A Complete Guide to Job Burnout

Know the signs of job burnout and what you can do about them

Zight | November 04, 2019 | 10 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 16, 2023

A Complete Guide to Job Burnout

If you work in the corporate or tech world – heck if you just work at all – you have likely heard the term “burnout.” In today’s working culture, it can feel like a myth that people only talk about, but let me tell you, the effects are very real. Job burnout is occuring more than ever, with a high pressure, high stakes working culture and a hugely competitive marketplace. But knowing how to avoid job burnout starts with knowing what it is, and how to identify the signs and symptoms.

What is Job Burnout?

Many of us today feel high pressure to perform at our jobs. With hypergrowth now the name of the game in most companies, expectations and demands placed on employees are high. Plus, with a populace that is increasingly educated and savvy, we can sometimes feel as if we’re easily replaceable if we aren’t reaching those expectations at work. This pressure, stress, and sometimes accompanying anxiety can leave people feeling as if they’ve hit a wall.

Job burnout is more than just your everyday exhaustion. It has lasting mental and physical health effects, and can lead to many other issues if left untreated. While it can feel as though you just can’t take a break because you have too much to do, sometimes being able to understand that you’re headed for burnout can help you to manage your work better.

How to know if you are getting Burned out

The important thing to know about job burnout, is that it has many different effects, and it looks different for different people. Moreover, not everyone is affected by work pressure in the same way, and so the causes may be just as unique as the symptoms. In general though, there are a few signs of burnout that you may feel that could be indicators that you are headed for burnout, and it may be best to make some changes, or take a little R&R to recuperate before it’s too late. If you are feeling any of these physical or mental symptoms, you could be at risk for burnout.

Physical effects

We normally associate physical effects with exhaustion and burnout. It’s likely that at some point in your life you have experience extreme fatigue and corresponding bodily sensations. But burnout doesn’t just affect the parts of your body you can feel. Severe burnout even affects your internal organs and normal day-to-day functions.

Gastrointestinal Issues – One of the first places we feel the effects of exhaustion and anxiety is in our guts. Your stomach may be telling you that you are reaching a dangerous point of stress if you find yourself with stomach pains, upset stomach, and particularly loss of appetite. If you feel that your eating habits are off or that you are suffering more irregular stomach issues, it may have nothing to do with your diet, and more to do with your overall health.

Increased illness – and speaking of gut health, our gut is the epicenter of our immune systems. When your stress is causing disruptions in your gut, you will find yourself more likely come down with common illnesses such as colds. But, with your immune system down, you also become more easily susceptible to more dangerous issues such as bacteria infections and viruses.

Physical tenseness – do a check right now: are your teeth clenched? Are your shoulders up high? Are you squinting with your eyes? These can all be your stress or anxiety manifesting themselves through physical tenseness. Often, you may not even notice that you are holding yourself in a tense position, but these actions can often lead to other side effects like joint pain, muscle knots in your back, and headaches.

Constant tiredness – when feeling particularly overwhelmed, it may often seem like you could sleep for a week and still be tired. No amount of coffee does the trick. It may not be lack of sleep that is making you feel this way, it’s your brain and body working in overdrive while you are awake. But, it can also be that you aren’t sleeping soundly enough, when you aren’t properly shutting your brain off to get a full night’s rest. Tiredness greatly affects productivity, which can add to the overall stress.
Nervous habits – many of us of nervous habits that come out even when we aren’t heading towards burnout. Biting nails, twirling hair, shaking legs, tapping fingers, clicking pens, and any number of repetitive physical habits are typically a sign of anxiety and stress. But if you find yourself doing any or all of these things to an extreme: ie, your nails are completely ripped off, it may be that you are heading for a more serious breakdown.

Mental effects

Exhaustion doesn’t just take its toll on your body. Burnout can affect your ability to focus, it can result in emotional fatigue, and impair your ability to feel productive. This is why burnout can be so dangerous for many, because the factors that cause burnout then become that much more impossible to manage.

Memory loss – forgetfulness can be one of the earliest symptoms of burnout. As you begin to feel overwhelmed, you may find yourself not remembering topics discussed in meetings, or deliverables that need to be completed.

Lack of concentration – sometimes, the more we have to do, the more laser sharp focus we have. But with burnout, the opposite becomes true. You may find yourself reaching a point where you find that you can’t actually focus on anything. You may wind up frequently task switching and being entirely unproductive, which creates a vicious cycle that only adds to the stress.

Detachment – Feelings of detachment can occur in your working life or even affect your personal life. You may feel out of sync with your colleagues or your friends and you may begin to remove yourself from your typical activities.

Irritability and emotional swings – when we are hyper stressed we tend to be more quick to anger or be annoyed. When approaching burnout, this is especially apparent, and you may find yourself becoming overly emotional about minor things. When anxiety takes hold and exhaustion sets in, small inconveniences or slights from others can make you feel that the world is ending.

