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5 tips for preventing workplace burnout

17 / 10 / 2017
Most people experience workplace stress at some point in their careers, but employees who are exposed to high-pressure situations for a prolonged period of time could become victims of burnout.

The symptoms of burnout include chronic fatigue, poor sleep, cynicism and detachment, and a lack of productivity.

Burnout can affect anyone, but those who work long hours in stressful jobs are particularly prone.

The impact of burnout on staff and firms

Recent statistics from CV-Library revealed that more than one-third of UK employees put in an extra 13 working days every year, while 64 per cent admit working in excess of their contracted hours overall.

Meanwhile, research from Britain's Healthiest Workplace showed that stress has a significant impact on UK productivity, with around three-quarters of British staff reporting some form of work-related stress.

Financial services employees are among the least productive; the data showed finance workers lose approximately 25 days of productivity per employee a year. Only healthcare professionals were less productive (26.6 days).

Burnout can also lead to mental health problems among staff, low morale and poor retention, among other issues.

How can I prevent burnout?

The key to preventing stress from spiralling out of control is to identify warning signs and take preventative measures.

Here are some ways you can do that:

1. Take all your annual leave entitlements

Spending too much time at work is a classic cause of burnout, but that doesn't stop some Brits forgoing their annual leave every year.

TravelSupermarket found that 25 per cent of UK staff don't take all their holiday entitlements, while 6 per cent have seven or more days left over at the end of each working year.

Ensuring you take all your holidays each year will give your brain and body the rest and recuperation it needs to prevent stress from reaching dangerous levels. Make sure to avoid work emails and calls while enjoying your holiday though.

2. Ask for flexible working opportunities

If your current work schedule is making you stressed, ask yourself whether switching your hours or environment could help? Occasionally working from home or in the evenings, for example, may enable you to achieve a better work-life balance.

Barclay Simpson research revealed that flexible working is becoming increasingly important to many corporate governance professionals, so businesses may want to sit up and take note.

UK flexible working rights changed in 2014, meaning anyone who has been employed at an organisation for at least 26 weeks can request different work arrangements - although this doesn't guarantee they will be approved.

3. Learn to delegate

Last year, a Telegraph survey found that 45 per cent of entrepreneurs find it difficult to delegate work responsibilities. This trend is likely reflective of most business leaders, with many taking on unnecessary day-to-day tasks as a result.

Giving up control to peers and subordinates can be tough, but working long and stressful hours doing jobs that should be delegated to other people is a fast track to burnout.

Another benefit of delegating is that it shows employees that you have faith in their abilities, as well as helping them develop their own skills and leadership capabilities.

4. Exercise and eat well

Many people start neglecting their health when they've taken on too much work, which only exacerbates the negative effects of stress. There are numerous studies reinforcing the positive impact that exercise and diet has on energy levels, mental health and physical wellbeing.

However, less than half (44 per cent) of UK workers take their full lunch break. The average employee spends only 27 minutes away from work, while 25 per cent of staff admitted skipping lunch entirely between two and four times a week.

Furthermore, 11 per cent of people in a recent survey claimed that despite paying an average of £564 a year on a gym membership, they didn't use it once during 2016.

5. Consider your job options

Some industries and roles are far more demanding than others, and you may find that you're not suited to a particular company or job.  

As such, you should consider career options elsewhere. This may involve searching for vacancies where workloads are lighter or the organisation has stronger flexible working policies.

Many people are also choosing to move into interim consultancy roles and the gig economy in order to improve their work-life balance and reduce stress.

Hopefully, these tips will give you a starting point for preventing burnout before it becomes detrimental to your job and health. But if you'd like to discuss switching roles in the near future, please contact a Barclay Simpson consultant today.

Our 2017 Compensation and Market Trends Report combines our review of the prevailing conditions in the corporate governance recruitment market together with the results of our latest employer survey.

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