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Eureka: Q & A on burnout
by Joseph Gatt
2018-05-29 09:14:45
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Almost everything you need to know about burnout, in Q & A format.

Question: What are the symptoms of burnout?

A lot of people use “burnout” and being tired interchangeably. I'm not satisfied with the medical definition of burnout. I'm not a doctor so take this with a grain of salt. But to me there are four symptoms of burnout. If you see people with these symptoms they are probably burned out.

-Emotional instability. Burned out people tend to be irritable, angry, cranky, moody. They can also have inappropriate emotional reactions to events, such as showing no grief when a family member passes away, no pain when there's a breakup or a divorce, or no regret for wrong actions taken.

burn0001_400-Personal instability: Burned out people, be it high school students, college students, professionals, housewives, you name it, show signs of personal instability. They enter romantic relationships that they leave pretty quickly, have no loyality to their friends, start personal projects they don't finish, don't tidy their rooms, make no effort to cook or clean, constantly order food rather than cooking and don't clean up after they eat. In some cases they have poor personal hygiene, such as not showering or washing.

-Organizational instability: if you see a messy desk, that's probably a symptom of burnout. People with burnout tend not to look after their desks, tend to lose their papers, tend to misplace important objects such as credit cards, IDs or social security cards and can lose important documents. They can also have disorganized speech, say the wrong things at the wrong time to the wrong person.

-Ability to get the task done. People with burnout will tend to stay at their desk completely incapable of getting any task done. A lot of times they will stare blankly at their computer screen, or stare blankly at their machine without starting to use it or operate it.

Burn out can lead to industrial accidents such as car accidents or accidents using machines, or work-related accidents.

Question: What are the causes of burnout?

Some causes can be neurological and some causes can be environmental. I won't go through the neurological causes, as I'm not a doctor. But environmental causes include:

-Emotional instability at the workplace: colleagues who have anger management issues, who are constantly irritated, who are burned out themselves, or who like to play with people's emotions.

-Personal instability: people with burnout might be in chaotic romantic relationships, victims of domestic abuse, might have huge financial problems such as debt problems, might have other personal problems such as poor housing conditions, living in poverty or having long commutes to the workplace.

-Organizational instability: burned out people can have problems with their supervisors or co-workers, there can be communication problems at the workplace, the rules might constantly be changing, or workers might have to work long hours for low pay, salaries might be late, or perhaps the burned out person works three jobs and hardly has time to sleep.

-Task-related instability: often people with burnout perform too many tasks at work, or perform tasks that they are not up to. Either the tasks are too easy but time-consuming, or too difficult and outside the realm of ability to get the task done.

Question: How do you prevent burnout?

You can never completely eliminate burnout, but there are four things you can do to reduce burnout at the workplace.

-Emotional stability at the workplace. Doesn't mean workers have to be happy all the time, but a zen-like atmosphere at the workplace can prevent burnout.

-Personal stability at the workplace: Allowing workers to leave on time, and giving them salaries that can afford decent living standards including rent, transportation, food, clothing and solidarity. Job security is also important.

-Organizational stability: Paying workers on time, having predictable rules, structuring your organization and having cordial relationships between colleagues all contribute to reducing burnout.

-Enhancing the ability to get the tasks done: not changing tasks to frequently, giving employees the means to perform the tasks, including technological means, not interfering with their task production, giving them tasks that are not too easy or too difficult for them.

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