Ask HR: What Do I Do If I’m Struggling with Burnout?

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today

Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like him to answer? Submit it here.

My job has floated from crisis to crisis. I went from occasionally working long hours to almost exclusively working late nights and weekends. I haven’t had more than two consecutive days off in seven months. Lately, I have been sluggish in effectiveness and unmotivated. I’m wondering if these are early signs of burnout. Who can I talk to if I think I’m approaching burnout? Carla

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.:  Facing these challenges is difficult, and I appreciate your openness in seeking guidance. It’s clear that the demanding workload, long hours and ongoing stress can undoubtedly contribute to burnout. The World Health Organization defines burnout as a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to excessive stress.

Having an open conversation with your boss is crucial. They can direct you to resources designed to alleviate burnout, such as an employee assistance program (EAP). Your boss can also assist you in prioritizing your workload and collaboratively brainstorm ways to reduce work stress. Remember, you may not be alone in feeling this way, and talking to others about it can be a significant stress reliever. Sometimes, it helps just knowing others can identify with what you are going through.

You can also take some steps on your own to identify and manage burnout. Look for the following signs:

  • Exhaustion. This includes emotional, physical and cognitive fatigue.
  • Increased irritability. You may become more easily frustrated or agitated.
  • Decreased motivation. You might feel detached or less invested in both your personal and professional life.
  • Frequent mistakes. You might find yourself making errors or feeling incompetent more often.

Recognizing these symptoms is a significant step toward addressing burnout. To help alleviate your situation, consider making key lifestyle changes:

  1. Prioritize self-care. Get a good night’s sleep, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Taking care of your health is essential, even when it feels like you don’t have time.
  2. Implement healthy work habits. Take regular breaks throughout the day, set clear boundaries for your work hours and try to take time off whenever possible.
  3. Declutter and organize. Clear up both your workspace and your home environment. A clean and organized space can positively impact your mental well-being.
  4. Practice saying no. Don’t hesitate to decline additional tasks or responsibilities when you’re already stretched thin.
  5. Explore relaxation techniques. Consider journaling or meditation to help manage stress. 

In taking these steps, you can start on the path to mitigating burnout and regaining your sense of well-being. It’s essential to prioritize your health and find the support you need during challenging times. 


The company I worked at for six years recently closed. During my time there as a project manager, I made many contacts and relationships with clients, vendors and co-workers in my industry. However, I’ve never leaned on them for career support. What’s the best way to approach them for help in my job search? Dragan

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I’m truly sorry to hear about your company’s closure, and I appreciate your question. Building and leveraging relationships in your career field is acceptable and a smart move when you’re in a job search. Your network can be an invaluable resource as you navigate this transition.

Start by reaching out and defining your career goals and the type of opportunities you seek. Knowing what you want will help your contacts understand how they can assist you better.

Next, reconnect with your former co-workers, clients and industry contacts. Reach out for a friendly chat over coffee or a phone call, or even through social media. The focus here should be on rebuilding the connection rather than immediately asking for a favor. Also, consider joining a professional association related to your industry. It’s a great way to meet new people and stay updated on industry trends.

When you engage with your network, share your career aspirations and ask for their advice. People appreciate being consulted for their expertise. They may even recommend training or conferences to help you enhance your skills and expand your network further. If you plan to use someone as a reference in your job applications, ask for their permission. It’s a courtesy that can maintain trust and respect in your relationship.

Networking isn’t just about finding a job, it’s about nurturing relationships. Even after you secure a new position, try to stay in touch. You never know when you might be able to help them in return.

Remember, seeking help and recommendations from your professional network is not a one-way street. It’s a give-and-take relationship, and everyone goes through different phases of needing assistance and offering it. So, don’t hesitate to reach out to your contacts; they can provide valuable insights and support during your job search. Your efforts to cultivate these relationships will pay off in the long run.

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