Working More and Playing Less? Watch for These Signs of Burnout

On average, employed people are spending only slightly more time each day sleeping than working. According to data recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 people with jobs spent an average of 8.72 hours each day on “personal care,” a category which includes sleep, and an average of 8.3 hours a day on work and “work-related activities.”

When you consider that we sleep approximately a third of our lives, that’s a sobering thought — even more so for those who work longer hours than average. (This latter category includes DC residents, who have the third-longest workweek in the nation, at an average of nearly 49 hours a week.)

So much work and so little play make us more than dull. It can lead to burnout. This term has been bandied about a lot recently, given the extended hours people are putting in nationwide. According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is more than just feeling tired from long nights or early mornings at the office. It’s “a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.” That’s not something a turbo shot in your coffee is going to fix.

Luckily, there are telltale signs of job-related burnout. If you’ve been noticing them in yourself, it may be time to take action. Below, we run through the top five burnout symptoms so you can keep a watchful eye. 

Insomnia

Despite being exhausted, people who are burnt out may find themselves lying awake long past their usual bedtimes, or they may sleep but wake multiple times during the night. “Often, this troubled sleeping relates to persistent thoughts about the insurmountable amount of work that you have to do and whether you’ll be able to get it done,” Sherrie Bourg Carter writes in a column for Psychology Today. Then there’s tiredness’ companion, fatigue — which with burnout can become chronic. At that point, “the fatigue becomes a physical and psychological state of exhaustion,” according to Carter. “You feel drained. Everything takes a concerted effort. You have no energy, so you do as little as possible to make it through the day.”

Difficulty concentrating

Try as they might, those who are experiencing burnout simply cannot focus the way they once did. This is partly due to biology. “When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat,” Lisa M. Gerry writes in an article for Forbes.com. That’s useful from a short-term, survival-mode standpoint. However, when that stress persists over the long term, it keeps our focus narrowed, crowding out our ability to pay attention to anything else. 

Negative emotions

If you’re burning out, you might find yourself snapping at coworkers you used to like, drafting snooty emails to a client, or ignoring lunch-date requests from that eager new intern — even though the ‘old’ you wouldn’t have dreamed of doing any of that. Burnout can mess with your mood, and in addition to making you feel grumpy, it can also lead to feelings of cynicism about your job or company, lowered self-esteem, and/or general disillusionment. 

Difficulty dragging yourself into the office

When you’re suffering from burnout, you dread going into work each day and you can’t wait to leave each evening. This feeling of dread may be so strong that you find yourself calling in sick even when you’re feeling well enough to work. 

Physical symptoms

Maybe it feels like you’ve had a cold for months, or you get a headache every day. Or perhaps you feel nauseated or have bowel troubles that are new to you and nothing about your diet has changed. Often those who are burnt out have lowered immunity, due in part to disturbed sleep (which may lead to these individuals being sick more frequently or for longer than their non-burnt-out colleagues) and to the fact that chronic stress increases inflammation in the body. 

If any of the above sound familiar in your life, it might be time to make a change. One option? Maybe it’s time to ditch that long workweek and open up shop for yourself. If so, you’ll want chic, flexible, and affordable office space in the heart of it all.  Browse Metro Offices’ nine DC and Washington-area locations to find your perfect fit today.

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