Don’t Let On-the-Job Stress
Lead to Burnout
By Deanne DeMarco
past eight years Joel was one of the best employees on the team. He
always came to work on time, seldom took sick days, produced top
quality work and got the project completed even if he had to stay
late. Joel often assisted team members if they ran into problems on
their projects. Lately, Joel has been calling in sick, coming in late,
and complaining of stomach cramps. At work Joel is irritable; both
customers and co-workers complain about Joel’s behavior.
Additionally, when at work Joel complains of headaches, the
quality of his work has decreased, and it takes him longer to get a
project completed. What happened to him? Joel is most likely suffering
from the $300 billion profit killer: job burnout and stress.
experience a certain level of stress in our daily lives. A certain
amount of good stress called eustress
provides stimulation, excitement, and provides a competitive edge.
However, continual job deadlines, personal demands, personal finances,
difficult relationships, and demanding bosses can all make you feel
off balance and give you the sense that you are spinning out of
control. Even the most confident overachiever can be nudged
off-balance. Stress hurts your productivity and takes a serious toll
on your mind and body.
Selye, the stress research pioneer, describes stress as the
physiological reaction to external and internal events. Burnout is the
physical, emotional and mental response to constant high levels of
stress. When stress remains unmanaged burnout can occur.
The inability for the mind and body to relax after continued
stressful events can cause the person to become obsessed over personal
problems, which can lead to burnout.
Burnout usually occurs when stress builds and a person feels
they are no longer able to control their world, and lack motivation to
proceed. Sometimes the physical and psychological problems can become
severe enough to cause illness and the inability to function on the
job. The worker feels overwhelmed and his or her career is actually
Who gets Burnout? Burnout can happen to anyone; it can affect
everyone in any profession and at every level in the organization.
When a team member is continually pushed to the limit and doesn’t
have the time to relax or unwind, stress can build.
The Impact of Stress Overload and Burnout: The impact of unmanaged
stress can result in low morale, increased absenteeism, lost
productivity, declined performance, increased mistakes, and increased
workplace accidents. Stress overload costs the company money in higher
turnover, absenteeism, and lost productivity.
The First Step in Preventing Burnout: Learn to relax and let go of
the stress in your life. The type of stress in your life is not nearly
as important as your ability to control it. It is critical to admit
when the stress in your life is beginning to reach critical levels.
When stress starts to build-don’t wait- start burnout and stress
reduction strategies immediately.
Stress Reduction Strategies
1. Use Humor: Change your perspective on your situation. Learn to
smile, look for the humor in the workplace. Sometimes looking at a
situation or a problem in a different light can help you to feel
differently about the event. A recent UCLA Medical Center study suggests that laughter and humor can help to reduce stress.
Laugh: it’s good for you!
2. Pace Yourself: Maintain a practical schedule with your
expectations. Identify job activities that could be simplified, and
plan thoroughly to prevent last minute problems. Use good time
management strategies to help pace the workload.
3. Reinforcement: Value yourself and your contribution to the
company. Do the best work you can, even if you feel no one is
noticing. Keep reinforcing
positive thoughts in your mind.
4. Release Stressful Emotion: Being frequently angry, filled with
rage or anxiety, is not healthy. Taking
a brisk walk or some other physical activity using the large muscles,
will help release pent up emotions and aid the body to eliminate
harmful chemical responses.
5. Practice Good Nutrition: Stress robs your body of needed vitamins
and minerals such as vitamin B and vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and
zinc. A number of research studies have concluded that stress
increases susceptibility to illness. Eating fresh fruits and
vegetables, maintaining a balanced diet and limiting the amount of
caffeine, nicotine, and sugar promotes health and improves your
ability to handle difficult situations.
6. Talk to Someone: Share your burden; discuss stressful events with
another person. Often an associate, friend or Employee Assistance
Program (EAP) counselor can help you see the lighter side or offer a
fresh approach to the problem.
7. Take Time for Yourself: Take stress breaks during the day.
Stretch at your desk. Take short vacations at least twice a year. It
is important to take time off for yourself especially during stressful
Symptoms of Stress: Are you one of the many suffering from stress?
Below are some signs to watch for.
Feeling fatigued, exhausted, or drained
Irritability, or lower tolerance levels
Muscle tension, joint aches, headaches
Upset stomach or loss of appetite
Susceptibility to illness
Inability to laugh at daily situations
Social withdrawal: pulling away from co-workers, peers,
and family members
Job performance change: increased tardiness,
absenteeism, or increased use of sick leave, and decreased efficiency
Self-medication: increased use of alcohol,
tranquilizers, or other mood altering drugs
Skipping rest and food breaks
Management Strategies: Burnout consumes enthusiasm and cannot be
ignored. Here are some
tips for mangers to help employee stress and burnout.
First, make sure your employees schedule their vacation time and
actually take the time off. Don’t call them when they are on
scheduled vacation time!
Second, help employees plan periodic breaks- maybe walk around to
all your employees with a bottle of water or an ice cream bar or a
piece candy. It’s a great way to give everyone a quick mental break
and put a smile on your employees’ faces too.
Third, plan a brown bag lunch. Have everyone bring their lunch to a
workroom or sectioned off part of the cafeteria. Lead the conversation
around vacations, hobbies or light hearted topics. This is a great way
to help your employees release a little stress, and keep employees
Fourth, help employees with good time management skills. Help them
to set realistic project goals and milestone markers.
Fifth, keep employees in the loop. Employees like to be informed
with company changes and progress.
Lastly, rewards. Rewards include praise, and anything else that is
positive. Employees need
to feel that they are recognized and valued for their good work.
demands in addition to on-the-job demands can make you feel
off-balance overly stressed. By following these tips, you’ll be
better equipped to recognize the symptoms of stress and avoid job
burnout in the future.
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