Burnout describes a state of deep emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. Those affected find it difficult to concentrate and make many mistakes. Some also lose energy for their private life. Burnout is usually attributed to excessive demands and stress at work. However, the causes are manifold. How to recognize burnout, how to protect yourself and how to overcome burnout, you will learn here.

Important note: If you, someone close to you, or someone you work with is struggling with burnout and has recently felt like “it’s over,” don’t wait to talk to someone and seek help.

Burnout: Symptoms

Burnout symptoms are very diverse. They manifest themselves emotionally, psychologically and in mental performance, but can also take the form of psychosomatic complaints. Every affected person shows an individual pattern of symptoms and complaints. These change depending on the phase of the disease. However, the main symptom of burnout is a feeling of deep exhaustion.

Burnout symptoms in the early phase

In the early phase of a burnout, the person affected usually puts an extreme amount of energy into his or her tasks. This can happen voluntarily out of idealism or ambition, but it can also be born out of necessity – for example, due to multiple stresses, relatives to care for, or fear of losing their job.

A characteristic early sign of burnout is when people can no longer switch off. They can no longer recover properly, are less efficient and then have to expend even more energy to cope with their tasks. This starts a vicious circle. Other burnout symptoms in the early stages include:

  • Feeling of being indispensable
  • Feeling that you never have enough time
  • Denial of own needs
  • Repression of failures and disappointments
  • Restriction of social contacts to customers, patients, clients etc.

Soon, the first burnout signs of exhaustion become apparent. These include:

  • Restlessness
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of sleep
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

Phase 2: Reduced Engagement

The over-commitment that is typical of the initial phase at some point increasingly tips over into an attitude of entitlement. Those affected expect something to be given back to them in return for their great efforts. If they are disappointed, they slip into severe frustration. The following symptoms will help you recognize impending burnout:

Inner resignation: Affected individuals take longer breaks than usual, come to work late and leave too early. They increasingly enter a state of “inner resignation.” The strong reluctance to work leads them to do only what is necessary, if at all.

Depersonalization and cynicism: Especially in helping professions, a “depersonalization” of relationships is a typical burnout symptom. The ability to empathize with others decreases. Emotional coldness and cynicism become widespread. Nurses, for example, then strongly devalue their patients.

Effects on the family: Such signs of burnout often also affect family life. Those affected make ever greater demands on their partner without giving anything back. They no longer have the strength or patience to spend time with their children.

Typical burnout symptoms in this phase are:

  • Fading idealism
  • Lowering of commitment
  • Feeling a lack of appreciation
  • Feeling exploited
  • Flourishing in leisure time
  • Increasing aloofness towards clients, patients, business partners
  • Decreasing ability to empathize with others
  • Emotional coldness and cynicism
  • Negative feelings towards colleagues, customers or superiors

3. Emotional Reactions - Depression, Aggression, Blame.

Burnout symptoms also manifest themselves in emotional reactions. When over-commitment slowly tips over into frustration, disillusionment often sets in. Individuals realize that reality does not correspond to their own desires. They blame either the environment or themselves for this. The former tends to lead to aggression. The latter contributes to a depressed mood (“I am a failure!”).

Depressive symptoms of burnout are:

  • Feeling of powerlessness and helplessness
  • Feeling of inner emptiness
  • Crumbling self-esteem
  • Pessimism
  • Anxiety
  • Dejection
  • Listlessness

Aggressive symptoms of burnout are:

  • Blaming others, colleagues, superiors or “the system”
  • Moodiness, irritability, impatience
  • Frequent conflicts with others, intolerance
  • Anger

4. Degradation, Dwindling Performance

After some time, the declining motivation and the strong emotional stress are also reflected in poorer performance. Those affected make more frequent careless mistakes or forget appointments. Other signs of cognitive performance decline are:

  • Dwindling creativity
  • Inability to cope with complex tasks
  • Difficulty with decision making
  • Undifferentiated black-and-white thinking
  • Rejection of change

On closer inspection, the last two burnout symptoms are also based on a decline in performance. This is because differentiated thinking and change require strength that burnout candidates can no longer muster.

5. Flattening, Disinterest

The lack of energy also leads to emotional withdrawal. Affected persons react increasingly indifferently. They often feel bored, give up hobbies, withdraw from friends and family. Burnout makes people lonely.

