Workplace burnout: Building awareness and prevention

Posted on 05/22/24 08:35:am orkplace burnout awareness and prevention


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Feeling stressed at work? You’re not alone. A study by the American Institute of Stress sheds important light on the subject:

  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • About one million Americans miss work each day because of stress.
  • 76% of US workers say workplace stress affects their personal relationships

High levels of workplace stress can lead to burnout, impacting not only the individual employee, but also colleagues, customers, and the company as a whole.

Jerry Halverson, MD, FACPsych, DFAPA, senior physician executive, psychiatrist, and Emily Jonesberg, MSW, LCSW, program manager, Rogers Community Learning and Engagement and WISE share their expert insights on workplace burnout in a two-part series: in part one, what it is and what causes it and in part two, why it matters and what a person can do to prevent it.

Signs of workplace burnout

Dr. Halverson: I would define burnout as increased irritability and apathy toward what a person does, which causes the individual to be less engaged, less effective, and experience less enjoyment or job satisfaction. A person may take longer than usual to get things done at work, and overall, may feel less tolerant of the workplace. Also, “burnout” is a controversial term because oftentimes, it may feel like the person who is burned out is at fault, or that the individual is doing something wrong. The focus is often on helping the person feeling burned out behave differently, when in fact, burnout is caused by a variety of factors over which the person has no control.

Emily: Oftentimes, burnout is a state of being or feeling depleted. Someone experiencing job burnout has a hard time accessing innovative thinking and is typically isolating from their peers. A person may feel fatigue, a greater sense of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, and an inability to be as empathetic and compassionate to others as they normally would be. They’re spending a lot of time and energy dwelling on negative or stressful events from the day and aren’t finding joy in their work.

People use the term “burned out” in different ways. Someone could say, “I feel incredibly burned out today” and that's not to minimize their experience. They probably had a very challenging day and truly do feel drained. What we’re talking about is longer lasting. It's when someone repeatedly feels drained at work and isn’t tending to their own needs.

One thing we often talk about in our compassion resilience work is the compassion fatigue cycle. The last stage is the zombie stage.  People can’t see all the support around them and may feel like they’re the only one who can do certain tasks, like care for a patient or run a committee, because they’re focused on just getting through the day and putting one foot in front of the other.

 Causes of burnout in the workplace

Dr. Halverson: In the medical field, a lot of what we do is redundant and there’s less autonomy. It feels to some like there is less respect for an individual’s needs. All the time we spend with electronic medical records is thought to have driven a lot of the burnout. When we have to be on our computers so much, we’re not able to interact with our patients in the way we would like.

Emily: When people feel disconnected from their ‘why’, as in why they got into their line of work, they can begin the process of feeling burned out. It’s gradual. A person gets more and more disconnected and loses sight of living in their why and their values. “Moral injury”, when people have to make decisions or do things that go against their personal ethics or their morals, contributes to burnout. The example given in the medical field is when doctors have to make decisions based off of insurance reimbursement rates, regardless of what’s best for the patient, or they're told they need to turn through patients in 15-minute periods – which stands against why they went into the field.

Another contributing factor is experiencing oppression and micro-aggressions. As I’m sure you can imagine, if you’re working in an environment that doesn’t support you, or worse, is hostile toward a component of your identity, that’s going to amplify feelings of fatigue and burnout. If I’m already carrying the stressors associated with working in a helping profession with colleagues who are also drained and patients with high rates of trauma, and my opinion isn’t valued, I am continuously talked over, my name isn’t pronounced properly, and my pronouns aren’t honored, I will most likely get to a state of burnout even faster.

Are some jobs more prone to workplace burnout?

Dr. Halverson: Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are at higher risk for burnout, which not only impacts the care they give to patients, but also affects the team of people surrounding them.

Emily: Helping professions are found to have higher rates of burnout because people are emptying their cups frequently to support other people. There's been a big move toward trauma-informed care, which acknowledges the presence and role of trauma in a person’s life. We provide services that meet people where they are and create sensitivity to all the things that people bring with them into a space. This is amazing and incredibly needed. When we're being trauma informed and not being mindful of how we tend to ourselves, we can be open to all of the tough stuff that someone brings with them. As a result, we can experience and internalize certain levels of trauma. Holding that in your body impacts your sense of well-being and leads to a higher rate of burnout.

How Rogers can help

If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, OCD, addiction, depression or other mood disorder, or an eating disorder, our compassionate team of experts is here to help. Call 800-767-411 for a free, confidential screening. 

If you’re interested in learning more about compassion resilience, check out free resources on Rogers’ website here.

Watch for part two of our series on workplace burnout: why it matters and strategies for managing it.


Call 800-767-4411 or go to to request a free screening.