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Burnout At Work

Burnout Warning Signs

We know that burnout is a problem facing many (I'm going to go out on a limb and say all) workplaces. So what are the burnout warning signs?


What do we need to be looking for in ourselves and with our workplace teams?

Some common signs of burnout include:

  • Feelings of Overwhelm

  • Anger

  • Irritability

  • Feeling "detached"

  • Feeling Numb

  • Exhausted

  • Sense of dread about work tasks


If you've taken ​Mental Health First Aid​ training with me, you'll know that many of these signs are also signs of other mental health challenges like depression and anxiety.


I like to say "burnout lives in the same house".


So how do these burnout warning signs show up in the workplace?


Just like any mental health challenge, burnout can show up in many different ways in people's behaviour. We want to be looking for changes in our teams or co-workers like:


  • Avoiding people or procrastinating on tasks

  • Withdrawing more from work or work social activities

  • Short-tempered or increasing negativity

  • Regularly expressing tiredness or lack of energy

  • Lack of focus or reduced productivity


Can you think of other ways that burnout has (or could) shown up for members of your team? Yourself?


Our starting point with burnout awareness has to be around knowing the signs



recognizing that burnout is both an organizational/workplace culture problem and an individual responsibility.

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Side Effects of Burnout


It's real, and we need to be talking about it. In case you need some reasons WHY, let's dive into some of the many side effects of burnout.


If anything, my hope is that by talking about the side effects of burnout, you will gain a greater understanding of the significant impact burnout can have on our lives and workplaces and be motivated to create change!


Side Effects of Burnout


The World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as an "occupation-related syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".


Research now shows us that burnout has MANY side effects for both individuals and workplaces

Side Effects of Burnout: Physical Health


Burnout can have a significant impact on your physical health, which in turn impacts workplaces through sick leave and time off.


Physical burnout can include sleep disturbances (insomnia), muscle pain, headaches, and lowered immune function.


Studies have also shown increased risk of specific health challenges, including:

  • 84% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes (Melamed et al., 2006)

  • 40% increased risk of hypertension (von Känel et al., 2020)


Are you paying attention yet?


Side Effects of Burnout: Mental/Psychological Health


Workplace burnout may impair short-term memory, attention, and other cognitive processes essential for daily work activities (Gavelin et al., 2022).


Also, those experiencing untreated burnout are at 180% increased risk of developing depressive disorders (Ahola et al., 2005)


(been there, got the t-shirt!)


Experiencing my own burnout and depression diagnosis journey is why I spend so much time talking about burnout, in the hopes that I can help others on a road to prevention.

Side Effects of Burnout: Workplaces


It's probably no secret that with such significant individual impacts, burnout is also going to have significant impact on workplaces.


This includes:

  • Increased absenteeism (sick leave/stress leave)

  • Lower productivity

  • Lower job satisfaction

  • Higher rates of turnover

  • Presenteeism (physically there, but not mentally performing)

  • Increased errors/mistakes (increased risk of safety incidents/accidents)



Source: American Psychological Association

Is my team at risk of burnout?

There are many reasons why a team member may experience burnout at work.


Burnout can be a result of workplace or individual factors, or both. 


Are you prepared to support your team members who may be struggling?

Do you know who may be at higher risk?


The most common causes of work-related stress are:

  • heavy workload (caused by either employer, employee, or both)

  • balancing work and personal life (raising children, caring for aging parents, supporting health issues for self or others etc). source


but there are many more, that I talk regularly about in speaking and training sessions, including:

  • perceived lack of control at work

  • unclear expectations

  • feeling a lack of support or connection


Who is at higher risk of burnout?


  • Women

  • Team members ages 25-54

  • Those working in management positions

  • Roles requiring a University degree and above


A recent Harvard Business Review article shares that in a global survey across multiple industries, more than half of managers reported feeling burned out at work.


I'm not surprised.


Let's take this away from the statistics for a minute, and talk about some other workplace and individual personality factors that can show up in the real world.







Is my team at risk of burnout?


While I'm not a councillor or therapist, I see many common burnout threads in the workplaces where I teach, train and consult. Some of these I have experienced myself on my own mental health and burnout journey. In addition to the above factors, you might recognize some of these in your workplace team.


Do any of these sound familiar to you?


  1. Working more/overworking - on the surface, a team member who is working extra, or more than asked/expected, might seem like a dream employee. However, sometimes people work as a strategy to avoid other, deeper emotions, or to avoid things that might be going on in their personal lives. 

  2. Anxiety - Those with anxiety (diagnosed or undiagnosed) or excessive worry, may work longer hours than required if they worry about their performance, the expectations of other team members, or how they will be perceived by others.

  3. Workplace culture - If the workplace subscribes to a “hustle” culture OR if the workplace is a fast-paced environment with frequent tight deadlines OR if a team member has previous worked in an environment that subscribed to an “always on” mentality.

  4. Difficulty with boundaries - Technology has blurred the lines between work life and home life. Those who have difficulty with boundaries (or who have never been taught boundaries) may struggle to turn work "off" and may feel obligated to respond to work emails or continue working during their personal hours.

  5. Unclear job descriptions or lack of clarity about expectations of work - Are you taking the time to have real, open, honest conversations with your team members about what their work entails? One of the biggest sources of frustration I hear from employees is that their manager or team leader does not have a solid understanding of the time it takes to perform tasks. For example, asking if they can “quickly” complete something, or get something done by end of day, when in reality, the task takes 2-3 hours to complete. Clearer communication strategies and approaches can help here. 

  6. High performers - High performers may feel like they have everything under control. They say yes because they have great skills and know how to get things done. Over time, always saying yes, or always working at a fast pace may lead to burnout. I always encourage team leaders to consider that high performers are at risk for burnout (I know, because I am one!)

  7. Lack of support - I meet many people leaders who FEEL they are supportive and have the wonderful intentions of being supportive. They may say “come to me at any time” but they are also extremely busy themselves and are not truly connected to their team. Both words AND actions matter. Lack of support and connection is a key element of burnout risk.



If any (or all) of the above are present, it's time to start thinking about building your skills around burnout prevention!

Ready to Learn More?e?

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