It can be difficult for parents to balance their work and home lives. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. The number of parents who report burnout likely increased in 2023 from six out of ten in 2022. What are the signs of normal stress, fatigue, and burnout?
In what way does burnout occur?
It is natural to feel stressed when things are busy, or when we have too much on our plates. It is important to distinguish between general stress, burnout, and parental burnout. Most stressed people see a future where they’ll feel better once they’ve gotten everything under control. If we are constantly under pressure, we may be unable to cope, resulting in burnout.
Parental burnout results in feeling mentally and physically exhausted, being distant from your children, feeling ineffective as a parent, and feeling unsure of your ability to parent. Parents who work tend to experience it more often.
Research in this area is not conclusive, with some suggesting that parental burnout has limited impact on work performance and creates a renewed appreciation of one’s job, engagement, and satisfaction. Symptoms of parental burnout, however, also appear in other life domains and can negatively impact work performance.
Symptoms of parental burnout
The most common symptoms of parental burnout include physical and mental exhaustion, a short temper, disrupted sleep patterns, anxiety and panic, low moods and depression often accompanied by a lack of enjoyment of everyday activities, lack of motivation, avoidance of responsibilities, doubt in abilities and feelings of failure, and finding it harder to make decisions and take actions than usual. Consequently, this could lead to the following issues at work.
Symptoms and signs of behaviour:
Responsibilities are withdrawn
Taking your frustrations out on others.
Working without completing it
A late arrival at work or an appointment that is necessary
Separation from others
Taking longer to complete tasks because of procrastination
Coping with stress by eating, drinking, or using drugs
Symptoms and signs:
Tired or drained most of the time
Illnesses are more frequent because of low immunity
Muscle pain or headaches on a regular basis
Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
Symptoms of emotional distress:
Feelings of failure and self-doubt
Helpless, trapped, and defeated
A feeling of isolation, a feeling of detachment
Negative outlook and increasing cynicism
Sense of accomplishment and satisfaction decreased
Employers can support their employees in the following ways:
The stress of being a parent may lead to associated burnout in the workplace, resulting in lower productivity, performance issues, absenteeism, and even a complete withdrawal from work, affecting colleagues and the organization as a whole.
Moreover, research suggests that parental burnout may negatively impact the other parent, so they may also be at risk of work burnout if one parent experiences burnout.
UK law requires employers to protect their employees’ health, safety, and welfare. Employees’ parental demands must be acknowledged, and evidence suggests that organisational parental support and family friendly working practices can facilitate better coping.
Communication is key
Parental burnout can be addressed and absences can be reduced through good communication. Don’t forget to ask the employee how you as an employer can help them. Would you be able to provide more flexible working hours to help with childcare at home? Is the employee in need of some adaptations? Would you be able to help them manage their workload better at work? Communicate two-way so employees feel they can talk to you about their mental health whenever they want.
Maintain a regular check-in schedule
The signs and symptoms of parental burnout can be spotted early if you have regular one-on-ones with an individual. Check-ins show employees that you care about their health and wellbeing and are eager to support them.
Open a culture of transparency
You may avoid addressing mental health issues at work because of a culture of fear and stigma. Establish a company culture where talking about your mental health is as important as talking about your physical health. Encourage open communication with line managers, HR professionals, or mental health first aiders.
Flexibility is key
Your employees will have different ways of working and dealing with challenges. Managers can be as flexible as possible in order to cater to their employees’ needs if they feel they aren’t coping or would like adaptations to their work. Make any necessary modifications to the employee’s role, such as adjusting their hours, workload, tactics, breaks, or perhaps providing a mentor.
As an employer, it is important to spot the signs early, so that the symptoms can be prevented and the mental health of your employees can be protected in the future. For employees, knowing where and how to seek support and assistance is also important.