what to do if your workload is too high

Feeling like your workload is too high? Here’s a round-up of posts about what to do.

the basics

help! my workload is too high and I’m burning out

I’m burned out and overworked and my bosses keep piling more work on me

I’ve been overworked for months and my manager won’t help

is my workload too high or am I bad at my job?

what to do when you’re overworked

what to do when your boss wants you available 24/7

my manager insists on unreasonable deadlines for my projects


I think I’m burning out — what should I do?

I’m so burned out at work (podcast)

for managers

my team’s workload is too high — what should I do?

how to tell if an employee’s workload is too high

how to spot burn-out on your team — and what to do about it

my team is overworked — and I’m the boss (podcast)

some enraging stuff

our boss gave a lecture about self-care to our very overworked team

my company is cutting my overworked team’s pay as punishment for mistakes

should you create a fake workload to test how much pressure an employee can take?

{ 68 comments… read them below }

  1. Mystic*

    well. this is appropriate timing. I’m just now officially admitting I am burned out and have been trying to figure out next steps.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Same here. I also finally admitted that my boss who took over 2 years ago just isn’t that good. He’s not bad; I’ve had much worse, but he’s pretty mediocre and not as good as the previous boss.

      One thing that sort of helps is reminding myself that prioritization is part of my job. So I know I can’t do all of it, but deciding which things don’t get done is a job task that I’m paid to do.

  2. Ran away*

    I worked at an environment where there was constant workload overload. The whole company (Fortune 500) functioned that way. It was just normal not to be fully staffed, people handling a job that could easily be split in two roles, and the pay wasn’t great. We all worked for a false sense of stability. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how bad it was because we were all just working harder and learning to cope in our own way. Now looking back I cringe and hope my former coworkers will realize that this is not normal. All to say: talk with people that work for other companies to learn where you are and what is out there.

    1. Ama*

      I found out recently that my previous workload was being used as an example to tell one of my coworkers “well Ama used to do this AND [what I’m currently doing]” when they complained about how high their workload is. Except that, as I told that coworker, when I started doing both those pieces, the total workload was less than half what it currently is and I started yelling about not being able to do everything two years before any action was actually taken. It also turns out our mutual boss incorrectly told coworker that I did not get a temp staff member at a time when I actually did (this might be because she wasn’t my boss at the time and wasn’t very involved with my work, so just didn’t know).

      So yes, talk to not just people at other companies but people in your own company because sometimes the people telling you there’s nothing they can do about your workload do not have all the context.

    2. Barrie*

      That’s how these companies work. It’s just normalised. I’ve worked myself to burnout twice and it’s not until you step away – or work for a “good company” – that you realise how bad it is.

  3. DMLOKC*

    It took some effort to convince a manager that my work was not challenging but the workload was. Big difference. I didn’t like being held back because they were understaffed and my capabilities had grown to exceed the level of work given to me.

  4. Iridescent Periwinkle*

    I realize this may not be well received, but I would rather be approaching burnout than be bored. Being constantly worried about being classified as no longer necessary with the looming possibility of being laid off, no matter how much institutional knowledge a person may have.

    I’ve been in the burned out-overwhelmed spot and I’d rather be busy. It’s a strange position to be in.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I agree.

      I can fight overload with efficiency and automation, but boredom gets worse as I get better…

    2. *kalypso*

      Imagine being burned out and not having enough work! The mental burden of work and the amount of work are not opposites – they may coexist or be proportional sometimes, but they don’t have to be, and a change in one can cause, exacerbate or remediate the others. Lighten someone’s workload? Then they feel like their work is unnecessary and it exhausts them more than being busy but useful gives them energy. Increase someone’s workload? They feel useful and appreciated and rise to it. But take admin off someone’s hands so they can do what they love and then never get a break from it because there’s no low-cognitive-load tasks left to break it up? Burnout. Expect someone to do two people’s work instead of hiring? Burnout.

      I’d rather be busy, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s approaching burnout nor does a particular level of busyness or overwhelmedness equal burnout. I can appreciate it’s that way for you, and likely there’s correlations on various scales for a lot of people, but I really wish Alison and everyone out there would stop making these things that only go together; it makes it a lot harder to identify cases where ‘busy’ and ‘burnout’ don’t match up as socially expected but burnout definitely exists.

