Avoiding job burnout

  • Published
  • By Greg Chadwick
  • Air Force Materiel Command Health & Wellness Team
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- During the fall months, Air Force Materiel Command will promote its Avoiding Job Burnout Awareness Campaign. The goal of the campaign is to inform the AFMC workforce about how to avoid job burnout, and what you can do when your job begins to affect your health and happiness.

Even if you love your job, it’s common to feel burnt out from time to time. Job burnout is caused by long-term exposure to work-related stressors. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet workload demands. Typical symptoms include emotional and physical exhaustion, a reduced sense of personal accomplishment, depersonalization, and cynicism. Burnout can threaten your job, your personal life, and your psychological and physical health.

Job burnout can result from various factors, including:

• Excessive workload
• Unclear job expectations
• Lack of control and resources
• Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
• Lack of social support
• Monotonous or low-stimulation work
• Work-life imbalance

Although stress is a key factor, burnout goes beyond typical stress. Stress is often relatively short-term, and it is caused by a feeling that work is out of control. You might experience stress several days or weeks in a row, especially when working on a large project or under a tight deadline. However, once the situation changes, stress often lessens or disappears entirely.

Burnout is a cumulative condition that builds over a long period of unrelieved stress, also known as chronic stress. Chronic stress overtaxes the system and gradually your resources are drained away leading to burnout.

Job burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. If you recognize a couple of signs of burnout in your own behavior, there are positive steps you can take to get your life back into balance including:

Manage the stressors that contribute to job burnout. Once you’ve identified what’s fueling your feelings of job burnout, you can make a plan to address the issues.

Take breaks during the workday. Take breaks to restock your mental energy by having lunch away from your work area and taking walks.

Try to be more sociable with co-workers. Developing friendships with co-workers can help buffer you from job burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the workday can relieve stress from an unfulfilling or demanding job.

Find a balance between work and personal responsibilities. Employees should strive to maintain a balance between the time they spend at work and the time they spend with family and friends.

Establish good self-care. Maintain healthy habits such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Limit the use of quick fixes such as alcohol, nicotine or over-the-counter medication.

Attach your work efforts to something you value. Notice how your work makes something in the world, the culture, or other people’s lives better.

Take long weekends. Feeling mentally and physically exhausted may also be a sign that you need to take some time off. Instead of a two-week vacation, you might obtain greater benefit from regularly taking three-day weekends.

Unplug from electronic devices. Actively limit your use of digital devices after hours, so work stressors do not interfere with family time, vacation, and social activities.

Support resources to help avoid and manage job burnout are available for the AFMC workforce and their families through the Employee Assistance Program and Military OneSource. These qualified professionals can help clarify the cause of your job burnout and offer suggestions for improvement and resolution.

Civilian employees may contact the Employee Assistance Program for free, confidential counseling services at (800) 222-0364 or visit the EAP website.

Active-duty personnel can contact Military OneSource by calling (800) 342-9647 or visiting the Military OneSource website.

For educational materials on how to avoid job burnout, visit the AFMC Wellness website, or contact your local Civilian Health Promotion Services team.