Do you start early and finish late? Are you the kind of person that always says yes to more work? Do you feel like you’re at a breaking point? If so, you could be at risk of burnout.

But what is burnout?

Well since you asked, burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. A state of being that we too often dismiss as a normal part of our role. We soldier on and do what we need to do because after all… work needs to be done.

Let me break this down further and define the different types of organisational stress or stressors one can experience. Specifically, two common types of stressors known as hindrance and challenge.

          1. Hindrance stressors are a type of stress that interferes with your ability to achieve your goal, this includes office politics, ‘red tape’ or confusion over job responsibilities.

           2. Challenge stressors relate to individual workload, pressure to complete tasks or leadership responsibility (Podsakoff, LePine and LePine, 2007).

It’s important to recognise that not all types of stressors are bad. In fact, there is a healthy level of stress one can experience, whereby the effects are beneficial to the individual. For example, challenge stressors are great if the challenge is still attainable for the individual. Moreover, the rewards for overcoming this challenge not only increases job satisfaction but also helps a person to grow and develop.

However, if the person is not properly trained to handle the challenge nor are they capable of fulfilling the requirement, this can change the whole dynamic. Subsequently, the task becomes unachievable which will have a negative impact on the individual and the organisation. Ultimately, conducting sufficient job analysis and attracting the right people compatible with the job description will decrease the negative impacts. If you are interested in understanding more about this process, contact the Optimum Consulting team for more details.

My focus on organisational stress stems from my own personal experience with burnout. A feeling I grew quite accustomed to over the past three and a half months. A feeling I would hate to experience again although, it’s critical to talk about. Specifically, because it is a common occurrence in the Australian work force. Don’t believe me? Check out this report from Safe Work Australia on work-related stress.

My story began when I accepted a graduate role before graduating university. Whereby, I was working a 35-hour work week whilst studying a fulltime university course load. I knew it was going to be challenging but it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It allowed me to work in my field of study, surrounded by experienced and high-performing professionals. Although I survived the ordeal, I constantly felt overwhelmed which directly affected the quality of my work as well as my ability to focus and meet goals.

It also affected my general wellbeing. For example, I always felt exhausted which changed how I composed myself inside and outside of work. Indirectly affecting my ability to maintain relationships. In hindsight, my biggest downfall was not recognising my own limits and asking for help, despite being offered it. Maybe I was too proud? Maybe I felt I had something to prove? Or maybe I was an idiot and should have just asked for help? Regardless, there is nothing wrong with asking for help, the problem is the unintended consequence of not asking.

Beyond this, my gift to you is a piece of advice I wish I had known before all of this happened. That is to help you identify the warning signs and consequences of burnout in addition to this, a method for managing stress before it leads to burnout.


Warning Signs & Consequences:

The consequences are multifaceted. Burnout can affect people both inside and outside of a work setting as well as on an individual level. Individually, burnout can have physiological, psychological and behavioural impacts on a person (Robbins, Judge, Millett and Boyle, 2016). This can disrupt personal and professional relationships and can also lead to mental health issues.

  • Physiological: headaches, blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
  • Psychological: dissatisfaction, poor concentration, depression, fatigue, anxiety and procrastination.
  • Behavioural: increased drinking or smoking, rapid speech, sleep disorders, physical inactivity and social withdrawal (Panagioti, Geragthy and Johnson, 2018).

On an organisational level, employees that experience burnout have a higher tendency to experience disengagement, poor performance, low job satisfaction, high job turnover and absenteeism. So not only is it important for an individuals personal health but it’s also in a company’s best interest to support employee morale and wellbeing. But how can we achieve this? This can be achieved by promoting positive work culture and training staff so they can manage stress appropriately. Another approach, ask the Optimum Consulting team. One of their specialties include optimisation of employee engagement.

A simple guide to managing work-related stress:

  • Implement effective time management techniques
  • Create a social support network and enable open discussions
  • Increase weekly physical exercise
  • Learn how to relax and have ‘me time’

 (Robbins, 2016)

This guide although simple, helped me overcome my endeavor. The biggest change for me was implementing better time management techniques. I was lucky enough to have access to a goal management platform at work which really put my work priorities into perspective and alleviated the unnecessary stress from work.

And for those in leadership positions that still don’t believe in or recognise the importance of employee wellbeing take a look at this Gallup Report to help calculate the immense cost a disengaged employee will have on your organisation.

Jacqui Prendergast


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