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How to Identify and Avoid Project Burnout at Work


Everyone has days when they feel stressed out because of pending work or tight deadlines. But when this stressful and overwhelming feeling persists at work, it can eventually lead to burnout.

In fact, studies show that over two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout at least once in their careers.

When employees suffer from burnout, their personal lives get affected on top of their work. Employees lose their motivation to work and it’s characterized by persistent fatigue and a lack of enthusiasm. That’s why It’s important to address burnouts at the onset.

Employees become even more susceptible to burnout when they are working on long projects. It is the responsibility of the project manager to recognize the early signs of project burnout and help the team get out of the funk by knowing what is project management and how to manage projects better.

What is project burnout?

Project Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion when your work demands constantly exceed the amount of energy that you have on a daily basis. Complete project burnout usually occurs when your team productivity drastically declines and there is a lack of motivation among team members.

Some of the effects of project burnout include:

  • Constant exhaustion and disinterest in daily work responsibilities
  • Isolating yourself from the rest of the team or looking at the project from a negative perspective
  • Missed deadlines, constant procrastination, or inability to concentrate

What causes project burnouts?

Project burnout can easily spread through the entire team if it is not recognized in the early project stages. It’s contagious. Project managers need to be especially careful about this because once they start feeling burnout, the other members will quickly follow suit.

At the same time, it is also important to identify any members who burn out eventually, despite the kind of work they handle.

One of the biggest causes of burnout is working constantly without taking sufficient breaks. Only 28 percent of American employees max out their vacation days. While project managers would want to finish the work as soon as possible, working consistently without some much-needed time off can affect the quality of work.

project burnout chart

Project managers should consider holidays and paid time off while setting deadlines. This ensures that the team members are not suddenly pressured to work overtime because of scope creep or just to meet a pending deadline.

Teams with managers who micromanage are more susceptible to burnout. While some managers may assume that they are able to give their team more consistency, stability, and clarity, micromanagement is neither effective nor productive in the long run.

It also makes the team members feel like the managers don’t trust them enough which eventually leads to decreased performance. Moreover, when employees are constantly micromanaged, they may not be able to work freely or reach their peak efficiency.

How to avoid project burnout at work

It is the responsibility of the project managers to ensure the smooth functioning of the team. They need to be aware of the serious effects burnouts can have on projects, people, and the organization itself. The best way to deal with project burnouts is to avoid them in the first place by following some of the project management best practices or by using project management software.

Here are some steps to prevent project burnouts and avoid it completely at work:

1. Focus on the results

As a project manager, you should put more emphasis on the results being delivered by the team members, instead of the number of hours they spend working in the office every day. The idea is to encourage the team to use their time more consciously by prioritizing tasks and deadlines and staying organized at work to be more productive.

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2. Limit or completely eliminate overtime

Working overtime consistently doesn’t just make the team more exhausted, but it also decreases their overall motivation to come to the office every morning and deliver their best work. That is why project managers need to limit overtime as much as possible and encourage the project team members to leave the office on time.

3. Break a large task into smaller milestones

In task management, accomplishing big and long-drawn tasks can become rather overwhelming, make employees frustrated, and eventually lead to project burnout. Instead, you can break down big tasks into smaller project milestones with specific

4. Modifying unreasonable expectations

As the project starts, it is very common for managers to realize that some of the project expectations are completely unreasonable or the project may have some constraints restricting the team from delivering their best.

In cases like these, it is the responsibility of the project manager to communicate with the client or the senior management, in order to make changes to the expectations to avoid project delays and deliver the project successfully.

Regular feedback is the key to avoiding burnout at work

By recognizing the early signs of project burnout, it is possible to avoid it completely. Weekly kickoff meetings to get feedback from everyone and team-building activities help improve project team collaboration and motivation.