How to Know if You Are Burnt Out at Work

September 21, 2016

Each one of us deals with some degree of stress in our jobs. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as stress can act as a focusing agent, which propels us to do great work.

In other words, there’s some truth to the adage, “pressure makes diamonds.”

However, stress can quickly turn into burn out. And that has the exact opposite effect – instead of helping you produce better work, a burned out employee is less productive, more combative and even their health begins to suffer.

So how do you determine if what you are feeling is just normal stress, or full-fledged burnout? In his LinkedIn Learning course Avoiding Burnout, leadership guru Todd Dewett laid out seven signs that you aren’t just stressed, you are officially burnt out from work:

1. Every day feels unproductive.

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels for weeks on end and aren’t getting anything done, chances are what you are really experiencing is burnout.

2. You are constantly tired.

Most of us would love to have more sleep. However, if you are consistently so tired it’s hard for you to organize your thoughts, you likely are burnt out.

3. You are becoming increasingly more negative.

We should all strive to be positive throughout the day. If that seems like an impossibility, or perhaps you feel clinically underappreciated or that your work doesn’t matter, you are potentially experiencing burn out.

4. You are having trouble focusing.

The most common way this shows up is you are having trouble concentrating on a specific task. But other signs you are having trouble focusing is if you have an increasingly myopic view of your work, a lack of creativity at work or you start making more errors.

5. You are experiencing more conflict at work.

When you are burnt out, you aren’t the only one who suffers. Generally, people who are burnt out tend to first withdraw from their colleagues, and then become more combative with them as deadlines approach, Dewett said.

6. You start experiencing physical problems.

Have you been drinking (or using any other drug) more than usual? Have you unexpectedly gained weight? Unexpectedly lost weight? Are you getting headaches and body aches?

These are all signs you are burnt out.

7. Ultimately, you start seeing work as a constant negative force in your life.

People who are burnt out feel like they are constantly at work, even when they aren’t. Or, going to work is something they dread, to the point it is difficult for them to get out of bed in the morning.

Quite frankly, work is making them miserable. If you feel that way, you absolutely should address it.

A smart way to help you become aware of these issues

Most of us experience some degree of these symptoms some of the time. And yet most of us aren’t fully burnt out, which can often cause us to ignore these signs as part of the daily routine.

To help you gauge if you are truly headed toward a burn out, you should have somebody you trust at work serve as a metaphorical barometer, Dewett said. If they start seeing you exhibit two or more of these seven signs, they can tell you you’re starting to burn out, and you can take steps to address it.

*Image by Anna Gutermuth, Flickr

Want to learn more? Watch Dewett's full course, Avoiding Burnout.

Other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are: