10 Obvious Symptoms of Burnout at Work

Are you “calling out” of work again? Take a look at these symptoms of burnout and follow steps to get back to normal again.

Working remotely feels like unlimited freedom — you work the hours you want from the comfort of your home. So long as the job gets done on time, you get a paid.

Sounds like a perfect situation until your four-year-old gets a stomach bug, and you can’t concentrate for more than five minutes at a time. Or, you get sick yourself, and we all know there’s no respect for a “sick day” when you work from home and have the luxury of working from the couch.

Suddenly, it’s two days before your deadline, and you’re way behind. You buy a four-pack of Red Bull and work till 5:00a.m.—no sleep, no relaxation. You fall behind, miss your deadline, lose trust, and play catch-up for weeks. The cycle begins, and symptoms of burnout slowly form over time.

Sound familiar? If you’ve fallen into bad habits, you’ll eventually burn out at work. Those who are susceptible to procrastination are more likely to burn out than others, not always due to working more hours, simply working more in exhausting bursts. And it’s difficult to manage this kind of stress when working from home. Many remote employees don’t know that they’re suffering from symptoms of burnout. They turn a blind eye to the signals and get trapped. These signs should be recognized and confronted before they start to affect your well-being.

10 symptoms of burnout to recognize before you spiral out of control

1. You have no balance between work and personal life

You’ve fallen into the trap: the 24-hour work day. When you’re not working, you’re thinking about work. You’re checking your emails during family time. You’re playing catch-up on the weekends, and next week is unbearably busy. Your social life has ceased to exist because you’re too busy with work. It’s one of the beginning symptoms of burnout—letting work interfere with your personal life too much.

2. You’ve adopted a negative outlook about the future

You’re starting to believe that change isn’t possible—your circumstances will continue to be stressful forever. That’s the nature of “working for a living” right? You’ve put aside your passion projects because they’re pointless to continue with. The prospects of a successful, bright future have lost their luster, and you feel stuck.

3. You’re always playing catch-up and missing deadlines

You keep handing in work past your deadline. The work you’re supposed to be doing today gets pushed to tomorrow because you’re still catching up from yesterday. Once the habit starts to form, it’s tough to escape it. Your weekly projects get pushed into evenings and weekends. By the time Monday rolls around, you’re exhausted, and the cycle continues. Rinse, wash, repeat.

4. You lack the motivation to take care of your health

That monthly gym membership keeps withdrawing money from your account, but you haven’t shown up in weeks (or months). You spend most of your time sitting in front a screen: computer, smartphone, television, and tablet. The first thing you do in the morning is open up your laptop, and then the rest of the day goes by without a trace of physical exertion (you can start with these desk stretches.)

5. Your stress levels and work habits are making you ill

Have you noticed a change in your physical health recently? Back soreness, headaches, digestive problems—these could be symptoms of burnout. On top of feeling stressed out, you’re also sedentary for most of the day and eating poorly. These three issues combined can cause numerous health problems.

Is burn out encroaching? That’s not good for you, or your employer, and they’ll notice quickly. By developing your superpowers as a virtual team professional (VTP), you can set yourself apart and gain an advantage in your workplace. Learn more about our Superpowers to Excel as a Virtual Team Professional course.

6. You’ve abandoned your regular sleep schedule

Can you remember the last time you went to bed at the same time for two days in a row? Your current sleep schedule is all over the place. You sleep late in the morning, stay up late at night, or don’t go to sleep at all.

7. You find every reason to distract yourself

Procrastination is a sure sign of burnout at work. You constantly put things off because you don’t feel attached to them anymore. They’re just a source of stress for you, so you try to avoid them as much as possible. You know you have to get it done, so you end up squeezing it all in at the last moment. Your work ethic and job performance all suffer because of it and you ignore remote working tools at your disposal.

8. You spend most of your time thinking about work

In the few hours that you’re not working, the only thing you think about is work. You’ll enjoy a beautiful day at the park, but check your emails and write yourself notes about upcoming assignments. Going to a coffee shop to meet a friend or read a book? No way. You’re on your laptop looking over next week’s workload. You have no time to relax, recover, and reset.

9. You’re depressed, and you keep denying it

Low energy levels and lack of purpose make us sad. Depression is a natural phase of burnout if it goes on for long enough. You’re no longer unhappy about just work; you’re dissatisfied at home, in your relationships, and with yourself. You don’t have enough time to come to terms with your emotions, so you ignore the signs and keep pushing.

10. You’re noticeably more irritable and angry

The small things get to you now. You have an extreme dissatisfaction with your working conditions, and you often feel angry about it. Your friends and family have noticed how little things tend to irritate you more than before. You’re not a pleasure to be around because you have a bad attitude.

How can you manage these symptoms of burnout and turn them around for the better?

Here’s the good news: if you’re feeling burnout at work, you can change it around. There are ways to handle stress and create a working environment that suits you. It may be difficult to form new habits and have honest conversations with your bosses, but it’s necessary.

  • Start your mornings off right. Take control of the beginning hours of the day. Spend them on productive non-work-related activities. Low to moderate-intensity exercise, meditation, or simply writing down your thoughts is a step in the right direction.
  • Talk to your bosses. Explain why you’ve been missing your deadlines and not performing well. Give them an honest account of your situation, and ask for help. If they value you as an employee, they will work with you to find a solution.
  • Take some time off to recuperate. Spend a week away from work and focus on yourself. Try not to use your computer or work-related items and do something that makes you happy. Pick up that guitar again. Go for a day-long hike, or have a beach day.
  • Develop boundaries for your workload. Think about what times of the day you are most productive and contain your work hours within them. Make a plan to develop a healthy personal life.
  • Be honest about your job satisfaction. Have you let things get out of control, but still have a passion for the work? Is this job not a fit for you? Evaluate if this job has the potential to give you an emotional, mental, and monetary boost.
  • Get help from a professional who cares. We’re not talking about psychiatry. If you want to get better at your remote position and strike the right balance for success, there are professionals who can help you make these changes. Find a mentor or a coach to help you get back on track.

Let’s hear your opinion: do you have any symptoms of burnout at work? Any questions or feedback? Share your thoughts with us!

Photo by Christian Erfurt

Is burn out encroaching? That’s not good for you, or your employer, and they’ll notice quickly. By developing your superpowers as a virtual team professional (VTP), you can set yourself apart and gain an advantage in your workplace. Learn more about our Superpowers to Excel as a Virtual Team Professional course.