      Even a brand new candle can go out if the wick is wrong or the breeze is just so or there’s not enough oxygen. It’s certainly not busy or exhausted, but it did burn out.

    3. sam_i_am*

      I’m bored and it’s leading to burnout. Right now, it’s like everything is on fire but I have nothing to do about it, and I’m not feeling like I’m growing at all or learning anything at work. It’s like the worst of both worlds.

    4. GloryB*

      These two things do not constitute a binary pair. It’s possible to be burning out and still be terrified your job will disappear. Ask me how I know.

      The thought of having to job hunt while in this state regularly reduces me to tears.

    5. Barrie*

      Burnout isnt just stress and tiredness and feeling overwhelmed. It can drive you to feel suicidal or develop severe health issues (I went to get checked out thinking I had a brain tumour and my neurologist told me it was stress). I would take boredom 100% of the time over severe burnout. It took me 14 months of not working to get back to feeling like a “normal” person (incredibly fortunate i was in the financial position I could take time off). Boredom sucks, and can be linked to becoming burnout- but is not comparable on its own!

    6. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I am a high performer my entire career, and the only phase of it where I experienced burnout wasn’t at all about the workload itself. It was workload, plus nothing but constant criticism and lack of progress due to obstacles placed by parties outside of my control. I can work my ass off all day long, day in and out, and be fine. But pulling that workload while being underappreciated and feeling like nothing was ever good enough (due to toxic work environment) is what eventually broke the camel’s back. For many people, it isn’t the overwork alone that does it.

      1. Merrie*

        This is what happened to me too. I changed jobs and subfields and am much happier in a place that is better managed and where the workload expectations are more reasonable. I am starting to see some of the fallout of questionable management decisions, but it’s small potatoes compared to my last job and I can avoid most of it.

    7. Nameless*

      I think I generally prefer boredom, but in either case it’s a bit of “would you rather be punched in the face or in the stomach;” I guess I can choose if forced, but ideally neither???

  5. KareninHR*

    I’ve often wondered how to handle it when my co-workers complain about being over-worked, but I’m not necessarily feeling that strain. I have some coworkers who are perpetually overworked, and I sympathize with them. I offer to help as much as I can and when my workload allows. I do stay steadily busy at work, and have definitely had a lot on my plate before, but it feels wrong to take the occasional AskAManager break while my coworkers are complaining that they need to stay late or work over the weekend. I can’t help but suspect that some of their issues may be down to time management, but what can I do in those situations?

    1. *kalypso*

      You take your breaks and mind your own business, generally, unless it directly impacts your ability to do your work. Your workload may not be reflective of that of your co-workers and you don’t always have that information. It’s nice if you can help when your process allows and your management is cool with you doing it, but that’s a matter between them and their managers. If it means you can’t do your work, then you tell your manager and it’s their job to figure it out, which may or may not involve you.

      If you must feel like you’re helping, being available to assist with time critical tasks as extra on top of what duties you are expected to share per your management and position description, and listening if any of your coworkers need to actually vent about an issue to someone instead of complaining as general chit chat, are things you can do. Making sure your own work is up to scratch means they don’t have to take it on, so that’s also good, although you should be doing that anyway.

      But you getting your work done and them needing more time doesn’t mean they’re having time management issues, necessarily. They could be dealing with competing demands that interfere in ways that you don’t have to deal with, have more work, have different work, be assigned different clients with different preferences that require different handling etc. You don’t know that and it’s not your job to know that, so you just do your job and keep yourself to yourself until or unless your ability to do your job is actively compromised – in which case you address that and that only with your manager.

    2. Roland*

      I don’t think you need to do anything beyond saying “that sounds hard!” If they’re consistently feeling overworked then they need to talk to management, you can’t solve it for them.

    3. Ama*

      I think the one thing you can do is encourage them to talk to their managers and make sure that they aware of any resources they could ask for (as I cited upthread, one of my coworkers was incorrectly told that I did not hire temp staff last time my team was shorthanded so she didn’t think she could ask for it, I made sure she knew I *did* have temp staff but that I had to initiate the request, she wasn’t going to get it if she didn’t ask for it).

    4. allathian*

      Do you work for the same manager? It may just be that you’re better at time management and can do your job faster than they can. Or they may simply be chronic complainers who’d get their job done faster if they didn’t spend so much time complaining. Or they may be the kind of people who get overly invested in their jobs (live to work rather than work to live) and would feel inadequate if their job didn’t require all or most of their waking lives. Who knows? Regardless of the reason, as long as you can avoid falling into their trap of bonding by constantly complaining, while still enjoying the breaks you’re entitled to take, you’re good.

