Business Bites: Beating burnout

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO head of corporate development

How do you know if you are just feeling a bit overwhelmed, or whether you are truly burnt out?

Typical signs of burnout may include:

  • You start work early, finish late, work at weekends
  • You find yourself taking it out on someone else/blaming others
  • Your sickness absence increases
  • You skip your lunch break
  • Relationship issues
  • You don’t take all of your holiday entitlement
  • Self-medicating
  • Procrastination
  • Sunday night insomnia

Burnout can be described as ‘information overload’. The World Health Organisation includes ‘burnout’ in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon– stating: “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”1.

Take time out to recharge

Identifying and preventing burnout

Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter describes burnout as: “…a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion. When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level”2.

Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognise it before it’s too late.

Renowned neuroscientist, Dr Lynda Shaw writes3: “So how do we deal with burnout in the first instance?

  • Know when things are severely out of balance. Accept that there are sometimes periods of short-term stress, especially when you have to put in longer hours at work or have to deal with a certain situation, but it becomes detrimental when it dominates your life over a longer period
  • Identify the signals early. Signs of burnout include fatigue, irritability, sleepless nights, feelings of exhaustion, and anxiety
  • Talk to someone about how you feel. If you feel nervous about telling your manager that you need a break or changes to be implemented, then talk to a close colleague, friend or family member first. Having a chat with someone who knows you well might offer you reassurance or another way of looking at things
  • Prioritise sleep. This will improve your concentration, memory and decision-making and your overall physical and mental health. Look closely at your ‘sleep hygiene’ by avoiding screen time in the one to two hours before bedtime and have regular bed and getting up times
  • Disconnect to recharge. To prevent chronic stress, take time to recharge and disconnect from work completely. When you take time off, make sure you really are off! This includes holidays, your evenings and weekends
  • Plan your day. Prioritise urgent tasks and be realistic about how long a task or project could take and factor in breaks. Do not try to multitask. Focus on one thing at a time and give it your full attention”

Employers know they need to help

Employers show responsibility by protecting their workforce from burnout. A good employer will never look at staff as ‘disposable’. Employees should feel comfortable to ask for help and not feel that it will reflect badly on them or be seen as a sign of weakness. The benefits to employers are many, including greater productivity, happier teams and therefore lower staff turnover.

Sometimes, you just need to take 10

If you are feeling stressed, know when to take time out to allow your mind time to recover and recuperate. Try going outside for a short walk to allow your mind to reset. Build regular short breaks into your everyday work.


1. World Health Organisation. Burnout: an occupational phenomenon. 28 May 2019.
2. Bourg Carter S. The tell-tale signs of burnout. Psychology Today. 26 November 2013.
3. Shaw L. These proven techniques will help you and your team beat burnout. Chartered Management Institute. 26 January 2021.