzz’s even during the day.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Your body needs fuel to perform at its productive best. Strive to prep healthy meals on the weekend so they’re easy to grab-and-go during the week. Consume a primarily plant-based diet and reduce your consumption of red and processed meats, both of which increase cancer risks significantly.
Also, exercise caution with alcohol. While it’s tempting to drink to excess when you feel burnt out at work, drinking too much upsets your body’s chemistry and can contribute to anxiety. This can increase feelings of dissatisfaction with your job.
4. Take Regular Exercise
When it comes to how to avoid burnout in the workplace, taking exercise provides one of the best methods. Exercise spurs the body to release endorphins, which are chemicals that help you feel good. Getting up and taking a brisk walk or stretch every 30 minutes can bolster your overall productivity, too.
Many physiologists suggest working out in the morning because you can burn up to 20 percent more body fat when you exercise on an empty stomach. However, if the thought of not hitting snooze gives you the screaming horrors, working out any time of day increases your cardiovascular health and provides mood-elevating effects.
5. Share a Belly Laugh
Something about sharing a laugh brings people together. And when you feel close to your coworkers, you experience higher job satisfaction overall.
At your next meeting, make an appropriate joke during your presentation to lighten the mood. Just exercise caution to avoid humor others could interpret as offensive. Try to find humor in everyday situations. Yeah, traffic sucks, but it did give you time to finish jamming out to your favorite new tune, right? Laugh it off!
6. Find a Solid Mentor
Many cases of burnout occur because people grow frustrated with their work but don’t know where to turn for help. Cultivating a mentor relationship can help you accelerate your career as well as stay on top of workplace trends.
Find someone in your workplace you admire and study how they operate on a daily basis. Ask them to a meeting and inquire whether they’d be willing to mentor you. Be sure to offer to help with their workload in exchange for their advice and guidance.
7. Identify Your Tribe
In many jurisdictions, members of the LGBTQ+ community lack legal protections in the workplace and also experience disparities in receiving mental health treatment. Women still face bias, unequal pay and gender violence and harassment at the hands of men.
Finding an accepting tribe at work helps you bust burnout by reassuring you that you are not alone. It gives you safe people with whom to vent frustrations and blow off steam. Even if your workplace lacks diversity, you can usually locate at least one or two individuals who share your vibe.
8. Communicate Your Needs
Many people, especially women, feel unappreciated and burned out at work because their needs go unmet. Whether they’d benefit from more paid time off, a flexible work schedule or other accommodations, many shy away from asking for what they need — and then feel fed up when they don’t get it.
Good managers know it costs more to train new employees than to keep existing staff members happy. However, even the best bosses lack crystal balls. If you need something, from time off to an occasional telecommuting option, say so. The worst your supervisor can say is “no,” and then you have the answer you need to move on if necessary.
9. Inspire Change
Change is natural; some people love it, some hate it. If you’re the type that likes to innovate, talk with your boss about some of the steps you think your company could take to mix things up a little. Come up with some specific ideas on what processes might need a little bit of a refresh.
Perhaps your company could use a stronger emphasis on networking, or a few more perks that won’t take long to implement but will make a big impact. Even something as simple as bringing in a motivational speaker for a once-off event can boost morale among employees and get them — and you — more excited about their work.
10. Evaluate Your Options
If you’ve asked for what you need and your requests fell on deaf ears, consider moving on. While you don’t want frequent job-hopping on your resume, reality tells us most people spend less than five years in any one position.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by slacking on your current responsibilities. You want to exit gracefully, so keep up the hard work until your last day. Pass on making an ultimatum, but do mention your reasons for moving on in your exit interview. Your current manager will appreciate knowing you’re leaving because you couldn’t attend a doctor’s appointment without losing half a day’s wages, for example.
11. Give Yourself a Break
Most Americans don’t take all the vacation time they’re entitled to. And many gig economy workers lack any paid vacation time at all. This leads to a heavy burnout burden that costs the economy billions annually.
If at all possible, give yourself a break. Strive to take a vacation every six months. If this proves impossible due to budgetary restraints, at least treat yourself to a mental health day occasionally. No one can grind hard every day without eventually hitting the wall.
How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace the Healthy Way
Now that you know how to avoid burnout in the workplace, you’re ready to supercharge your career. Start taking better care of yourself and asking for what you need today. Your future-self will thank you!