      Nobody can work at top efficiency all the time. Your coworkers take breaks from work to complain, you take breaks to read AAM. I’d far rather be in your camp than theirs…

  6. Just a Minion*

    Due to a combination of longterm personal and work factors, I burned out this winter. VERY fortunately, I was able to quit and take a few months off (avoided returning to that combination hanging over my head). Now I’m looking for a new position that will fit my family’s needs -and mine

  7. NotRealAnonForThis*

    I do NOT recommend what I actually did, because it could have gone VERY sideways on me.

    Back around 2009-2010, as things were starting to pick up a bit from the Recession of 08-09, I suddenly found myself in the ugly place where I was doing three very separate tasks, two of which had previous to the recession been done by another person completely.

    I looked at my workload, I looked at what each task took, then went to my boss and asked “which new customer would you like to pi$$ off and never do work with again, because there is no way in which task X and Y can be done in Z time, both projects have the same deadline, and in the meantime, I also have two major projects in task J to complete with again, the same deadline. Prioritize this for me, and you really need to think about getting the person who previously did X and Y back, because I could do X and Y when X, Y, and Z were all slow. They no longer are.”

    It DID work, but that is because he was somewhat reasonable, and I had actual data to back up my statements. Hard to argue what I had and he knew it. Added, he also knew I didn’t *have to* work and could walk out the door.

  8. Your Computer Guy*

    I finally solved my workload/burnout issues – I got a new job! I start Wednesday. I was not prepared for how quickly I would feel better after giving notice. Here’s hoping for better conditions and me keeping better boundaries at the new job.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Congratulations! I hope the new job is tons better than the old one.

      And yes, it’s like getting over a bad cold that you’ve had forever and just couldn’t shake.

  9. Chirpy*

    I’m so very burnt out, and I don’t have energy to job search…but I don’t get paid enough to live here, which compounds the burnout as I can’t take time off or quit. I’ve asked my managers for help and they just won’t hire anyone (we’re short staffed, can’t even cover regular business hours let alone to the standard they want) and my coworkers in more fully staffed departments won’t help because “we’re a team and I don’t help them” (I do, when I can, but often I see three of them standing around chatting while I’m hauling stuff by myself.) If I do get help, it’s half-assed and I can’t complain because “it’s help, isn’t it?”


  10. Part time work - full time worries*

    I have shifted to part time a while ago to avoid falling into burnout again. Does anyone have experience addressing too much work and overtime when working part time hours?
    Unfortunately too often the thinking seems to go that someone working part time should have no issue working additional hours at least until they achieve “proper” full time hours when workload demands it.

    1. *kalypso*

      This depends on whether your jurisdiction or contract considers ‘overtime’ as ‘in addition to your regular hours’ vs ‘kicks in after standard hours regardless of usual hours’, but addressing too much work in the frame of ‘You need to pay me overtime for these or they have to wait’ has worked for me in the past, but you also need an employer who won’t go ‘just work unpaid then’ at you.

      Unfortunately a lot of the solution is just reinforcing ‘these are my hours and they are mine’ and having to combat the assumption of normal as well as attacking the culture of unpaid overtime. It can help if you have a reason that you’re comfortable making known for having those hours, but you shouldn’t have to go ‘I work from 10am-3pm because I have to do drop off and pick up’ and open yourself up to potential discrimination or invalidation of your reason either. If you have people in the workplace who do the same work but have different hours, you can band together and compare workloads and productivity and figure out that ‘normal person processes average of 10 applications a day, so Anna works five days and should be expected to do around 50 applications a week, and Elsa works three mornings a week with us so Elsa should be doing 15 applications a week; we have 80 applications come in a week and Elsa’s been doing 30 applications a week and those really need to be handled over three whole days, so we need to either find a way to make these faster to process or find another 12 hours somewhere’ instead of Elsa going ‘I’m doing three days’ work in half that, help!’ and a manager seeing 80 applications being processed in a timely manner overall and thinking there’s no problem because the work is done so Elsa must be exaggerating, while Anna’s pushing to squish in an extra one a day to help because she likes Elsa like a sister but each application does need 45 minutes to enter and process and it’s only going to get faster if the business can get the applications in the system via OCR instead of expecting Anna and Elsa to type everything. Sure, it’s the ‘come in with your own research and maybe a solution’ problem, but first you have to make them see the problem and they don’t always know how the overall position gets broken down when it’s filled part time, even if the theory is there that this job has someone process 10 applications a day, some managers will never understand that also means 5 applications in a half day, or if it means 7 short applications one day and one really long one the next, or if some processes will always take three hours so there’s only so much someone can actually do apart from that if they’re not in the whole day. Being able to show and explain that to a reasonable manager (who should have an idea but may not always be aware of the minutiae or may not have ever done that job) can make it more clear than just ‘my time and this workload don’t match’ – especially when there is a complicating factor or a thing that cannot be done proportionally in speed or quantity.

