What is burnout?

5 min read
Louise halimi

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion linked to the intensity of professional activity.


The most common signs of burnout are:

  • feeling tired or exhausted most of the time
  • self-doubt
  • feel overwhelmed
  • feeling helpless or trapped
  • procrastinate
  • take more time to get things done
  • feel detached
  • feel alone in the world
  • have a negative view, see cynical

Burnout is a disease that does not go away without taking care of yourself and receiving help by those around you. Without action and follow-up, it can get worse and further damage physical and mental health. It is also possible to lose all ability and energy to effectively meet the demands of one's job, which could have repercussions in other areas of life.

Risk factors

The following factors favor the appearance of burnout:

  • heavy workload and long working hours
  • difficulties in balancing work and private life
  • feeling that you have little or no control over your work
  • working in physically and emotionally demanding (helping professions such as health care) or stressful (lack of employees) sectors

A burnout can appear or become a risk when stress sets in at work over a long period. Occupying a physically or emotionally exhausting position for a long time exposes you to the risk of burnout.
Gender and age play a role in the prevalence of burnout. Thus, women and young people feel more prone to extreme stress and pressure at work.

Possible causes

Like many mental health disorders, burnout can result from several factors such as:

  • The lack of control that results in an inability to influence decisions that affect your work (schedules, assignments, workload) can lead to burnout. The same goes for the lack of resources you need to do your job.
  • An imbalance between personal life and professional life. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with family and friends, you may burn out quickly.
  • An abnormal level of activity. When work is monotonous/repetitive or chaotic, you need constant energy to stay focused. This can lead to fatigue and burnout.
  • Dysfunctional work dynamics. Working with a tyrannical manager or being misunderstood by your colleagues or manager can contribute to stress at work.
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you may feel more stressed or anxious.
  • Unclear professional expectations. If you're unsure of your level of responsibility or what your manager or others expect of you, you probably won't feel comfortable at work.

The role of business

Burnout is widespread. A new study from Asana found that approximately 70% of respondents (10,000 workers, 7 countries) had experienced burnout in the past year.

And yet, burnout is still misunderstood and stigmatized. Even if it is a costly reality both for the health and well-being of employees and for the productivity of employers.

Companies are beginning to implement prevention systems to help employees spot the signs of chronic stress and burnout. Studies on the subject unfortunately show that the plans put in place are still too insufficient or are sometimes poorly managed internally.

Employers need to make more of an effort to communicate with their employees about the support available for work-related stress. Solutions also need to be deployed to educate employees on recognizing and managing stress and deteriorating mental health before things get too much to handle.

It remains important that everyone continues to monitor their well-being independently of their professional world.