Burnout comes in many forms, but the end result is the same – extreme fatigue, a lack of motivation, frustration, and poor workplace performance. For most individuals, work burnout goes beyond mere fatigue. If burnout were caused merely by fatigue, then a vacation would be the obvious prescription and simple solution to the problem.
Yet many burnt-out workers find that even after a long vacation, they return to work feeling unmotivated, irritable, and tired. Burnout is the result of a combination of long hours, lack of stimulating work, and lack of motivation/direction. Whether that means the work is too easy, too difficult, too mundane, or there is simply no room for advancement, a poor work environment is one of the key causes of burnout.
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The crucial element in dealing with burnout is change. As Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Dealing with burnout by attempting to power through your troubles may be insane and likely to compound the issue. Yet in many fast-paced work environments, that’s exactly how workers choose to deal with burnout.
So if change is the solution to burnout, what exactly can one change? Change can come in more than one form. An obvious solution to burnout is to change your work environment and find a position where you get to work on projects that are rewarding and intellectually challenging. The reality, however, is rarely that simple. Financial obligations and limited employment options often force individuals to remain in a workplace environment that is causing fatigue, stress, and yes – burnout.
If you’re stuck in a workplace or position that’s conducive to burnout, what can you do? In the long run, your goal should be to change your environment, whether that means changing positions, changing employers, or changing professions. No one can be happy doing work they hate, in an environment that they don’t enjoy, with no hope for advancement. In the meantime, however, the best solution for burnout is to change your social interactions within your workplace and your personal life, as well as your mental attitude towards the future.
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Research has shown that one of the key indicators of workplace satisfaction is the degree of positive relationships an employee has at their workplace. Workers performing mundane tasks for long hours with low pay can show significantly higher job satisfaction than highly paid professionals – provided they love the people they work with.
No matter what your position at the office, make a concerted effort to seek out social relationships with people that you find friendly, inspiring, and interesting. Just forming one or two close relationships with people in your workplace whom you admire and respect can significantly reduce burnout. Outside of the office, make a concerted effort to get involved in social activities. Spend time with those you love and care about whenever you have a chance, or make an effort to meet new people and build new relationships. While this may be difficult when you’re dealing with long-hours and little down-time, it’s crucial for maintaining a healthy state of mind.
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If you’re struggling daily to make it through long hours in an oppressive work environment, freelancing is another option you should consider. Freelancing can allow you to take back control of your work environment, as well as your life. You’ll not only get to set your own hours and be your own boss, you’ll be able to seek out the projects that you find truly interesting and rewarding.
Technology has made it easier than ever for freelancers to find clients and communicate all over the world. Thanks to the power of Skype and the impressive growth of online recruitment, you’ll be able to communicate and work with interesting clients from all over the world. If workers in rural Serbia or Argentina can find rewarding freelance work with some of the top companies in the Silicon Valley and New York City, there’s no reason that you can’t either. If your environment isn’t providing you with the flexibility and stimulation you need, don’t be afraid to create your own environment. It won’t always be easy, but it’ll certainly be worth it.
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Even if your situation can’t change at the moment, it’s important that you draw inspiration from others to avoid developing a sense of hopelessness. These feelings are a significant component of burnout, and are common in any oppressive work environment. But no matter how dissatisfied you are with your current employment, it’s important to continue to dream and hold onto bigger aspirations. Though they may seem unattainable at the moment, having a dream that you can slowly work towards will help stave off burnout.
If you’re at a point in your life or career where you no longer have any meaningful goals, look to people you admire for inspiration. Many individuals who have accomplished great things have dealt with burnout at one point or another. Whether these people are historical figures, public figures, people in your peer group, or simply people you admire from afar, use them as inspiration and guides towards your own goal setting and motivation.
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Fighting burnout is all about change. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout – extreme fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, lack of motivation, even depression – look for positive changes you can make that are within your control. Build the foundation you need to rid burnout from your life by seeking out closer relationships, developing meaningful goals, and drawing inspiration from those you respect and admire. Change may not always occur overnight, but over time, small changes can lead to big results.