Burnout can happen to anyone. But, knowing what to look out for could help you catch the warning signs, and get them under control, before things get out of hand. A recent study found that 25 percent of American workers say their jobs are the No. 1 stressor in their lives. And some professions (like physicians and teachers) are even more vulnerable. So, if you love your job, and you'd like to keep doing it for a long time, there are a few important factors to monitor. Addressing these issues early just might save your career.
Having too much work to do is the most obvious cause of job burnout — it's the factor that might come to our minds first. There is good reason for that. Many other job-related stressors can be managed if (and it's a big if) we're given the time and resources to handle them. However, if employees are routinely tasked with more work than they're capable of completing on time and in a high-quality way, then they are at risk of career burnout.
2. Low job satisfaction
Job satisfaction goes a long way in supporting one's overall mood and attitude about work. Without those positive feelings, burnout is more likely. If the job isn't a good fit for the individual, if they don't like what they do, they run a higher risk of deciding to throw in the towel. Feeling underutilized, unchallenged, or just plain bored turns out to be risky, too. It's not just too much stress that does us in — too little mental and intellectual stimulation isn't good either. It's best to have a balance. Workers feel good about their jobs when they know their work is meaningful and that their efforts fuel progress.
3. Negative workplace dynamics
Dysfunctional workplace dynamics can play a major role in how workers feel about their jobs, and they can also be a factor in burnout. It doesn't matter whether the negative dynamics happen between coworkers or if they stem from the boss — if the office is a stressful and difficult place to be, some people will eventually burn out and opt to work somewhere else instead, especially if this factor combines with others on the list.
4. Long hours, and less time "unplugged" from work
Full-time employees in the U.S. now work an average of 47 hours a week, not 40. And, they are also spending less and less time disconnected from work. Too many workers feel a need to respond to emails, or even text messages, after hours. This practice has more negative consequences than may be obvious at first. Over time, these kinds of habits chip away at work-life balance, and that can lead to career burnout.
5. Lack of autonomy
Professionals are more content with their career path when they feel they have control over their work. Burnout is more likely to take hold when workers feel they don't have the authority to make decisions about how to complete tasks. Autonomy is also challenged if workers don't have access to the resources that would enable them to be effective. Professionals want to feel that they have the tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability. They are at a higher risk for burning out when they don't.
The Mayo Clinic describes job burnout as a specific type of stress: "a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work." The weight of these factors is experienced most profoundly when they're combined. So, if you experience more than one of the symptoms above on a regular basis, you could be at risk of burning out. Taking action to counter these symptoms with stress management practices and improved work-life balance could help turn things around before it's too late.