Preventing Burnout in the Workplace

Exhausted. Bored. Apathetic. Discouraged. These are all signs of workplace burnout, and anyone can suffer from it. The term was first coined in the 1970s by two psychologists, and we’re more familiar with this experience now more than ever.

Burnout leads us to feel cynical about our jobs, like nothing we do makes a difference. You may find it hard to concentrate at work, and feel hopeless about being productive and doing a good job. Burnout is a common and normal experience, and there’s no need to feel ashamed of it. The best way to prevent burnout is to notice its signs when it’s coming up so that you can take action to prevent it from taking over your life.

Why is this important?

  • More people are feeling burnt out than ever -- some surveys show that up to half of all Canadian workers feel stressed and exhausted at the end of the work day. This is higher than the global average.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in rising levels of burnout all over the world.
  • Burnout can lead to an increased risk for illnesses like high blood pressure, heart problems, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Burnout itself isn’t a mental health disorder, but left unaddressed, it can increase your risk for mental illnesses like depression and anxiety disorders.

Tips to prevent burnout

  • Pay attention to signs that you’re burning out. Signs can include a cynicism or apathy towards your job, less productivity, lack of focus, exhaustion, and hopelessness about doing a good job.
  • Once you’ve noticed the signs in yourself, talk to someone about it. There is no need to be ashamed of burning out, and if you keep it to yourself, it’ll only get worse. Do you have a colleague, mentor, supervisor, or therapist you can talk to openly? When you can be honest about how you feel, you can take action to change course.
  • Make sure you’re practicing good self-care. Even if you don’t feel burnt out yet, practicing basic self-care may protect you from ever getting there. Make sure your body is nourished with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and get enough restful sleep every night.
  • Periodically perform a self-evaluation of your job. Do you enjoy your day-to-day tasks? Do you feel like your work is meaningful and important? Do you respect your supervisors? Do you feel like you’ve created a good work-life balance? It’s so easy to fall into auto-pilot at work. When you intentionally evaluate how you’re feeling at work, you're more likely to catch the things that may cause you to burn out. 


Click here to download this tip sheet in PDF format.

References: [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: What is burnout? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from:

Melamed, S., Shirom, A., Toker, S., & Shapira, I. (2006). Burnout and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective study of apparently healthy employed persons. Psychosomatic medicine, 68(6), 863–869.

Microsoft (2021, March 22). Microsoft 2021 Work Index. Available from:

Toker, S., Melamed, S., Berliner, S., Zeltser, D., & Shapira, I. (2012). Burnout and risk of coronary heart disease: a prospective study of 8838 employees. Psychosomatic medicine, 74(8), 840–847. 

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