How to Avoid Office Burnout

It's 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and you've hit the 'wall'. The vats of coffee you've chugged down prove no sustenance, as you melt off your chair, slumping to the floor like a sedated animal. Office burnout can happen to anyone and knowing the signs early are crucial in taking preventative steps. Below is a quick help guide in order to counteract these shutdowns and increase your productivity - whilst maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Life in the Fast Lane

I'm sure we have all been there. You've got deadlines to meet, targets to smash and a myriad of unmissable appointments. It seems that you may as well pitch yourself a nice cosy tent in the office and start paying rent there instead. Speaking first hand, I remember when I first left University and got (what I thought was) my dream job. 

As a car enthusiast and Alfa Romeo nerd, I landed myself a job selling these beautiful machines for a living. Great, I thought. Now I can get paid to bore unsuspecting members of the public with my unnecessary knowledge and pointless facts that I've harboured since childhood. 

The first month or so was good, but then the six-day weeks, twelve hour days and blue-moon weekends off soon ground me down. I saw little social life and was constantly under pressure to deliver impressive sales figures. So it happened. I burnt myself out.

It was a conscious thing too, the burnout. I knew I'd driven myself 'over the edge'. Crawling the M6, morning and night, along with the millions of other zombie commuters, I felt numb. I felt detached as a person, embers of my personality frittering away by the day. 

But before this article descends into a self-obsessed and depressing memoir, I want to tell you how to avoid this happening and, if it's already happened, how to rise out of it. Like a phoenix from the metaphorical ashes of workaholism...

The Signs

To avoid burnout, we first need to understand exactly what it is and what the symptoms are. The American Psychological Association's David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout as:

An extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.

A lack of interest in things. As vague as this may sound, 'things' is the perfect way to put this. When your job becomes all-consuming and dictates your life, your general interest in hobbies will wain. The gym will take a back seat, the books you bought are an optimistic dream and that guitar you used to play collects dust. 

You can feel the shards of your personality ebbing away on the tide of mundanity. You'll get sick easier because your immune system is shot. You'll become impatient and snap at people, even loved ones, because of the encompassing stress. Your diet will be erratic and nutritionless at best. It's not a nice place to be. You need to stop.

Come up for air, breathe and re-fuel. See below to learn how to take the crucial pit stop you need.

Take a Pit Stop

One of the biggest causes of burnout can be exhaustion through lack of sleep. There are many online sources out there that give great advice on how many hours we actually need, what quality sleep feels like and why it is so important to our overall health and well being. Just take a look at the graph below, created from data provided by The National Sleep Foundation, to see what your recommended time of slumber is:

You can clearly see there is a correlation with an increase in age and a decrease in hours needed. According to the Sleep Foundation, there is a one hour window either side of the above figures which can be considered 'appropriate' in rare cases. But most of the time, a regular sleeping pattern is crucial to a happy lifestyle and avoiding that impending burnout. For more information about getting a good night's sleep, check out our article How to Get a Good Night's Sleep Ready for Work

Second to sleep is diet. A healthy, well-balanced diet gives you all of the nutrients required to provide you with sufficient energy to get through the day. Having a big sugar hit from an energy drink, or consistently scoffing on fast food is a definite no no. 

Besides being damaging to your health, these things can have a negative psychological affect on you. According to a study by The National Centre for Biotechnology, "There was excessive daytime sleepiness the days following energy drink consumption." So the 'quick-hit' approach to caffeine and energy is not a sustainable solution by any means. 

A regular sleeping pattern is crucial to a happy lifestyle and avoiding that impending burnout.

By eating the correct meals, with smaller portions but more often throughout the day, you will spread the energy release without damaging your body.

It's All About Me!

Third and finally, have some 'me' time. Spend time doing something you enjoy - giving you that release of creativity, interest or passion - because this is what makes us human. Without these things, we would all be repetitive, identical machines. 

The best way to do this is to set aside a window of time you have spare especially for that activity. Whether this window of time is on a consistent, routinely basis, or has to change to adapt to your varied schedule, make sure you have it. 

 If you work in a job that has minimal interaction with people, spend that hour socialising and going out. If you work in customer service and the last thing you want to do is communicate, take a relaxing walk alone to clear your head. It is very important for the well being of our minds.

Hopefully you have found some of the information here helpful and will take something away from this. Office burnout is avoidable if you're aware of it and know how to deal with it. The key is not feeling like it's an isolated issue that only affects you - anyone can suffer from it. 

For insights into how employers may be able to help in dealing with stress and office burnout, check out our other article: How employers can manage stress in the workplace