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Hands-up if you’re feeling a little burned-out?  We have heard this phrase being used a lot over the last 2 months.

For some, it feels illogical to be burned-out now. Surely, we are all used to working in a pandemic? And, shouldn’t we be feeling better knowing that lockdown restrictions are easing off? Unfortunately, the reality is that even with hope around the corner, the sheer length of time everyone has been dealing with uncertainty, increased stress levels and the prospect of adjusting to yet more changes is putting us at risk of burnout.

Research has identified three key stages which describe what it means to be burned-out:

  • Increased job stressors – crucial to this stage is we find there is a mismatch between our personal resources and the work demands we are facing.
  • Individual strain – over time we become exhausted emotionally and physically we can feel drained too. Consequently, we have a sense of reduced productivity.
  • Defensive coping strategies – in trying to protect ourselves from additional stress, our attitudes and behaviours can change such that we feel more distant from our role and can even develop cynical thinking and withdraw from our responsibilities.

Burnout is particularly high hazard for those in people orientated professions, for example those offering regular customer contact. Often these employees put others first and even ‘go the extra mile’ to help a client whilst forgetting to take some time out to rebuild their depleted personal resources. Over time, the strain from struggling with deadlines or dealing with challenging customers can take its toll and an unhelpful coping strategy could be to develop cynical thinking.

Overcoming and indeed avoiding burnout is rooted not only in our self-awareness but also in how organisations influence the different components of our working life. Whether it is about feeling more in control over our workload, or even just an improved sense of community at work, these approaches can help protect against burnout.

To find out more about what your employees can do at an individual level as well as what your company can do at a systemic level, get in touch to book a workshop here.

Please remember some of the symptoms of burnout can overlap with symptoms of depression and anxiety, so if you’re struggling, get in touch with a medical professional to talk things through.


Maslach, C. (1998). A multidimensional theory of burnout. In C. L. Cooper (Ed.), Theories of organizational stress. Oxford University Press.