Is there something in the water? Because I don't know about you, most of my catchups with my girlfriends have shed light on their dissatisfaction in their work-life over the past few months.
I think it is fair to say that at some point or another, most people in their career have longed for the weekend ahead, just as Monday is rolling in. We may make jovial jokes about it with our trusted colleagues, but the effects of burnout can be seriously detrimental to our overall wellbeing and health. In a world dominated by a "go-go-go" attitude, it can be hard to resist falling into the trap of giving a lot of yourself to others and your job and leaving little room for yourself. Studies show that before Covid 19, the epidemic already sweeping the world was burnout. It was even recognised by the World Health Organisation, which states it is a legitimate "syndrome" and is directly caused by "chronic workplace stress."
The moral of the story is, can we really be blamed for the enviable burnout pending in our future when the system is set up to support it?
The author of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily Nagoski, said it best:
"Most of us have spent our whole lives being taught to believe everyone else's opinions about our bodies, rather than to believe what our own bodies are trying to tell us. For some of us, it's been so long since we listened to our bodies, we hardly know how to start understanding what they're trying to tell us, much less how to trust and believe what they're saying. To make matters worse, the more exhausted we are, the noisier the signal is, and the harder it is to hear the message."
So, if we have clear evidence that burnout is, in fact, a global epidemic – what can we do about it, not just for ourselves but in support of others too?
What I can do as an employee
Two-thirds of full-time employees admit they have experienced burnout at least once in their career, if not more, in which women are more likely to struggle with burnout, and a whopping 32% admit to feeling consistently burned out at work! Here are a few suggestions to help mitigate burnout:
Evidence shows that having a strong ally at work can do wonders for your morale and stress levels. So find your person at work and build a strong foundation with them. This will be a mutually beneficial relationship, where you can vent and strategies with someone who knows the nature of working in the same space. Plus, who doesn't love having a work bestie?!
Set clear expectations and stick to them! This requires discipline and an active role on your part. When something is asked of you, don't feel the need to jump straight to "yes!". Instead, respond respectfully and logically – provide clear timelines and brief justifications for how you devised them. Run your day, don't let others do it for you.
Now this one is hard, but block out the noise. If you're leaving work on time, you may feel the eyes of your colleagues penetrating the back of your head as you walk out of the office. Your mind will spiral as you contemplate what they must be thinking of you; "There goes Jill right on 5 pm again", or "Pffft – must be nice for Paul to get home in time for dinner.", but guess what? That is their problem and not yours. If you are confident that you are showing up and giving your best work day after day, you've done your job. This is your time now – enjoy it!
What I can do as a leader
No one is saying leaders have it easy. Not only do you have to manage the duties of your own day, but you must manage, in some respects, those of your delegates. However, if you wish to retain your valued talent and simultaneously increase the productivity of your team, setting your team up to steer clear of burnout is essential!
32% of employees stated that managers who took an active role in helping them manage their workload experience less burnout. This could be a simple 10 minute, 1-1 meeting with each of your direct reports on a Monday morning to set expectations, discuss and assess timelines for the week ahead, and maintain open and frank conversations. Communication is the critical component of any working relationship.
Encourage time off! It's one thing for employees to have contractual entitlements for holidays and annual leave, but actively reminding your team to take breaks will make them feel their wellbeing is valued.
Lead by example. Try to avoid sending task-related communication outside of work hours to honour employees' personal time. I get it; I can be a late-night emailer or have a brainwave on the weekend and want to get it on the screen before it leaves my mind. If you are sending communication outside of office hours, let your staff know you don't expect an immediate response and that they can come back to you within an appropriate timeframe. I may not be a leader myself, but I can't tell you how often my boss has read the following from me: "Brain dump, not expecting an immediate reply, just needed to get the ball rolling on my end :)"
Work-life balance can be stressful. Work will not always be easy, and time pressures will be inevitable – but this level of burnout should be few and far between, not the norm!
If you feel you're in a constant state of burnout, we are holding our Career Clarity Retreat on 4 June 2022 at the beautiful Summer House in Torquay. This is an all-day retreat to focus on YOU! A day to reflect, refresh, and reclaim your career journey. If this has piqued your interest, you can book in for a free clarity call; there are absolutely no obligations to sign up, just a chance to discuss if it is the right fit for you.