What is Burnout?

Burnout is defined as a state of exhaustion and frustration due to devotion to a way of life that does not produce the expected reward. This can be a job, a relationship, a lifestyle.

Burnout is the state of mind reached by those who have come to the end of a particular road, but haven't acknowledged it. Once full of passion and ideals, people suffering from burnout feel an allergy towards their work and struggle to find new horizons.

The root of burnout generally lies in a toxic work environment where overwork, limited rewards, and lack of civility are widespread. According to the latest research six factors contribute to burnout:

1. work overload;

2. lack of control over the work;

3. insufficient rewards;

4. workplace community problems, such as incivility and a lack of support among co-workers;

5. a lack of fairness, such as inequality of pay, promotions or workload;

6. and a conflict between oneā€™s personal values and the requirements of a job.

As you can see burnout is much more than feeling tired and a bit stressed. As a humanitarian you need to understand if you are just tired and simple R&R will get you back on track, or whether there's something deeper. If you feel physically, mentally, emotionally exhausted and carry with you a sense of professional and existential loss of purpose, then you may be suffering from burnout and need more than a holiday. Organisations need to understand the role they play in contributing to staff burnout.


My book, The Idealist's Survival Kit. 75 Simple Ways to Avoid Burnout (Parallax, 2016) will help you understand, prevent or overcome burnout. It's available in paperback and kindle.