      1. Part time work - full time worries*

        Overtime itself is not an issue. It either needs to be payed in full or comp time needs to be provided depending on the type of contract. There are unscrupulous employers of course that have expectations of unpaid overtime but usually one can expect one of the above.

        Thank you for the suggestions! Breaking it down very unemotionally like that is a good idea. In my previous job statistics about our tasks were generated pretty much automatically thanks to the type of work we were doing. That helped show that I was comfortably above average relative to hours worked. There were other issues but that was not luckily not one of them.
        I think in my current job the main trouble is that my hours are an issue by themselves. It doesn’t matter that I prioritize well and all really urgent stuff or stuff with non-negotiable deadlines always gets handed in on time. The rest of the team prides themself on working long hours whether workload requires that or not. For that and a bunch of other reasons it is soon going to be an ex-job.
        I’ll keep those suggestions for the future though.

        1. *kalypso*

          Yes, but what I was trying to get at is that by pointing out that they have to pay extra for that work if you do it, it reinforces your actual hours that they already pay you for – just that the way you approach it depends on when the requirement to pay what kicks in. Breaking it down logically in addition to that to demonstrate that the work is being done and your allocation of it is proportional is only part of that – even if they don’t have a problem paying overtime when it’s worked, if you point out that by disrespecting your regular hours they have to pay you more, many employers will reconsider whether they need you to work those hours and the ones who wnt to do the right thing will be prompted to work with you.

          In this case it sounds like you’re right to make it an ex-job because the culture emphasises presence and being seen over the actual work, which is a bit of a different problem as it doesn’t seem to actually matter what your hours are meant to be, they’ll stomp on them regardless, so there’s genuinely nothing you can do at an individual level; the culture won’t change and you’ll either be seen as getting special treatment (even though you’re getting treated fairly), or your lack of presence outside when you’re paid for will be unofficially counted against you. In this kind of case you need to either be able to make a really big point that incites someone above you to support a culture shift, or take collective action, and it doesn’t sound worth the effort for you to spearhead that since it would likely be a longer-term change given how embedded the idea seems to be.

  11. RinaL*

    Well, this hits very close to home. I LOVE my job, it is what I want to do. BUT the workload is unrealistic (years before I started, the department I work in had 6 people, now the workload is distributed on three, one “newbie” – me, lots of experience but not in this specific role – and the second seasoned person is leaving too in autumn and we get another newbie) and mostly uncontrollable. I work in a customer facing role and can’t plan when the customers need something. Most of the time, it’s urgent (isn’t it always..). My “older” colleagues manage the workload by deliberately letting customer requests lie around for at least four weeks and told me to do the same, so that customers don’t expect a fast response. But honestly, I can’t and won’t do that. It goes against everything that I believe in and I would quit my job over it if I had to fall back to such strategies.

    My boss knows of the problem, his answer was “learn to prioritize”. But honestly, we are in a position where companies depend on us to pay their staff. Should I really resort back to “Too bad for you, your planning sucks if you call us at the last minute. Have fun going bankrupt!”?? Or decide, who needs the money more urgently? First come, first serve?

    And don’t get me started on all the additional “tiny” tasks that are piling up around my customer facing role. “Create a presentation until tomorrow?” Sure, why not – if I don’t have 3 customers waiting for a reply I could do that! “Ah yes and by the way, you are presenting, your slot is 20 minutes. Just fill it..” Right. *eye roll*

    My husband complains that I work more than “normal hours” and are closer to “self employed” hours. And I have to admit, he is right. Do I have a solution? Nope, not now. But I know that if I stay at this fast pace, I will be burned out latest mid next year when the next big projects are piled on top on my everyday work.

