How marketers can identify and deal with burnout

May 4, 2022 | 9 minute read
Michael McNichols
Senior Content Manager
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TL;DR: Find out why marketers find themselves especially susceptible to burnout. Learn:

  • What burnout is and its symptoms
  • Why specifically marketers push too hard
  • What you can do to recover


The past few years have thrown a lot at people. The global pandemic alone turned the world upside down. The stress of everyday living alone can get you down. Marketers, however, appear especially susceptible to burnout.

Daily work stress

Burnout is more than a state of mind. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as chronic workplace stress that isn’t successfully managed, characterized by:

  • Exhaustion or energy depletion
  • Mental distance from your job and negative feelings toward it
  • A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

The workplace, in particular, can trigger a large of stress. After all, you need to work to pay the bills, put food on the table, go on vacation, support your family, and do the things you enjoy.

That doesn’t make your actual job easier, especially not during times of disruption and change. In the past few years, marketers had to deal with brand building and customer retention with more events and sales moving online than ever before.

When necessary, we halted or rethought entire campaigns, messaging, and what was important to our customers.

Work habits shifted, and we found different ways to go about our jobs. Remote working came to the forefront, and many people loved it.

Some thrive on social interaction and in-person collaboration. Others loathe the idea of going back to the office, dealing with the commute, and trying to find time to have a life, hobbies, and simply unwind.

A survey by Future Forum in October of 2021 found that only 17% of workers wanted to go back to the office every day.

Remote work isn’t worry-free, either. You might spend too much time alone and only interact with colleagues (and people outside work) on Slack, email, and via text. You might have trouble separating work from the rest of your life since your work computer’s right there and you keep getting emails and Slacks about things you can’t put off.

Don’t forget you have chores, family, your phone, social media, and your interests to distract you from your work.

The infamous “Zoom fatigue” can also set in. Too many video calls can leave you feeling more drained and fatigued than meeting in person. Why is this?

You’re already spending your workday in front of your computer. How much time are you also spending on your phone, home computer, and other screens? Too much screentime can:

  • Strain the eyes
  • Affect your posture
  • Hurt your concentration
  • Lead to health problems, such as sleep deprivation and weight gain.

Watch this short video about the benefits of limiting your screentime.

Now add in video meeting after video meeting where you spend even more time in front of a screen where you:

  • Can’t make direct eye contact with the person on the other end, which can make you both wonder if the other person is listening
  • Might lose focus
  • Get distracted by family, a pet, phone calls, delivery, and a multitude of other things
  • Deal with technical issues
  • Might get self-conscious seeing yourself on the screen and knowing you’re being watched

On a personal note, I’ve worked remotely for over 12 years now. I often kid that I wouldn’t know what to do if I worked in an office again. That said, the increase in video calls and interaction in the early days of the pandemic proved challenging and made me feel like I was always “on.”

But that’s not the only thing at work that can dump buckets of stress down onto you. At times, everyone has dealt with:

  • Overwork and job dysfunction
  • No clear goals and unclear feedback
  • Too many ad-hoc projects
  • Poor communication
  • Unrealistic expectations

Lack of resources, feeling slighted or left out of decision-making, friends who leave the company, monotony, and being in the wrong role might have you feeling out of sorts as well.

Marketers and burnout

Marketers, it appears, might find themselves particularly prone to workplace stress and burnout. 

  • Research from Accenture Interactive found that nearly 70% of marketing executives said that the past year had exhausted their employees.
  • According to a 2020 study by Blind, 75% of the 7,000 marketing and communications professionals surveyed had experienced burnout.

The latter stat is particularly telling, as the study indicates marketers experienced burnout more than professionals in sales, HR, or finance.

What makes marketers susceptible to burnout?

Hey Orca! interviewed 27 marketing pros who’d gone through burnout about what caused it. Aside from the other potential factors above listed, they also mentioned hitting a creative wall, anxiety, a lack of focus, poor quality of sleep, and not taking vacations or breaks.

Of course, someone might work themselves too hard. Too many things pile up on them in general, and people don’t tend to be good at multitasking.

There’s no set formula that equals burnout. Everyone and their personalities are unique.

I myself inhabit the realm of copywriting and content marketing. Over the span of my career, I’ve done it all. Emails, landing pages, thought leadership, articles, blogs, and more.

The ideal length of an email tends to be something between 50 and 125 words. Doesn’t sound hard, right? Well, from experience, I can tell you that shorter writing can be much harder than longer. You strive to make every word have impact and fine-tune the offer and messaging.

Then consider how sharp and compelling you have to make a subject line and headline to get people to open the email and keep reading. You’re also working with other team members and managers, getting different types of feedback, and trying to please everyone.

Often, I’ve written a dozen or more subject lines or headlines just to see what direction my team wants to go in for the email, and even then I might tweak or refine from there.

