Every job has stressors, but experts say feeling extremely stressed at work, or “burnt out,” can have negative impacts on health.
When someone is feeling burnout, their adrenal glands, or stress glands, can over- or under-produce, Nisha Jackson, a hormone expert and gynecology health specialist told the Herald.
“Stressing these ‘burnout glands’ can make you feel tired, can cause you to not able to sleep well at night or cause you to feel depressed or anxious,” Jackson said. “Basically, your body is working to slow you down, even if it means making you sick. Your body is trying to conserve stress hormones.”
Jackson and other experts said that while burnout has negative health effects, the root causes are treatable.
What causes burnout?
“One of the things that can lead to employee burnout is when someone doesn’t feel valued or understood,” said Kathy Lund, director of UND’s Pancratz Career Development Center. “If someone feels like they’re doing what they’re good at, it will completely change how employees feel about work.”
Employers should determine what their employees bring as strengths as a way to combat burnout, Lund said.
Employees who have the opportunity to “do what they do best” are 57% less likely to frequently experience burnout, according to consulting company Gallup.
“You can’t get everything from a job,” Lund said. “Sometimes we think, ‘this has to be the perfect job’ or students graduate and think ‘I have to get into the best job ever.’ But every job is going to have challenges and things you don’t like.”
According to Gallup, employees are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have more flexibility in what tasks to do, when to do them and how much time to spend on them. When an employee recognizes they feel burnout, they should have a conversation with their manager, Lund said.
“Maybe your manager can switch you into different roles or add tasks to your current job,” Lund said. “Your manager might have been looking for someone to do what you’re good at, but you’d never know if you don’t ask.”
Asking for what one needs is a way to make an employer feel they can empower their employees. According to Gallup, employees whose manager is willing to listen to work-related problems are 62% less likely to be burned out.
How can employers prevent burnout?
Employers play a huge role in beating burnout in the workplace.
“As an employer you’ve got to give good feedback,” said Sean Valentine, a professor of management in UND’s College of Business and Public Administration. “Not knowing how you’re doing could cause burnout. Being thrown into a job without proper training can also lead to employees feeling stressed or burnt out.”
Changing day-to-day tasks at work can prevent burnout, Valentine said.
“Changing the nature of the work itself, like providing more variety or enlarging the job by adding tasks at the same or higher level, can help beat burnout,” Valentine said.
Putting employees on a rotational program, where they move to different jobs every so often, is another way to change the nature of the work and help fight burnout. In addition, allowing employees to have “flex time,” or be more in control of their schedule, can help with burnout.
“You can have more of a work-family balance for employees with that type of schedule,” Valentine said.
Workplace culture also plays a large role in how employees feel. Employees who have a space where they can connect with coworkers are 26% less likely to feel burnout, according to Gallup. Valentine said research shows when employees deal with workplace bullying, they’re more likely to burnout or quit. This is why it is important to hire well, Valentine said.
“Deviant behavior, like bullying, mistreating others from an interpersonal perspective, yelling at people, mistreating people … all those things lead to higher rates of burnout in the workplace,” Valentine said.
People tend to feel a lot less burnout, Lund said, if other people in the workplace take time to get to know each other.
“Making friends at work has a ton of value. If you feel connected to the people you work with and that people care about you, you’re less likely to feel burnout,” Lund said.