Job Burnout Dangers and How to Avoid Them
If you are experiencing job burnout, you are not alone, but you also are placing yourself in harm’s way. Job burnout is associated with many dangers, according to a new study, but you can take steps to avoid them.
Are you burned out at work?
The old proverb about “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is only partially true. A research team at Tel Aviv University would like to add that job burnout is also associated with some serious health problems, including anxiety, coronary heart disease, insomnia, and obesity.
What contributes to job burnout? In the United States, the trend is for employees to work longer hours, take less vacation and sick time, and retire at an older age than workers in other industrialized countries.
Did you know, for example, that in Europe employers are required to provide paid vacation to all employees, both part-time and full-time, and that it typically amounts to one month or more? Compare that with the United States, where only 36 percent of part-time employees get any paid vacation at all, and only 37 percent are provided with any paid holidays.
Did you also know that the United States is one of only four countries out of 173 that does not provide paid maternity leave? (You can request unpaid leave.)
All of these factors, as well as others such as conflicts with coworkers and bosses, taking work home, and long commutes contribute to job burnout and the potential for serious health challenges. According to the study’s authors, individuals whom they identified as being in the top 20 percent of a burnout scale had a 79 percent increased risk of experiencing coronary heart disease.
This finding, noted Dr. Sharon Toker, of the University’s Faculty of Management, is “alarming,” and places job burnout as a stronger predictor of coronary heart disease than other commonly held risk factors, such as exercise level, smoking, and blood lipid levels.
In the study, the investigative team reviewed 8,838 healthy employed adults who came in for routine physical examinations. All the patients were followed for an average of 3.4 years and evaluated for job burnout levels and indications of coronary heart disease.
A total of 93 individuals developed coronary heart disease during the follow-up period. The authors determined that job burnout was associated with a 40 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, but that those who had the highest scores on the burnout scale had the much higher 79 percent risk, as noted previously.
According to Dr. Toker, physicians can use this information to more closely monitor any of their patients who are experiencing job burnout. Once the fire of burnout is lit, individuals can quickly allow it to develop into a chronic condition unless steps are taken to put out the fire.
What you can do about job burnout
The first step is to identify and acknowledge that you do have job burnout. Questionnaires about job burnout are available online to help you make that determination.
Some sample questions are “Do you feel overwhelmed?” “Do you dread going to work?” And “Are you overloaded with work?” Be honest with your answers!
Other steps you can take to prevent or help eliminate job burnout:
- Take proactive steps to change at least one of the stressors contributing to your job burnout, such as asking for flex time or changing your commute
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise is a great stress reducer. Incorporate exercise into your day: a brisk walk before going into the office or a walk during lunch, schedule regular walks or bike rides on the weekends with friends
- Practice stress reduction every day. Learn mindfulness meditation, yoga, or guided visualization (there are DVDs that can help you learn these techniques). Deep breathing exercises can be learned quickly and are convenient and effective when practiced regularly.
- Be sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If you are having sleep problems (typical of job burnout), stress reduction techniques can help
- Follow a healthy diet. Eating fast food burgers and pizza at your desk is contributing to your stress. Exchange those for fresh fruits and vegetables, dry roasted nuts, low-fat yogurt, and whole grain products. And if you must eat at your desk, put down your work for a while, turn on some soothing music, and eat slowly.
- Seek help. You may want to talk to a therapist about how to deal with your job burnout issues. It also may help to find social support from friends, support groups, or online forums.
Your job is important, but so is your health. If you are experiencing job burnout, take steps now to put out the fire and avoid the health dangers it can cause.