Does your workplace have you feeling stressed? You’re not alone. According to a Gallup study of 7,500 full-time employees from 2018, 23% of employees said they feel burned out at work very often or always, and an additional 44% said they feel burned out sometimes. Yes, you read that correctly. About two-thirds of all full-time workers are experiencing burnout while on the job. This sentiment has become so prevalent, in fact, that the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified “burnout” as an occupational phenomenon in its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. What exactly is the classification of burnout, you may ask? If you’ve ever felt cynical about your job or overly exhausted in the office, keep reading.

The overstressed-at-work syndrome

According to (WHO), burnout is a condition that has resulted from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The leading international health adviser characterizes burnout by three dimensions. These include “feelings of exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” Sound familiar? While these characterizations may seem obvious to you, the WHO’s announcement of burnout as a phenomenon has pretty big implications. First, identifying “burnout” wasn’t so easy in the past. Although many workers may have exhibited burnout-related symptoms, absence at work or other consequences of being overworked have been chalked up to poor performance or lack of motivation. Now, because it’s an internationally recognized phenomenon, employers have a duty to step up their game and offset burnout in the workplace.

The invisible disease and why no one’s talking about it

Indeed, burnout can be hard to spot, as its more of a psychological response to our environment. Psychological issues typically go unnoticed more than physiological issues. This is because its a lot easier for the mind to identify and understand a broken foot than more complex, internal issues like anxiety or depression. In addition, burnout discussions are often left unspoken because burnout can be easily confused with stress. Sure, work can get stressful. But the difference in stress and burnout lies in how we cope. After a stressful assignment or week at work, we can typically wind down with a relaxing weekend or much-needed vacation days. Burnout, on the other hand, is a more difficult malaise to manage. The effects of burnout are long-term and have devastating effects on workplace productivity. Burnout at work can even affect how you view your life as a whole. Several studies have indicated there is a link between burnout and depression, although the causation is yet to be found.

What’s more, burnout is a condition that’s rarely talked about and therefore rarely addressed. In today’s society, productivity is put on a pedestal and workers are expected to commit more of their personal time to put in extra hours. In fact, the United States is the most overworked country in the developed world. With many startup businesses coming and going nationwide, this isn’t surprising. Startup culture is notorious for a lack of work-life balance. Because these are budding businesses, employees and executives alike are expected to work long hours in a high-stress, make-or-break environment. Even if you’re experiencing burnout, your debilitating symptoms may just be seen as an inability to keep up. In reality, burnout is much more than an overly full plate at work. It breaches one’s overall well-being, which is why it’s important for employers and employees to work toward solving this problem.

How to recognize burnout and solutions

The first step in helping yourself or another pull themselves out of burnout mode is to identify some common symptoms of the condition. These may include but are not limited to, disillusionment, mental and physical fatigue, loss of motivation, reduced interest in hobbies, impatience, moodiness, inability to meet deadlines at work, feeling like your work goes unnoticed, hopelessness, sleep deprivation, and trouble concentrating. If you’ve checked one or more of these boxes, you may be a victim of burnout. These symptoms may be caused by a lack of control surrounding your assignments or schedule, unclear expectations of how you should accomplish tasks, a dysfunctional work environment, lack of social support at work, and simply spending too much time on work-related projects. Because burnout is relatively new (the term was coined in the 1970s), there aren’t any textbook solutions for solving this condition. However, there are still steps you can take to reduce burnout symptoms.

First, evaluate your career options. If you believe your burnout may be a result of a specific task or responsibility at work, you may want to open the conversation with your employer about other options for you at work. Granted, not everyone has the benefit of approaching this topic in a healthy environment. But, if you’re comfortable enough with your boss, it’s always worth a shot to ask if there’s a different position available for you. If you think your burnout is due to where you work specifically, you may want to explore other job openings in your area. You may also want to seek support from a professional counselor. Opening up to a professional about your burnout symptoms will help them identify personal solutions to your troubles, which may include mindfulness or a different perspective about your work situation. Although there’s no quick fix when it comes to burnout symptoms, identifying the issues you are having and seeking assistance from either your employer or a professional will help pull you out of the burnout rut.