Work burnout: what is it, symptoms, prevention and treatment

The work burnout or burnout syndrome, is a problem rooted in the workplace context, directly linked to the functioning and...
26 October 2023

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Work burnout: what is it, symptoms, prevention and treatment

The work burnout or burnout syndrome, is a problem rooted in the workplace context, directly linked to the functioning and structure of the workplace. Its consequences affect both emotional and physical health, while also negatively impacting the individual’s relationship with the company.

To prevent and address it, the company needs to implement strategies that prioritize the well-being of its human capital at the core of its Human Resources (HR) strategies and strengthen engagement.

In this regard, understanding what work burnout is becomes essential as the first step in prevention. In this article, we will also delve into the problem, its symptoms, how to prevent it, and its treatment.

What is work burnout?

Work burnout -or burnout syndrome- is a response to chronic negative stress in the workplace caused by an imbalance between what the worker contributes and what they receive. From this, it can be deduced that the burnt-out worker syndrome arises from a lack of reciprocity both at the interpersonal and organizational levels.

Work burnout: what is it, symptoms, prevention and treatment

In these circumstances, the employee feels emotionally and physically drained, displaying negative feelings and even attitudes toward their colleagues and their own professional role. 

This syndrome also results in low personal accomplishment and a strong sense of depersonalization at work.

Some researchers contrast burnout with worker engagement with the company. Thus, burnout would be a consequence of negative stress, while engagement is a reaction to positive stress.

In addition to the direct emotional, physical, and behavioral consequences in the employee’s life, there are other consequences for the company:

  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Higher turnover rates.
  • Talent attrition.
  • Reduced productivity.
  • Decreased product or service quality.
  • Deterioration of the workplace atmosphere.

Burnout syndrome and work-related sick leave are unfortunately intertwined concepts, making it necessary to detect symptoms early and take appropriate action.

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What are the symptoms of the work burnout syndrome?

One of the main problems with burnout is that it is generally not detected in a timely manner, neither by the person experiencing it nor by their surroundings. 

Therefore, it is essential to know the symptoms of this increasingly common condition in today’s work environment.

These symptoms intensify as the worker progresses through the stages of the syndrome:

  • They start with initial enthusiasm for a new job or assigned project.
  • Then, they experience stagnation, frustration, and apathy.
  • Finally, they reach a state of collapse.

Physical symptoms

Due to constant stress, individuals with burnout often feel unusually tired. 

They may suffer from headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, rapid heart rate, musculoskeletal pain, or insomnia, among other manifestations related to sustained nervousness.

Emotional symptoms

Emotional symptoms associated with work burnout are complex. Workers may lose self-esteem, feel mentally exhausted, experience a sense of failure, and frequently feel anxious. 

They may have difficulty concentrating and a reduced ability to cope with frustration

In extreme cases, employees may develop paranoid behaviors and display aggressive attitudes toward their colleagues and/or family.

How to prevent burnout syndrome in the workplace?

Behavioral symptoms

In terms of behavioral dimensions, workers suffering from burnout may seek escape through some form of addiction

Additionally, emotional distancing behaviors, both with clients and colleagues, are common in these contexts. 

They may also provoke or participate in frequent interpersonal conflicts at work or at home.

How to prevent burnout syndrome in the workplace?

Preventing burnout syndrome in a company is possible, provided you take the necessary measures to counteract the factors that cause it or prevent them. 

For this reason, we will list some actions you can incorporate into your HR strategies:

  • Continuously review job objectives and ensure they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound).
  • Clearly define job roles and regularly analyze them.
  • Improve internal communication channels.
  • Encourage flexible working hours.
  • Foster inspirational and exponential leadership.
  • Conduct employee satisfaction surveys that allow early conflict detection and focus on employee satisfaction.
  • Implement corporate mentoring programs to manage talent.
  • Incorporate psychoeducation programs and training activities in self-regulation and stress management techniques to enhance the well-being of your teams.
  • Consider offering professional psychological support to your employees.
Burnout syndrome is a response to chronic negative stress in the workplace

Treatment for work burnout in companies

The treatment of work burnout syndrome should focus on addressing the three dimensions that cause it:

  1. Emotional exhaustion.
  2. Depersonalization.
  3. Reduced personal accomplishment.

Keep in mind that the recovery plan for an employee suffering from this syndrome may require psychotherapeutic treatment and professional guidance

HR intervention strategies should aim to influence the feelings and thoughts of the person. 

Therefore, it is essential to focus on solutions encompassed in what is known as emotional compensation, including:

  • Avoiding understaffing.
  • Providing individuals with the necessary tools and training for their tasks, especially during substantial technological changes.
  • Promoting work-life balance.
  • Encouraging group activities to improve the workplace atmosphere.
  • Contributing to the personal growth of the worker by developing their career plan.
  • Prioritizing the psychological and social well-being of the worker.
  • Implementing a feedback policy in the company to reinforce commitment.
  • Using comprehensive performance analysis techniques such as 360-degree evaluations.

In treating burnout syndrome within a company, it is essential to create an atmosphere of trust so that employees feel inclined to communicate their moods, expectations, or needs. 

At Smowltech, we have designed proctoring plans to help prevent and treat burnout syndrome in your company. 
Request a free demo and discover our solutions for building respectful and secure digital environments for your teams.

Download now!

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