“Burnout” is something that nearly everyone experiences at some point in their lives and careers. Periods of sustained stress can lead to the social withdrawal and decreased productivity that are characteristic of burnout. Burned out employees are negative, unproductive and hard on their colleagues.
The factors at work that lead regular stress to develop into burnout include lack of control over one’s day, unclear expectations, lack of social support and extremes of activity (whether monotonous or chaotic). Self- help strategies such as exercise, meditation, and getting more sleep can help, but a yoga class is not going to save the day if you are in an untenable situation for an extended period. To head off burnout that is coming from the structure or demands of work, an honest and open conversation to set boundaries or ask for clarification of responsibilities can help.
The particular stresses of forced WFH (or high- risk frontline work) combined with family care responsibilities within the pandemic have increased the intensity of these challenges. As a result, there has been more open dialogue about the factors that contribute to burnout. Good managers are paying attention to how to support programs that make work- life integration easier on their teams while the work situation is in flux. It will be hugely important to continue this focus going forward.
(A great article on this subject was just published by HBR.)