For the vast majority of people, work fucking sucks. You go to a place alongside people you can barely stand, to do tasks you have no personal investment in, all so some assholes can make as much money as possible while paying you as little as they can get away with.
It’s a testament to the human spirit that so many of us can even scrape by under these circumstances. Similarly, it’s more than understandable that many of us can’t. Not all the time, anyway. The constant stresses and strains, and desire to just stop doing the thing that causes them, can lead to the phenomenon of work related burnout.
What is work-related burnout?
Simply put, work-related burnout is a regular negative work-related mindset. It’s a recognized phenomenon and chronic condition, but still isn’t fully understood by experts. According to the most commonly used model of the condition, there are three dimensions to work-related burnout: cynicism, exhaustion, and lack of professional efficacy (which is a fancy term for “feeling like your efforts accomplish anything meaningful”).
If you’re thinking this might apply to you, here’s a quick list of more specific signs of work related burnout:
- Cynical or very negative thoughts about work and/or your workplace
- Difficulty making yourself go to work and/or start working
- Lacking in energy or motivation to be productive
- Feeling unsatisfied by your achievements
- Feeling disillusioned with your job
- Experiencing unexplained sleep or minor health issues, such as headaches, stomach problems, or digestive issues
If you’re dealing with any of that crap, you’re probably burned out. You should probably visit a doctor, too, because working under that level of stress has been linked to higher rates of substance abuse, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and a lowered immune system.
What causes worker burnout?
So, why exactly are you feeling burned out from work? Well, there are a few factors that are thought to contribute to it. Burnout prevalence varies wildly between industries and between employers, but parallels more with certain situations and circumstances.
Burnout tends to happen to people dealing with:
- Extremely boring or extremely chaotic jobs
- Feeling as though work is meaningless or unfulfilling
- Job expectations not clearly laid out or defined
- Feeling a lack of control over decisions that affect your job
- Working on tasks without sufficient resources to complete them
- Working in a dysfunctional environment, typically due to a bully or severe micromanagement
- Feeling isolated or lacking social support at work
- Working a job that demands so much effort and time that your personal and family life suffers
Essentially, the dehumanizing-and-increasingly severe demands of working under capitalism!
Flippancy aside, it’s pretty clear how the rates can be so different between industries, with industries like medicine, fast-food, call centers, and education having very high burnout rates. Mind you, don’t discount the stress that poor management or workplace abuse can produce in any line of work.
So, what the hell can I do about it?
Perhaps the most disheartening thing about job burnout is how helpless it leaves you feeling; you don’t want to be there or do this shit anymore! Of course, the most decisive solution is to find a new job, but chances are you wouldn’t be here looking for help if that was seen as an option, so we’re going to skip that. Depending on your situation, both at work and at home, there may be a few ways to reduce the stress of working.
Talk with your supervisor or manager about specific problems.
If they aren’t the primary cause of your stress, I’d recommend you start by talking to your supervisor or manager about your specific problems. You can discuss specific goals you’re working towards, draw attention to a lack of resources needed to work, that you find you’re being micromanaged and it’s affecting your productivity, or even just ask for a change in the environment. Most of the time, your superiors will be open to hearing what you have to say and reaching some kind of compromise.
Socialize more with your co-workers.
If talking to your boss isn’t an option, you may consider spreading your wings and socializing a bit more at work. Chances are that you’re not the only one that feels the way that you do, and talking to someone else who understands can be a great way to help cope. If that’s not something you want to try, you could even reach out to your friends for some support, if only to vent about everything that’s bothering you. That’s what friends are for, afterall.
Practice self-care and self-improvement.
If grumbling about work doesn’t do the trick, you may find that a little self-care and self-improvement can go a long way. Get more sleep, take up a creative and/or relaxing hobby like knitting or gardening, practice mindfulness and meditation, or even get some more exercise. All of those things can be effective in relieving mental tension. Hell, if you are able to, take some time off to just relax and be away from work for awhile.
If all of the above options fail you, or are untenable for whatever reason, you really need to strongly consider working somewhere else. I know I said we’d just ignore that option but by this point I don’t think there are any others. It’s important to recognize that you are not your occupation and that your health is more important than some shitty, unrewarding job.