The Difference Between Working Hard and Burning Out


Despite what many believe, the most critical factor between hard work and burnout isn't the number of hours worked. It's the problems that work is causes in their lives. So, while one person may be able to work 60 hours a week doing something they love without experiencing burnout, another person may only work 35 hours and feel the effects. In this blog we’ll take a more in depth look at what burnout looks like and how to address it.

Signs and Symptoms

We live in a world that seems to glamorizes emotional and personal sacrifices in exchange for career growth. Working passionless jobs in exchange for a paycheck, extended traffic ridden commutes, and stressful job responsibilities are all contributing to the fact that for many people, burnout is an inevitability. Take a moment and ask yourself where you stand on the spectrum. Have you just been working hard, or are you burning out? Here are some common signs it’s the latter.

Emotional: When you’re burning out you generally have a negative outlook on work and the tasks associated with your job. You may feel trapped, defeated, or have a level of self doubt.

Physical: By the time burnout sets in, you’ll begin feeling tired or drained of energy all of the time. Undesirable behaviors my become normal for you like skipping work, procrastinating on job responsibilities, or being more irritable with others. Your sleep patterns may also change and you may experience random head or body aches.

Mental: If the emotional and physical symptoms of burnout are left unchecked. The problems can become more serious and result in lasting disorders such as alcohol or drug addiction, anxiety, depression, or insomnia.

Causes of Burning Out

One of the most likely causes of burning out is — obviously — working way too hard. This means that you are overexerting yourself on a job that requires strenuous physical or mental labor. If you’re total work hours (including prep time and round trip commute) leave to with not enough time to properly take care of yourself or spend some time on non work related activities then it’s only a matter of time before you’ll feel isolated, stressed, and overtired. Many people work more hours because the feel like they’ll get more done, but that’s rarely the case. When you’re on the path to burnout, the quality of work produced often drops and mistakes become more frequent. If you feel like your on the road to burnout, the first step is acknowledging it, and the next step is implementing some changes.

Solutions To Burnout


Communication can really make the difference in your work environment. By communicating how you’re feeling to your manager, there may be some accommodations that can be made in order to make your workload a little more tolerable. There’s probably a good chance that your manager already has a good idea of how you’re feeling already. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.

Take Breaks

Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the day increase productivity and prevent burn out. Even just standing up and taking a quick walk around the office or outside can help you refresh your mental capacity. If your boss is not cool with that, then you should talk to HR and check out your states employment law surrounding work breaks.

Maximize Free Time At Home

This may sound like the opposite of what you should be doing with free time. But scheduling in time to do things that are important to you and make you happy during your free time will ensure that it actually happens. So often, when we get home from work or wake up on a weekend we end up in front of a TV “vegging out” on a couch. Mapping out the activities you want to do will help prevent that and give you fulfillment that cant be found on a lazy boy!

Change Your Work Environment

A change in scenery can keep your job fresh. Even one day outside of your typical work environment can give you a boost in energy, productivity, and creativity. If you work from home, try working out of a coffee shop one or two days a week.

Take A Vacation

Although taking a vacation may be frowned upon in your workplace, you should never feel guilty about taking one. Every year thousands of sick and vacation days go to waste, unused. Even if you can’t get away for a 7 day trip, take one day and have a “staycation” at home. This will keep your spirits high and you’ll feel refreshed when you return to work.

Prioritize Your Mental Health!

Burnout is largely mental. If it’s never addressed it can lead to even greater mental and physical health concerns. Working with a talk therapist can help to give you strategies on how to manage the emotional and mental component of burnout, as well as teach you ways to improve your circumstances. Give it a try. It can’t hurt.