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5 Subtle Burnout Signs to Look Out For

It certainly is an ‘interesting and challenging time for staff in schools. I think it would be helpful for leaders in schools to be on the lookout for the following subtle signs that staff are at risk of burnout.

My thoughts are with the staff in the thousands of schools across Australia who are (or have been) in lockdown. It is very stressful on staff and the whole school community. Hang in there! Your work is important and IS making a difference.

Burnout is a psychological response to chronic work stress and it is characterised by feelings of exhaustion. According to the World Health Organisation, there are three dimensions to burnout:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to, one’s job
  3. A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

The following five indicators were highlighted by Calm for Business at as possible indicators that a colleague may be experiencing burnout. Whilst considered in isolation, none are guaranteed symptoms of burnout, however, when considered together, they may be indicators that one of your team is at risk.

Loss of confidence – if somebody suddenly seems to lose confidence in their abilities, it could be a sign that they are experiencing burnout. This could present as a staff member who is more critical than usual of their own abilities or more tentative.

A change of socializing at work – when someone who usually engages with others and is involved in staff social activities or banter is suddenly exhausted all of the time and chooses not to be involved in social activities with colleagues and friends, it could be a sign of burnout.

A change in general behaviour – if a colleague suddenly has a drastic dip in energy, seem disinterested compared to how they usually behave, it could be a sign they are becoming disengaged, which can be a marker of burnout.

Lack of care at work – a common sign of burnout can be the staff member how becomes a lot less careful about their work, whether in terms of their attention to detail or “devil may care” attitude. These could signal that an individual no longer cares about their job, which could be a result of an underlying issue like burnout.

Physical illness – if you notice someone is off work more often or is complaining about ailments, you should pay attention. Burnout can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues, body aches and susceptibility to flu and colds. A sudden increase in sick days may be symptomatic of someone who is burnt out and unable to face work.

It is important that leaders regularly check in with their team, offer support and resources to help their staff and build a positive culture of recognition and support for the challenging work we do in schools.