    1. Rick Tq*

      Yes, prioritize but don’t think you have to bend over backwards because one of your clients turned in their payroll file late. I think the saying is “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm”. Same with whoever is dropping the extra work on your desk. “Boss, that will take 3 extra hours I don’t have before the date you want it, what customer billable tasks should I drop to fit it in?”

      The first time the clients who send you files too late for normal handling have to deal with the fallout of their employees getting paid a day late will probably be the last time they pull that stunt. If they continue to do it the company won’t be in business much longer.

      And yes, First Come, First Served should be your motto unless your company has a formal priority system for customers who want to jump the queue.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      You can’t afford to care more about your job than your boss does. Work reasonable hours. If balls get dropped and customers get upset that’s on your management who chose to understaff, not on you.

  12. Faded Blue*

    This is such a timely post. I took a new job last spring that has turned out to be a bait and switch as far as reasonable workload and scheduling. I didn’t ask enough questions because the people running the company(it’s a start up) are old friends of mine. On the surface, it was my dream job; in reality, my mental health and my relationships with my spouse and kids are suffering greatly. I’m trying to work up the courage to quit tomorrow. All these links here are helping me realize that I truly need to leave the company despite excellent pay and good coworkers, because the workload is unmanageable and won’t change. Thank you for this today!

  13. EngGirl*

    I think it’s really really important to recognize when a situation isn’t going to change and it’s time to work to get yourself out. I stayed for years at a place that would cut my teams resources and then increase the demand on us. I tried a lot of Alison’s suggestions about prioritization, as a manager I allocated work as efficiently as possible, I put together a case for new employees to my boss where I showed her that there was enough work on the table to support two new hires, and I was honest about our resources and asked for help wherever possible. I got nowhere. I had very understanding management in theory, but the minute something got missed on project X it was like they would completely forget that they deprioritized it for project Y (which had just wrapped up without a hitch). I got flack from upper management because I wouldn’t work a 45+ hour work week or ask my team to, because I saw no end in sight. My boss got really really upset with me about it once and said it was part of salary/management and I told her flat out that I was burnt out as it was and that while I didn’t mind putting in extra time for urgent projects occasionally, that everything that came across my desk at that point was urgent, and working an additional 5-15 hours a week would never dig me out of the hole so I wasn’t going to set the expectation.

    A lot of Alison’s advice centers on “reasonable people” and it should, because giving advice on unreasonable people is impossible. I’ve found that a lot of people struggling with burnout though are not dealing with reasonable people

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it’s important to recognize that in cases like that, trying those strategies is working for you in a different way: it’s making it really stark what will and won’t change, so that you can make decisions for yourself accordingly. The strategies I talk about in those posts aren’t magic; they won’t make an unreasonable person reasonable. But by having these explicit conversations, you can get really useful data for yourself about what you realistically can and can’t change — and then inform your own thinking/decision-making accordingly.

      1. EngGirl*

        That’s totally fair, and definitely what I meant by saying it’s impossible to give advice about an unreasonable person lol.

        In my specific case I was working with people who did an excellent job at coming across as reasonable in the moment. I would say “look I need help and prioritization” and I would get “Oh of course! Please work on the Jones account and I will help out with the Smith account” so I would go devote my time to the Jones account, only for the Smith account to fall disastrously behind and then be told it was my fault because I wasn’t managing the projects correctly.

        As a young woman who had management kind of thrust on me way way way too soon (in retrospect) I was very gaslit and kind of internalized a lot of this for years because I was having the right conversations and saying the right things, and I was getting the right responses, so it must be my fault that things went wrong.

        At a certain point though I looked around and realized that I was not the crazy one. It really hit me after I worked from home with pretty bad Covid and was told I was going to be charged PTO for it, and that I wasn’t getting enough done. I was like oh… these are not actually reasonable people

  14. Vio*

    After a couple of weeks off work and still feeling tired a lot, I’ve realised it’s not work that’s burning me out, it’s my social life. As a former shut-in (severe social anxiety) I’ve been a lot more active the last few years and have gone to almost the opposite extreme. I considered myself lucky to have essential work during Lockdown so I wasn’t hit as hard by it as many others were, I could still go outside, got to interact with a few people (distanced and masked of course) and looking back I can see that I had a lot of fear behind that relief.
    I’ve realised I’m afraid of going back to how I used to be. Never leaving the flat unless it was raining hard so there’d be no people around. Going weeks without any non-internet communication.
    But I’ve wound up doing too much instead. I’m having to re-examine my social schedule and make some tough decisions about what I need to do less often… it’s hard because it’s all things I enjoy and delicate because I don’t want friends to feel it’s personal to them, but it needs doing.

