What is burnout? 
The term 'burnout' is used freely to describe symptoms of work-related stress or physical fatigue, However, we don't always have a common understanding of what it is, how it affects individuals differently, nor what to do about it. 
 
What is burnout syndrome? How does it differ from stress? And how can you recognise when it's creeping up on you or on someone you care about? 
 
The NHS describes stress as being 'too much' - too many demands and too much to do. Burnout, on the other hand, is described as a feeling that there is 'not enough' - not enough time or energy or enthusiasm. 
 
Those of us who have experienced both might argue that these are two ways of describing the same thing. A feeling of not having enough time combined with too much to do. 
 
Many of us are familiar with the feeling of emotional exhaustion, physical symptoms of stress or depleted energy levels that are often associated with 'burnout'. These symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, and even from day to day. 
 
Sometimes we feel we can deal with daily stress, and sometimes we can experience a lack of control. We each have a different relationship with stress. 
 
Stress and burnout are not mental health problems, but either may lead to one and so it's important to recognise your particular signs and symptoms. Left unchecked or unrecognised, workplace burnout can have impacts on work-life balance and family life. The most severe level is termed 'habitual burnout' and it can cause physical health problems (including elevated blood pressure), and lead to mental health issues and chronic exhaustion. 
 
The World Health Organisation has officially classified burnout as an 'occupational phenomenon' arising from workplace stress, and identified three factors relating to it: 
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 
increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job 
reduced professional efficacy or a lack of accomplishment 
 
Do any of these resonate with you or your team members? 
 
How do you spot the symptoms of burnout? 
Burnout can be a gradual state of mind. It can creep up on you over a period of time, and sometimes you only realise that you are on the road to burnout when your partner, family or friends start to notice. 
 
Are you being asked 'are you ok?' more than normal? 
 
While raised levels of stress can elevate the risk of burnout, it's important not to 'dismiss' a potential mental health problem by explaining it away in your mind as a consequence of a heavy workload or stress of daily life. 
 
If your employer has invested in Verve Healthcare for you, then you'll know that the regular monitoring you have as part of your agreement will help pick up signals that you are changing. If this happens, we can direct you to resources that you might find useful, or make a referral to a doctor or mental health professional if you are showing signs your emotional health is negatively affected. 
 
Even if you are not in Verve Healthcare, you could find that monthly or daily life journaling will provide insight. You can keep a track of how you are feeling and note down factors that might have contributed to a negative impact on your emotional energy. 
 
Do seek help if you are worried, or if someone close to you notices that you are struggling. 
 
What are your signs of burnout? 
Everyone is different and people will experience different burnout symptoms. Indeed, some symptoms may be an early sign of chronic stress and it is important to pay attention to them. 
 
The charity Mental Health UK has described some symptoms. Do any of these seem familiar to you? 
Feeling tired or drained most of the time 
Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated 
Feeling detached/alone in the world 
Having a cynical/negative outlook 
Self-doubt 
Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done 
Feeling overwhelmed 
 
Some people also describe some of the behavioural changes they have experienced, like avoiding social gatherings or not doing the activities or hobbies that they enjoyed. They might push themselves to work harder to overcome a feeling of falling behind, even though doing so may exacerbate the problem. They may also become snappy and short-tempered, especially with those close to them, and refuse to listen to the idea that there could be a problem. 
 
How to battle burnout 
One of the most important things is to be able to notice when you are feeling your enthusiasm is diving, ideally before you get to the 'habitual burnout' point where you struggle to cope. This is not always easy, which is why regular tracking - like we do with your Verve Healthcare plan or in your journal - is so important. 
 
Taking some time off may feel counterproductive, especially at a time when you may have a packed schedule and feel that you have a lack of time or energy to focus on tasks. However, a step away from work may have a huge impact on your ability to reset. 
 
The NHS has some top tips to deal with stress and burnout. The advice is to: 
split up big tasks to make them less overwhelming 
try self-help techniques 
make time for positivity 
be active with regular exercise 
reach out to talk to someone, whether that is a friend, family member, colleague or a self-help group 
planning, visualising yourself overcoming a stressful day or event 
 
The importance of a good night's sleep 
Sleep, or a lack of it, is also associated with feelings of burnout. Research shows that insufficient sleep is a causal factor, along with letting work thoughts creep into your leisure time and high work demands. 
 
You can set yourself up for a better night's sleep. Sticking to a getting-up and bedtime schedule (even at weekends), limiting caffeine, alcohol and food before bed, maintaining some physical activity in the daytime and creating a restful environment for sleep may help. Reducing blue light from mobile or electronic devices before bed can also play a part. Reduce that screen time! 
 
Our approach to burnout at Verve Healthcare 
We know that chronic workplace stress can lead to mental exhaustion and a feeling of demotivation, which affects organisations as well as personal lives. 
The cost of burnout and stress to the UK workforce is considerable; the audit organisation Deloitte reports that six out of ten people leaving their roles in 2021 or 2022 said poor mental health is the reason they left. Deloitte reports that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £56million a year. 
 
How much could your own company save by addressing workplace wellbeing? Plug in your workforce figures into our online calculator to receive your personalised report. 
 
At Verve Healthcare, we use a real-time 'health temperature check' to monitor the health of a workforce, using this as early detection for if things are going wrong and speeding your employees to the right intervention for them. We know that regularly checking in and monitoring the health of your workforce can pick up on any issues early – before they become issues that require more serious intervention. 
 
We also provide employers with an anonymised dashboard so you have an overview of the whole workforce. This means that problem areas can be spotted more readily and adjustments or changes made. 
 
We want to provide a solution that helps people and adds value - not just offer a tick-box solution. Every person in the workplace has the right to be happy and healthy and our people, systems and technology are driven to deliver that every single day. 
 
To find out more about how Verve Healthcare can impact your business please get in touch and one of the Verve Healthcare team will be ready and waiting to talk to you. 
 
 
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