How to prevent burnout at work

Burnout is a state of unrelenting pressure that affects people in the workforce today. It can lead to physical and mental health issues, decreased job satisfaction, and even job loss. That’s why more and more professionals want to know precisely how to prevent burnout at work. In this article, we go through practical strategies to cope with burnout.

How much burned out are we?

Solid data on the prevalence of burnout is difficult to come by. While some studies have reported low rates of 7%, others suggest much higher levels - up to 80% among physicians, as measured by Panagioti et al in an extensive study. In Germany, a recent study conducted by Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) found that around one in five employed individuals experience symptoms related to burnout. With over 10,000 participants surveyed, this comprehensive study provides reliable insights into burnout prevalence across the country.

At an even broader level, research from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), indicates that work-related stress contributes significantly towards employee exhaustion: approximately 28% of workers throughout Europe are affected. Given these alarming statistics and their implications for employees and business productivity, addressing workplace mental health should be a top priority within any organization that cares for its people while ensuring optimal performance outcomes.

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How to prevent burnout at work

While situational factors play a significant role in burnout, addressing underlying issues requires changes at a team or organizational level. However, there are individual steps you can take once you recognize the symptoms and their potential causes. Here are effective strategies that have proven successful.

Prioritize your health

It is crucial to prioritize habits that promote good sleep, nutrition, exercise, and social connection. These habits will help maintain your physical and emotional well-being and your ability to concentrate. Other healthy habits may include meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature. You can replenish your energy and enhance your overall health by consciously practicing healthy habits. 

If you are having trouble squeezing healthy practices into your busy schedule, consider the so-called “time-blocking” method. Time-blocking is a technique where you schedule dedicated and non-negotiable time blocks in your calendar for specific tasks or activities. It involves setting aside predetermined periods for focused work, personal activities, or self-care; and treating them as business appointments. By allocating specific time slots for your priorities, time-blocking helps you manage your schedule more effectively and ensures that you dedicate sufficient time to key tasks without allowing distractions to take over. To identify the time blocks that work best for you, give yourself a week to understand how you spend your time.

Change your viewpoint

While rest, relaxation, and self-care can alleviate exhaustion, reduce cynicism, and enhance effectiveness, they may not fully address the underlying causes of burnout. While back at work, you may still encounter an overwhelming workload, challenging conflicts, or limited resources. Hence, it becomes essential to examine your mindset and assumptions closely. Identify which aspects of your situation are unchangeable and determine what can be modified. By altering your perspective, you can mitigate the negative impact of even the most inflexible factors.

If exhaustion is a sensitive issue, evaluate which tasks, even critical ones, can be delegated to free up valuable time and energy for other essential work. Consider whether you can reshape your job to gain more control and focus on fulfilling tasks. When it comes to cynicism, explore ways to insulate yourself from frustrating aspects of the organization while re-engaging with your specific role and overall mission. Seek opportunities to build positive and supportive relationships that counteract the draining ones. If ineffective, seek assistance or development to enhance your skills and knowledge. If recognition is lacking, consider engaging in personal branding to highlight your achievements and showcase your work. Remember, by seeking targeted changes and adopting a renewed mindset, you can address the root causes of burnout more effectively.

Minimize the impact of work-related stress factors

Job stressors are a common occurrence in the current fast-paced work environment. If unchecked, they can lead to burnout, lower productivity, and health problems. To avoid this, reduce your exposure to these stressors. One way to do this is to focus on high-value activities and relationships that still trigger unhealthy stress. Reset expectations with colleagues, clients, and family members for what and how much you can take on, and establish ground rules for working together. While pushback may occur, you should communicate that you are making these changes to improve your long-term productivity and protect your health. Remember that reducing stress does not mean sacrificing success. Instead, it is about finding a balance that allows you to thrive professionally and personally.

Develop resilience

Burnout is the shadow side of resilience. Fostering resilience is central to avoiding or even reversing burnout. Resilience arises from a combination of (at least) the four following tenets: 

1. Prioritizing personal and professional needs and values

2. Nurturing mindfulness for enhanced understanding

3. Practicing proactive self-care across eight different areas

4. Seeking support from others locally and within the organization

Resilience is a personal journey, yet universal guidelines apply to everyone. Reflecting on personal values and discovering meaning in our work is often seen as the remedy for preventing burnout. A specific example is in a study among clinicians, where dedicating at least 20% of their time to what truly matters in their work reduces the risk of burnout. Understanding our values in both work and life can enhance our overall well-being. So, take a moment to pause and reflect on what holds the highest value for you in life. 

Autonomy emerges as a significant value in cultivating resilience. An extensive study involving over 420,000 individuals across 63 countries found that individualism had a stronger correlation with well-being than wealth. In essence, having control over work outcomes holds greater importance for most individuals than financial income.

Build meaningful connections

To counter burnout, especially when cynicism and inefficacy play a role, actively engage in meaningful interpersonal connections and ongoing personal and professional growth. Seek coaches and mentors who can support you in fostering positive relationships and seizing learning opportunities. Also, volunteering to guide others can be a highly effective method for breaking free from a negative cycle.

Considering the impact of situational factors on burnout, it is probable that others within your organization are also experiencing similar challenges. By coming together to provide mutual support, identifying issues, and collaborating to generate and champion solutions, you will enhance feelings of control and connection for all involved. Utilizing coaching as a valuable tool can effectively guide professionals through this transformative process.


While burnout may appear overwhelming, it is crucial to recognize that this feeling is a sign rather than a permanent condition. By understanding the symptoms and underlying causes and implementing the right strategies, you can navigate toward recovery and create a blueprint for prevention. Your challenging experience has the potential to serve as a turning point that propels you toward a more sustainable career and a life filled with greater well-being and contentment.

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FAQ: How to prevent burnout at work?

What are some signs of burnout?

Signs of burnout can include physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased productivity and engagement, and increased negativity and cynicism. Recognizing these signs is crucial in addressing and preventing burnout, allowing individuals to prioritize self-care and seek support to restore well-being and create a more sustainable work-life balance.

How long does burnout last?

Duration of burnout can vary from person to person, and there is no fixed timeline. Some individuals may experience temporary burnout lasting for a few weeks. In some others, it may persist longer. Factors such as the severity of burnout, the individual ability to address and manage it, and the availability of support and resources can all influence the duration of burnout. Professionals should recognize the signs and take proactive steps to address burnout to facilitate a faster recovery and prevent it from becoming a chronic condition.

Is burnout a mental breakdown?

Burnout and a mental breakdown are not interchangeable terms. Burnout is a state of chronic exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, whereas a mental breakdown refers to a severe psychological crisis where an individual struggles to function. Although there may be some overlap in symptoms, they represent distinct experiences.