    I’m not saying that anyone who feels burnt out needs to give up socialising. Just advising to remember that while work can be a major cause of exhausting and stress, it’s not necessarily the only one. When you feel overwhelmed it’s good to remember to look after yourself in all areas of your life.

  15. Aggretsuko*

    I read the burnout article from 2015 and I desperately want to send it to management. I probably should not, but I am the poster child for this.

  16. CSRoadWarrior*

    I took a job in December 2021 with a 36% pay increase and a step up. Unfortunately, the company was not what I thought it was. People at that company were working 70-80 hours a week and regularly coming in on the weekends, and I was expected to start doing the same. The turnover at that company was extremely high, and the company was severely understaffed. Towards the end, I started experiencing debilitating panic attacks multiple times a day, often before lunch.

    Finally, at the end of my fifth and final week there in early January 2022, I experienced my worst panic attack ever, to the point I almost physically collapsed in the middle of the office. At that point, I knew I couldn’t stay. So I emailed my resignation and left without notice, never to return. Was this a good move? Absolutely not. But I refuse to work 70-80 hours a week and sacrificing my weekends regularly. Also, this was not in a demanding field like investment banking either.

    Luckily, I found a job at my current company were work-life balance is encouraged and I was even encouraged by the CEO not to check my emails or work on the weekend. I am still employed here and still very happy. And my workload has always been reasonable. Does it get busy? Yes. But never to the point were I was overloaded to the point of complete burnout.

  17. Leaning In and Developing Back Problems*

    What if you’re the boss and you’re the one experiencing burn out? I work at a nonprofit, I’m trying to be an excellent boss after years of advocacy nonprofit culture nonsense (overworking, stakes are always high, work/life balance is difficult if not impossible), but my burn out is being dictated by the intensity of the work and what we need to achieve to be successful, not what my boss is loading onto my shoulders. I’m making sure my staff aren’t receiving too much work, I’m hiring up for any new work and shuttering programs if we can’t adequately staff them, but the intensity of what we seek to achieve is still massive. From checking in with the board, to raising money, to meeting our program goals, to the state of the world we’re hoping to change, it’s just a massive work load that no one else can necessarily take on.

    Maybe this is just what all Executive Directors face, but it makes me not want to be an ED. And we need more EDs who aren’t shitty, so I’d like to maintain my leadership role if I can! If not me, whoever takes the job will be fine working nights and weekends and setting that workplace norm.

    1. Rick Tq*

      OP, can you focus on what YOU can control and let the rest go? You can’t change the world, and program goals can be adjusted to meet the current reality. If you expected to spend $1,000 to help each client but now you must spend $1,500 to get the same result accept that you can only help 2/3rds of your original target if the fundraising part of the organization can’t develop 50% more money.

      If you don’t have a development team, maybe adding that function is the next thing to do at your organization.

      1. Leaning In and Developing Back Problems*

        We’re an advocacy organization, not direct services, so it’s a much more binary proposition where our opponents are going to work twice as hard and we’re competing against them. The wins and challenges are much more distinct (policy outcomes). But point taken on broadening leadership – it’s part of how I’ve elevated to my current role.

  18. Ozzie*

    As someone who is currently completely and utterly burned out, but not overworked… this is still a very very good reminder on some things to do to try to recover. But at this point it’s been MONTHS. It truly feels like it’s inescapable sometimes.

  19. LucyHoneychurch*

    I am lying in my bed reading this, so burnt out that I can barely eat, concentrate, or in-general function, and spend a lot of the day crying (aaah, the benefits of WFH). I just started a new job, but it is part-time, and I really need FT, so I’m trying to be excited about this job and then will put energies towards finding another PT (or one FT) job, but I need to deal with one at a time.

    And I can’t even enjoy the fact that I’m just working part-time because I’m worried about money for life, the kids, etc..(I am a single parent with very little support from their dad).