As for managing a blog? Trends show people want longer content with more quality and value. Bloggers are spending more and more time on their posts and putting in more and more effort. Plus, you’re publishing regularly too, and it’s not always easy to keep that up.

That’s just me. Imagine what the average marketing manager puts up with.

The C-suite wants marketers to show how their efforts are affecting ROI. Customers demand a personalized experience every time.

The pressure’s not only on. It never ends.

Being creative is rewarding. People love storytelling, and marketing gives you a path to tell stories for a living to win over and keep customers. I for one couldn’t imagine myself doing anything that doesn’t involve writing.

Still, writing and rewriting take time and energy. I have to meet manager and customer expectations.

And I have other things going on in my life. We all do.

Burnout can happen more easily than you think. In 2021, more than half the workers Indeed surveyed said they were experiencing it.

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The toll of burnout on marketers

Marketers are often creative people, especially those on the content marketing side. Writers (and other marketers) get hugely invested in their work, which, believe me, doesn’t always make getting feedback easy.

What toll does burnout take?

  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Poorer work performance (and maybe eventual job loss)
  • Sense of failure or self-doubt
  • Low self-esteem and anxiety
  • Cynicism and irritability
  • Both physical and mental health issues, such as headaches, muscle pain, and depression

Writer’s block, lack of inspiration, apathy, anger, pent-up feelings, and an inability to communicate could also hit a marketer quite hard.

You become not a very pleasant person to deal with. Worse, these issues can bleed over into your personal life as well. You might begin to lose interest in things you once enjoyed at and outside work.

Warning signs of burnout

Healthline lists these symptoms of burnout to look out for:

  • Fatigue
  • Isolation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling trapped, useless, or helpless
  • Trouble concentrating and reduced attention span
  • Escape fantasies
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Skipping work, showing up late, or working too many hours too often
  • Taking frustration out on others
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities
  • Unhealthy coping methods (drinking, drugs, etc.)

Though burnout results from stress, they aren’t the same thing.

  • Stress comes from too many demands and pressures on you physically and mentally
  • Burnout means feeling empty and not caring anymore

Often, people realize they’re under stress, but don’t notice burnout at first.

Burnout doesn’t happen suddenly, either. You go through five stages:

1) Honeymoon – You start a new job or project with energy and optimism

2) Onset of stress – While you don’t feel stressed out all the time, it begins occurring more and more frequently

3) Chronic stress – Now you feel stressed more and more persistently

4) Burnout – You reach your limit and can’t function normally anymore

5) Habitual burnout – Left untreated, burnout becomes a part of your everyday life

That all said, how do you deal with workplace burnout?

How to deal with workplace burnout

Anyone who goes through burnout has to deal with it in their own way. However, first, you have to realize what’s going on and be honest with yourself about it. After all, the first step in dealing with a problem is accepting you have one.

From there? You might try a few other things.

Self-organization, delegating tasks, and saying no

Poor organization leads to confusion, whether it’s just you or your whole team. Details get lost, people work at cross purposes, and the results are lacking. If any type of software or tool (like a calendar app, project management software, or even post-it notes), help. Go for it.

Clearer communications and stronger collaboration remove ambiguity, stress, and increase your chances of success.

Also, don’t forget you don’t have to take everything on yourself, You can delegate tasks or say no. Work it out with your manager or team so that it’s not a one-person show, and don’t put that type of pressure on yourself.

Take breaks and time off

Keep your sanity and maintain a healthy work/life balance. Take vacations, even short ones. Mental health days are a great idea as well.

See your friends. Spend time with your family. Keep up with hobbies.

A healthy work/life balance isn’t just about enjoying your weekends and trips. Create a boundary between your job and life, so you can prioritize and compartmentalize when needed. When you finish work for the day, leave it alon

During the workday, you don’t need to be on the go all the time, either. Take breaks. Stand up and stretch. Do something else for a little while.

Prioritize your wellness

Self-care can make a world of difference. Plus, getting away from work for a bit can give you a new perspective on it.

I recommend:

  • Getting outside and experiencing nature
  • Unplugging from electronics and the internet
  • Meditation
  • Exercise, yoga, or tai chi
  • Martial arts (I’m into Muay Thai and kenpo karate)

If you need it, confide in your loved ones or seek professional help.


Tell your coworkers and manager what’s going on if things get bad. There’s no shame in admitting it, and they’ll probably be far more sympathetic than you think. They might even be going through something similar.

Should you find yourself in a situation where your manager or coworkers don’t show the proper amount of concern, if you can’t take breaks or time off, if you can’t delegate tasks, make a change. Do you need a new job or a new role on a different team?

Only you can decide, and we all have different breaking points. Do what you have to because your first responsibility is to yourself and your loved ones, not your job.

Resources to deal with burnout, depression, and mental health

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Michael McNichols

Senior Content Manager

Michael McNichols is a Senior Content Manager for Oracle Digital Marketing. He has over ten years of experience in professional writing and has been widely published.

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