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Question – Is burnout at work normal?

Wondering whether exhaustion and burnout is a regular occurrence at work? Thinking of moving on? Our career coach offers some guidance in moving forward.

Question: Is it normal to feel waves of burnout at work? How do you know when it’s time to get out? Jacob, Illinois

In many jobs, it’s normal to experience periods of high-stress. You might be working on high-stakes projects with tight deadlines, putting in long hours, arguing with colleagues or falling short of expectations you set yourself.

This is pretty typical, and if you do have periods like this, see if you can spot a pattern that triggers the feelings of stress. Maybe there is a particular skill you need to develop, a relationship you need to improve, or you need to get better at setting realistic expectations.

A good manager should help you with this process of personal development. If you don’t have a good manager, you try a trusted colleague, mentor or professional coach.

However, if these feelings are chronic – i.e. you feel them almost continually – then you might be experiencing burnout, and you need to take this seriously because it will affect your health, and your life outside work.

Here are a few signs that you may be experiencing burnout; loss of motivation and enjoyment in your work, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism or tardiness, physical and emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism or detachment from your job, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions.

If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, take a big step back and assess the overall situation, because it might be time to get out.

Again, if you have a good manager, you should confide in them. They may not have realised this was your experience of the workplace, and be able to make adjustments for you.

If you don’t have a good manager, then talk to friends and family, and a professional coach or counsellor if you can. Some organisations have confidential employee assistance programs you can access for this purpose.

It’s important to remember that it’s okay to seek support when you are struggling, and taking care of your own well-being should be a priority. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.

And have the courage to make a change if you need to – no job is worth your health and well-being.