    You would never know it by how I can snap into shape for the occasional virtual meeting (cameras on!). I can fake it pretty hard, but inside I feel like I’m dying, and I have no idea what to do.

    1. Zweisatz*

      The best I can offer is cutting all corners that can be cut.

      When I was burnt out last time in my job that meant going as slow as I needed, never ever multitasking, not taking on new you tasks and especially not volunteering for tasks or feeling like I need to be the one fixing bad processes. Finishing on time, no overtime ever, if I had too much tasks on my plate, people needed to re-prioritize, not me rushing to get it all done and overall just recognizing that I don’t work in emergency services so nothing I do will ever mean life or death and can thus be dealt with later.

      As for the rest part, the only tip I can offer is that true rest means doing nothing else.
      So if you can sneek just 5 minutes here and there where you stare into space or lie down and do nothing, not even think (if you can manage), this could be at least a tiny drop of help right now.

  20. Taki*

    Reminder that being burnt out doesn’t just go away in a week or two, even if you’re literally on bed-rest! I am two years, one week, and two days past quitting the job that burnt me out so badly my family had a freaking intervention for me (which led to me resigning, selling my house, and moving 3000 miles away from there, but closer to family).

    I took 4 months off after moving, completely. No job, no school, no real responsibilities, and even now, I still get tired much easier than I used to. If work starts getting overwhelming again I regress to panic attacks in the bathroom. Thankfully I’ve learned to head off the ‘overwhelming’ part by asking for help and taking time for me, but it’s a struggle not to feel like a failure when I do that.

    You cannot just be not burnt out by quitting the job – it can be a VERY long recovery process both physically and mentally. You are NOT a failure. (I say as I look in the mirror.)

  21. No more.*

    Well this is timely. We have had three people leave in the past two months & another one going in two weeks & not one of them has been replaced. All their work has fallen to me & I am overwhelmed & burning out rapidly. This morning & pushed back on a few requests & got an email from the COO asking me why I am refusing to assist people with their requests.

    My resume is now up to date & I am applying elsewhere as we speak.

    1. Rick Tq*

      I’d ask the COO straight out which quarter of your work load should be your focus? If they answer ‘all of it’ I’d answer with “every scheduled due date for the following tasks (list your complete workload) is now null and void. Please identify any tasks with due dates required by law or contract and I will focus on them first.”

      With 3 of 4 members of your group gone you have them in a huge bind. If they fire you then NONE of the workload for the group will get done instead of some of it.

      Work your 40 hours and go home. Take you phone off the hook, put your cell phone on silent, and stop checking work SMS, chat, or emails. Protect your health and sanity, and the company will eventually figure out how to get the tasks done.

      1. Belgian Waffle*

        You do that and make the ultimatum and they may fire you. Replace you with multiple part time people doing the three jobs you were tying to do in your six or seven day weeks.

        Happened to me.

  22. Burned*

    Ah burnout. My constant partner. I’ve been there and am fighting my way back.

    I’ve never been bored at my job. Maybe burn out can come from boredom. But I do know it comes from crushing workload, overwhelming hours, and criticism that you should be “on it” more, following up on everything, never missing a beat or dropping a single ball while working 10-12 hour days and occasionally a weekend.

    Burnout isn’t just stressed. For me it was dragging myself home day after day after day or 12 straight work hours, no lunch, no breaks, and having to face home and bills and dinner… and ending up sitting on the floor crying for 30 minutes, exhausted, overwhelmed, unhappy, beaten and blaming myself for not being organized enough, capable enough, good enough to be able to handle it.

    And any time I tried to address it, I heard “delegate” and a lot of promises that never materialized.

    Now I’m trying to set harder boundaries and leave on time and oh well. It’s hard!

  23. RVA Cat*

    What keeps coming back to me is that you can’t care more about the work than your bosses do. Conscientious people end up carrying stress way above our pay grade.

  24. Uncomfy Truth*

    Thank you for this list, Alison.

    I have to be particularly careful with burnout and my mental health thanks to previous burnout. I have PTSD from toxic workplaces, and although I was lucky to receive monetary settlements and NDAs (in my favor) when both those employers left me with no option other than to take legal action, these results took several times both times, and the stress and financial strain were horrific.

  25. My tummy hurts but I’m being brave about it*

    A breakthrough for me was realizing “not getting all my work done should be a sign that we need to hire more people”, but I’m lucky that my boss is responsive to this sort of thing

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