Negativity – one of the most telltale signs of burnout is losing enjoyment in things you normally do like, and overall sense of negativity and hopelessness. When at the bottom of a burnout hole, you may find yourself not able to see positivity in outcomes, or feel joy that you typically associate with accomplishing activities at work, or participating in hobbies or social obligations.

Insomnia – it may seem counterintuitive that exhaustion leads to insomnia, but this is what is so unique about burnout. Your body is often so stressed and confused about its altered state, that it keeps you up at night worrying about all that you need to get done, or even just simply overthinking the fact that you’re stressed.

How to Prevent Job Burnout

So you may recognize many of these symptoms. But left unchecked, or combined together, they can really be problematic for your overall wellbeing. What can you do to stave off a full burnout, and reduce the effects of some of these symptoms? There are plenty of things you can focus on right now:

Exercise, diet and sleep – you likely already know this, but health really is contingent on being good to your body. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating a balanced and nutritious diet, and moving enough, are major factors in our abilities to process stress. Exercise and diet have even been shown to curb some effects of depression, so prioritize these things in your life before you do anything else. Even if things slow down at work, you won’t feel your best if you’re not taking care of yourself.

Meditation and mindfulness – you may roll your eyes at the “trend” of meditation, but it actually can work wonders to be a calming and grounding activity that can help prevent or mitigate burnout. Meditation is a way to quiet the mind, it can help improve focus and cognitive abilities, it can have a positive effect on mood, it can even help your memory and problem solving skills.

Communication – to ensure that you can avoid burnout at work, and not just in the short term, you need to have clear and open communication with your superiors and staff at work. It won’t do you any good to suffer in silence, and it’s important that you can articulate when you are feeling overwhelmed and overworked. By prioritizing internal communication, you may more easily find solutions to a mountainous workload such as fellow employees who are able to step up and less your burden, or by encouraging an open discussion where others can also voice their concern regarding workload expectations. Remember that if you never speak up about your feelings of burnout, no one will likely notice until your work starts slipping – and by then it may be too late.

Boundaries and managing expectations – along similar lines to communication, it’s really important to be able to set boundaries within your personal and professional lives. This way you are able to manage the expectations of those around you, and it becomes much easier to say no to projects, or take the time you need. When I first started my business as a marketing consultant, I found myself struggling with the separation of worklife and private life. It led to me having severe anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed, and affected my remote work productivity. Once I was vocal and clear with my partners and customer companies about the working hours I keep, the amount of work I could handle, and so forth, I was able to better avoid burnout and meet the expectations I had set for those around me.

Take a break – When you need a break, take a break. Oftentimes when we strive to be productive, we tend to just sit and try to keep focus for long periods of time. But this can actually be counterproductive. Some people find success in using the pomodoro technique, or the pareto principle to stay focused and prioritize work. And if you do reach burnout, it’s imperative that you just take time off to rest. But, you still need to have those conversations within your workplace, to ensure that all the same stress factors aren’t simply waiting there for you when you return.

Use technology to help you be your most productive – with modern technology, there are now more ways than ever for you to get more done in less time. While technology shouldn’t be the reason you constantly bite off more than you can chew, you may find that you are able to reduce the amount of work stress you feel if you are able to use a few tools and tricks to your advantage. Instead of being a distraction, find the technology to reduce stress and be more productive.

Step back and reassess what your priorities are – sometimes burnout is a manifestation of having your priorities completely out of wack. If you don’t feel fulfilled at work, or you don’t feel that there is enough time in your day to do what’s really important, you’ll wind up just feeling like you’re slowly dying inside – not to be dramatic. You need to make time for what you consider to be priorities, whether it’s specific projects you want to take on, responsibilities, or even just opportunities for learning and upskilling. These are the things that make work stress manageable, and even a positive, motivating experience.

Do more of what makes you happy outside of work – it really is quite simple, you need to ensure that you are doing more of what makes you happy. If you feel that you’re slaving your life away for a job, and you don’t know what you enjoy outside of the confines of your cubicle, no amount of diet or meditation will help you avoid burnout. Cultivate hobbies and meaningful relationships. These are things that can help bring joy to your life and alleviate stress.

How Zight (formerly CloudApp) can help you reduce stress at work

Since Zight (formerly CloudApp) is both a productivity and collaboration tool, it can be a go-to solution for making work easier, and reducing stress in the workplace. Make your processes more streamlined, quickly and easily share screen recordings and annotated pictures and videos with your colleagues, and be more efficient in tasks from everything from new employee onboarding, to customer experience execution. Zight (formerly CloudApp) takes the challenges out of feeling like there is too much to do with too little time.

With Zight (formerly CloudApp) you can:

1. Skip that meeting – Rather than wasting your time and the time of your co-workers or clients, showcase your thoughts by recording a quick video of your screen and sending it.

2. Improve collaboration – Quickly send over a few options with clear instructions to avoid unnecessary back-and-forth.

3. Share feedback immediately – Zight (formerly CloudApp) makes it easy to capture and share thoughts with their snipping tool.

Learn more about Zight (formerly CloudApp) for productivity.

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