Tis’ the season of daily stressors from our home lives, relationship challenges with kids or partners; a pandemic and work overload and it’s no wonder people are stressed to the max and getting burned out. Here’s some ideas of what others have done (friends, colleagues, clients) to avoid burnout and recognize it when it occurs. Let’s start with the latter.
Recognizing burnout is important because we can’t intervene in something we have not identified. Burnout is defined by the WHO as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic stress that has not been successfully managed. It can look different for different people, but here’s some things to watch for:
Feeling Overwhelmed constantly
Extreme fatigue that is becoming chronic
Feeling Stress at a level that is relenting
Procrastinating things that are important
Lacking energy or desire to complete daily tasks or responsibilities
Not finding pleasure in much of anything/emotional exhaustion
Needing a lot more sleep
Changes in appetite, social pursuits in one direction or the other
We have all been there at one time or another. Also important to note that burnout and depression can go hand in hand. It is important if you own a business or lead an organization, you are able to recognize these signs in yourself and in others. Here’s some ideas how to manage yourself first to prevent burnout.
Engage in some good self care. Don’t skimp on eating well, eating regularly, or succumbing to fast food all the time. Those things will not help you think clearly or feel or function at your best. To avoid burn out you have to choose to take care of you. It also models healthy behavior for those in your family and those you influence at work.
Get adequate sleep- Be sure that you are not sacrificing sleep to get more done as that alone will drive burnout much more quickly as you lose energy and ability to think and creatively problem solve.
Get regular breaks away from responsibilities. We all benefit from a change of scenery, a hike in nature, playing a sport, or spending one on one time with our child. If it feels overwhelming to take long breaks, build short ones into your day where you stop looking at emails, and take a 10 minute walk, draw, color, journal or set up a coffee meeting or golf outing with an old friend.
Some ways you can help others avoid or deal with burnout include the following:
Engage with Your people- Ask on a regular basis how they are really doing. Should you get the standard “fine” response, that is an indicator you may not have created a safe and caring work environment that allows people to speak their truth.
Share vulnerably your own challenges- While we want to be careful not to use employees or leadership teams to be our own emotional dumping ground, sharing a challenge you have with your own emotional / mental health and wellbeing makes it safe for others to open up and share as well. There is a big difference between sharing and verbally dumping, vs. sharing and asking questions of others and LISTENING.
Create a work environment that allows staff to balance home and work responsibilities.
This will require you to invest in knowing your people. Each person is unique with their own needs, abilities, threshold of stressors, and ability to cope in hardship. Be sure you know who is capable of what is being asked, that they have clarity, and learn what their current challenges are. Provide opportunities for people to try an assignment or project out and assess their workload periodically. Create a culture of regular one on one meetings for this purpose.
Create opportunities for people to have more opportunity to do what they do best. The more minutes people have at work doing what best fits their skill set, strengths and passion, the less likely they are to burn out. Burn out is often the result of not only people doing too much, but doing too much of the wrong things that they are not well suited for. Be willing to look beyond job titles and descriptions, and begin to assess for talent, strengths and preferences. Focusing on people’s strengths and providing opportunities for people to play to their strengths is a great way to shift your culture of looking and trying to manage people’s weaknesses. A great way to reduce burnout in the workplace.
Burn out is avoidable. It takes time, attention and intention. Like most things, when you start with yourself, others will see what you do and your consistent actions will be more powerful than what you say. The rest is about the environment you create in your place of business or your organization. Your choices of the culture you create will either serve to induce more burnout or help people avoid it. We hope you will be intentional about creating the kind of workplace that helps people thrive.