Burnout in the Workplace – What is it and how can it be addressed?

Burnout in the Workplace – What is it and how can it be addressed?

In a study completed last year the term ‘burnout’ was Googled more than ever before, with an increase of 24% from the previous year and 41% annually from 2017.

So, what exactly is burnout? If you are not familiar with the term, it is when an individual feels physical and mental/emotional stress, whether that be from work or everyday life. Burnout decreases your energy and productivity levels, leaving you feeling helpless, tired and even resentful to everyday tasks. If not recognised sooner, it can also lead to depression.

Burnout is most commonly found within the workplace, with the term ‘occupational burnout’ increasing by more than 2500% since 2015. There are a number of ways to identify if yourself, an employee or apprentice is suffering from burnout with a number of solutions to ensure that it doesn’t get worse.

Burnout Symptoms

There are 3 major signs that most people will experience (or be easily noticed by others), which if not addressed will lead to burnout. It is a gradual process, so understanding the symptoms beforehand will help. These include:

Physical Burnout

  • Tiredness and feeling drained
  • Low immunity and off work frequently due to illness
  • Headaches or muscle pain
  • Change in appetite and sleep patterns

Emotional Burnout

  • Self doubt and feel like failing at menial tasks
  • Helplessness
  • Detachment from society e.g. friends, family, social gatherings
  • A loss of motivation
  • Decreased feeling of satisfaction when completing something

Behavioural Burnout

  • Withdrawing from general tasks and responsibilities
  • Procrastination
  • Taking frustration out on others
  • Tuning up late, missing days, completing work tasks to lower standards

Stress vs Burnout

Reading the symptoms above may have some similarities to suffering with stress, but it can be easy to mix the two. Think of stress as being overactive and anxious, whereas Burnout is more about feeling helpless and drained. Both will lead to metal and physical repercussions and need to be addressed, but it is important to understand the difference.

Causes of burnout

Burnout can come from any aspect of life, but it is most commonly from the work/life balance that most people face today. A study at 2 London based firms conducted in 2020 shows that 70% of men and 50% of women believed that working longer hours would make you more successful. But it can also come from tending to sick family members, looking after children, or having to work 2 jobs due to financial issues. Understanding the cause before it gets to boiling point is the crucial factor.

What to do next

The thought of speaking to someone about anything linked with mental health has been a stigma for many years. It is still having effects even in today’s world. Mental health has now become a recognised illness and taken more seriously, with studies showing that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. Not everyone is confident to speak up about their mental health, especially in the workplace. There can be a multitude of reasons for this including:

  • Looking like you can’t cope/do your job
  • Having a ‘it’ll pass’ mentality
  • Fear of manager’s dissing you or not taking you seriously

It isn’t just down to the individual to speak up, as not everyone is confident to do so. Whether you are a manager, team leader, colleague, or the individual experiencing burnout, these are steps that you could take to ensure that burnout doesn’t take over.

For Employers

Ask how they are doing

If you can see that someone is struggling or experience one of the symptoms above, talk to them! Sometimes all they need a little push or a friendly face. It doesn’t always need to be a long conversation, but if they know you are there to help it can be a great boost.

Let them have time off

Holidays can sometimes be seen as gold dust and only to be used for specific reasons. But if someone is struggling and coming to a roadblock, having time away from the office is crucial. Letting them know it is fine to take a break will let them know that you value and care more for them.

Don’t overload their workday

As a manager, you want your team to be productive and produce the best work possible. So if you give someone too many tasks or deadlines, stress will take over or lead to burnout over time. Not everyone can take on piles of work or carry on into the night, so knowing when enough is enough will ensure that they don’t feel as if they are helpless.

Look at their position within the business

Has the employee been expressing interest in another position within the business? Have you seen that they have skills that could be utilised in another sector? If so, this could be the opportunity to look at their role with you. You don’t always need to look outside to fill a position. The perfect person could be right under your nose and giving them a chance to prove that could help.

For Yourself

Speak to someone

If it is yourself who is experiencing burnout, you can also speak to family members, friends, loved ones etc. which may then build your confidence to speak to your manager. It can feel like you are a burden if you go to your manager to discuss how you are feeling, but your mental health is more important.

Take time for yourself

It can be easy to think that you need to keep all your holiday time to have one massive break. But if you are really feeling like the office is bringing you down, get away and restart. Whether you travel or just stay at home, it will feel like a breath of fresh air. During this time you can also look at what really are your priorities; are you doing something that can be put on the backburner? Are you stressing over something that isn’t important?

Know when to stop

Everyone has at one point tried to do everything at once or work into the night to complete a specific task. But if you do this day in day out, it will hinder you and make your job less enjoyable. Give yourself breaks and times to finish so you don’t run yourself into the ground. But if it does become too much, talk to your manager.

Know when to set boundaries

It is always good to set some boundaries whether this be in work or your personal life. It can be hard to say ‘no’ to specific events or people, as you don’t want to let them down. But if you really feel like you are burning out, saying no could be the best thing to do. Give time to yourself to relax or refresh, then the next time you want to say ‘yes’, it will be worth it.

Step away from technology

Technology can have a huge impact on your mental health, so find time to step away from the TV or social media. Setting a time to turn everything off can help calm your mind and feel less stress. Wind down by reading or going back to a hobby you put on the backburner. You could also use this time to complete tasks you kept putting aside or figure out what is important to you.


Burnout is becoming more common than ever, so addressing it before it gets worse is vital. Whether it’s through some of the steps mentioned above or other ways, ensuring that the mental heath of your colleague or yourself is more important.

How 360 Apprenticeships can help

We provide a free service from first point of contact to the successful placement of each apprentice. Every apprentice who is successful will only be placed with the best training providers (Graded 1 and/or 2 by Ofsted) so you know that everyone is in safe hands.

You can find out more regarding the apprenticeship scheme on our website. To speak to one of our recruiters directly, you can contact us on:

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