6. Psychosomatic Reactions

The enormous psychological stress is also reflected in physical complaints. Such psychosomatic signs surface at the early stages of burnout. Physical symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances and nightmares
  • Muscle tension, back pain, headaches
  • Increased blood pressure, palpitations and tightness in the chest
  • Nausea and digestive problems (vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Sexual problems
  • Severe weight gain or loss due to changes in eating habits
  • Increased consumption of nicotine, alcohol or caffeine
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

7. Last stage: Despair

In the final burnout stage, the feeling of helplessness intensifies into a general hopelessness. Life seems meaningless in this phase and suicidal thoughts emerge. Nothing gives pleasure anymore and everything becomes indifferent. Those affected sink into a severe burnout depression.

Note: In case you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms listed above, seek help immediately!

Burnout doesn't come out of the blue. So what is the cause of the flame going out?

Poor organization, documentation, and automation

Employees spend half the day looking for a resource they need? Do employees come to you and interrupt your day to find a resource they need?

Or does your team waste time doing the same repetitive tasks day after day? And are they still doing them, just so differently that it’s difficult for the next person to pick up where they left off?

It sounds like you need to do some organizing, standardizing, and documenting. With these measures in place, you can eventually automate some of your processes to generate more revenue with the same amount of work.

But without these measures, you can expect your employees to get tired of never having the resources they need and doing the same boring work day in and day out.

Put another way: You’ll end up with employees who are burned out and exhausted.

What is the number of times you have to search for information to get your work done? This is the question we keep coming back to because it’s so crucial. Constantly having to search through all the hiding places just to find a single piece of information will waste important time and make your job harder than it should be.

Think about the information you need to solve a ticket. Can you find the information easily? Is it in a secure and centralized location? The more information that is easily accessible, the better. Not only will your team appreciate it, but you’ll also build a reputation with your customers for timely and efficient service.

Review your Tools and Technologies

Are your employees getting everything they need to do their jobs well and efficiently? At times, you need to stop and ask yourself if the way you’re working – for example, the way your ticketing system works – is really delivering the best possible results. When your technicians are constantly busy sifting through tickets and alerts, they’ll quickly get burned out, because that’s a real waste of their valuable (and expensive) time! This is where the right technology or integration could breathe new life into your operational efficiency instead. Reassessing the tools and technologies you use is a good exercise to ensure the success of your team and your business. Ensuring you don’t miss anything – so every ticket can be handled in a timely manner – and avoiding jumping from system to system and risking errors is the goal. By integrating your ticketing system with an automated service platform, your information can be synchronized in real time, allowing for a more efficient and seamless workflow and making life easier for your team.

Vague/unrealistic roles or expectations

Sometimes, especially in smaller stores, that employees take on completely different tasks depending on what is needed at the moment. Just want to submit a form from the website? Quick, have the person who isn’t on duty today call him back! Take sales, for example. Not every MSP starts out with their own sales team or sales reps, and even if sales isn’t your forte, you need to take on that role. Whatever the situation, it’s important to establish roles and responsibilities and keep them up to date as changes occur. It’s not that the above scenario is wrong – as long as it’s explicitly clear who is responsible for what and when. It’s even better to document these roles and make them easily accessible so that each individual team member is not only responsible, but accountable for their tasks. When roles and expectations are not clear, many important tasks are overlooked or left until the last minute. Understandably, this can be incredibly stressful for both owners and employees.

Lack of communication

Particularly for teams forced to move into the field unexpectedly during the recent COVID 19 pandemic, the lack of communication tools and strategies in the MSP industry is a major concern. From explaining processes clearly to simply reaching out to a colleague in an easier way, both impact how sustainable a particular workload feels.

A lack of focused communication can be even more stressful for employees who feel overwhelmed with their workload or isolated due to the pandemic.

If you’re not already using a social app in your MSP organization, it’s time to get one. Tools like Teams and Slack can ease the technological constraints of team-wide communication. These tools reduce friction and improve collaboration between teams by ensuring members can easily reach each other. Managers must also strive to communicate effectively and regularly to keep your team informed and engaged.

No Work-Life Balance

A good supervisor makes employees feel like a valuable part of the team, but a better supervisor always looks out for their personal and professional well-being. When technicians feel like they are just a cog in the wheel, it can lead to lower job satisfaction and higher turnover. As a manager, you can counteract this with two simple strategies.

First, be more confident in your team’s abilities. It may be difficult to lose control, but if you avoid micromanaging and give your technicians more ownership, they will feel empowered to do a better job. In this context, it’s important to pay attention to balance. Make your technicians feel important without overwhelming them.

