Recognize the top 3 signs of ‘bug season burnout’


May 30, 2019

burnout PHOTO: ISTOCK.COM/OLM26250


What is good for the bottom line is not always ideal for the pest management technician in the field. Running a route this time of year, with repeatable 10- to 12-hour days, is stressful. There comes a time every season when pest assassins just want it to end — meet bug season burnout.

Burnout is a mental and physical response to an extended period of stress, resulting in lack of motivation, decreased job performance and increased irritability. Here are three warning signs of seasonal burnout, and how to avoid it.


1. Physical changes



The first sign of burnout typically is physical. Symptoms include a tight and sore neck, headaches, perpetual exhaustion and stomach pains. While occasional exhaustion and sore muscles come with the territory, when they become consistent, serious note should be taken. Moreover, when those physical pains are accompanied by negative thoughts about the route or the client, burning out becomes a real concern.

How to combat it: Get more sleep! It is easier said than done because stress can keep people awake, and seasonal hours are long. But adequate rest is essential to getting your body back on track. If your schedule allows, take a 20-minute break between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. for a power nap, when the body naturally wants to recharge. My favorite napping place as a technician was under a tree in a city park.

2. Attitude changes

An often-contrived positive attitude is common in the service industry. It’s certainly found within pest control — we put on our “happy faces” and suppress our irritation with redundant questions or difficult clients. But burnout often leads to increased irritability, depersonalization and a lack of motivation in the field. Burnout ultimately can affect your job performance

physically, by being too tired to get a job done, and emotionally, by being too worn out to even care.

How to combat it: Take time just for you. Engage in your hobby. Go on a day hike or fishing trip. Do something that brings you peace and happiness. You maintain your 1-gallon sprayer, don’t you? You rinse it and clean its filter. You must take time for personal maintenance as well. If you don’t, it may just be you springing a leak at a client’s home.

3. Apathy

In the field, pest assassins often have little control over their schedules. The office receives the call, routes the tech and assures the client of an arrival time. During the busy season, this continuous instability and inconsistency in a technician’s schedule increases the risk of burning out. Inflexible schedules, constant changes and long hours can leave technicians feeling trapped, and increases the likelihood of unhealthy coping through apathy.

How to combat it: Look for ways to add more control to your daily schedule. Take 10 to 15 minutes each morning before heading to your first stop, and outline a few goals to accomplish. By assigning and accomplishing a self-determined goal, you can regain a sense of control.

Your goals can be simple, such as:

  • Hand out 25 door hangers.
  • Read five articles in Pest Management Professional magazine between stops.
  • Finish two self-improvement podcasts.

Seasonal burnout is a real and present threat to pest management technicians. Self-vigilance, as well as a considerate manager, can help reduce the effects of seasonal burnout on a company’s staff this year, and will produce a more effective pest assassination team.

Eric Palmer is the owner of Southwest Exterminators, the founder of 7 in 6 Consulting and the author of Scale2Succeed. If you have any questions you can reach him at


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