This brings us to our second strategy: recognize the great work your team members do and reward them for it! When you take the time to recognize important accomplishments, you show your team that you see them as more than just a line item or a figure behind a desk. Also, focusing on work-life balance, equipping your team with the right tools, and even offering telecommuting as an option can make work more enjoyable and rewarding.

If you are your own boss, realize that you deserve a break too. You don’t have to work all the time, you can honestly admit when you deserve a rest.

Ways to avoid burnout at work

No matter the industry, burnout occurs when workers are exposed to persistently high levels of stress. This means that preventing and combating burnout is essentially about managing stress.
Within this section, we’ve compiled some of the best tips for dealing with stress, both in the moment and in the long run, to prevent it from building up and eventually burning you out.

Provide a high class training

Since technology is constantly evolving, the same should be true for your team of technicians. Even if they’ve been added to your team for their particular expertise, there’s still room to learn and grow.

Being a business owner or technical leader, it’s your job to make sure your employees are equipped with the right skills so they can be as effective as possible in their day-to-day work. Whether a team member is just starting out or looking to take the next step in their career, you should support their skill development by making technician training and certification a part of your company culture. Creating an environment that encourages your team to continue their education shows that you’re invested in their success, and that will help your business in the long run. If technicians can be brought up to speed quickly, the quality and quantity of their work will increase – not to mention they’ll be well on their way to growing their careers and gaining greater value in the future.

Turn to other people

When you’re burned out, the problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s hard to muster the energy to care, let alone take action to help yourself. But you have much more control over stress than you might think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and bring your life back into balance. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.

Social contact is the natural antidote to stress, and talking face-to-face with a good listener is one of the quickest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors, they just have to be a good listener, someone who listens carefully without getting distracted or passing judgment.

Turn to those closest to you, such as your partner, family and friends. If you open up, you will not be a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship. Try not to think about what is stressing you out, and make the time you spend with your loved ones positive and enjoyable.

Be more social with your colleagues. Building friendships with your work colleagues can help keep you from job burnout. For example, when you take a break, don’t focus your attention on your smartphone, but try to reach out to your colleagues. Or plan after-work activities together.

Limit contact with negative people. Dealing with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain only depresses your mood and outlook. If you must work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend together.

Join a cause or nonprofit group that is personally meaningful to you. If you join a religious, social or support group, you can share ideas with like-minded people about how to cope with daily stress – and make new friends. If there’s a professional association in your industry, you can attend meetings and share ideas with others who are struggling with the same workplace demands.

Make new friends. If you feel like you have no one to turn to, it’s never too late to make new friends and expand your social network.

Look at your work with different eyes

Whether you have a job that’s throwing you off track or one that’s monotonous and unfulfilling, the most effective way to combat job burnout is to quit and find a job you love instead. Of course, for many of us, a job or career change is anything but a practical solution; we’re just grateful to have a job that pays the bills. Regardless of your situation, however, there are steps you can take to improve your state of mind.

Try to find some value in your work. Even in mundane activities, you can often focus on how your work helps others or provides a much-needed product or service. Focus on the aspects of work that you enjoy, even if it’s just talking to your colleagues over lunch. Changing your attitude about your work can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.

Find balance in your life. If you hate your job, look elsewhere in your life for meaning and satisfaction: your family, friends, hobbies, or volunteer work. Focus on the areas in your life that bring you joy.

Build friends in the workplace. Close bonds at work can help reduce monotony and counteract the effects of burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve the stress of an unfulfilling or demanding job, improve work performance or simply get through a tough day.

Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, try taking a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use your sick days, request a temporary leave of absence, anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time off to recharge your batteries and try other methods of recovery.

Reassess your priorities

Burnout is an unmistakable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is really important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what truly makes you happy and take time to rest, reflect and heal.

Establish boundaries. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Learn to say “no” when people ask for your personal time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that you can say “no”, in order to say “yes” to the commitments you want to make.

Take a break from technology every day. Set aside a time each day to disconnect completely. Set aside your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email or social media.

Nurture your creative side. Creativity is an effective antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or pick up a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.

Make time for relaxation. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of calm that is the opposite of the stress response.

Make sure you get enough sleep. Fatigue can exacerbate burnout because it leads to irrational thoughts. Keep your cool in stressful situations by sleeping in.



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