Pre – pandemic the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. If you were already working long hours, the chances are that you continued during lockdown. Our own research has found that many clients are reporting working more, not less during the lockdown. So, what’s going on?
What is Burnout?
The WHO recognises burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.
Maybe you recognise yourself in that description? Whether you’re office based or you continue to work from home, the dimensions will have a pretty big impact on the rest of your life. If you’re burning out, the effects will ripple into your personal life. Let’s take a look at how to get back on track.
It’s Not You
Ok, so the WHO has noticed. They’ve described burnout as being at epidemic levels. It’s a global phenomenon and it’s not just affecting you. We know that workplace culture and leadership has an enormous impact on the wellbeing of their people. Toxic cultures of sacrifice deplete employees resulting in burnout. There’s nothing left in the tank. Companies are beginning to recognise this and lean into cultures of wellbeing instead.
Companies Building Cultures of Wellbeing
Progressive companies are beginning to shift their culture towards one that actively encourages wellness at work. VW limit access to their servers after a certain time at night – limiting the temptation to work and email others into the small hours. US tech company FullContact offer their employees $7,500 to take a break. There’s one catch. They must be off-grid wherever they take it. FullContact recognise that the road to burnout is paved with constant connection. Dutch company Heldergroen elevates its desks all the way up to the ceiling between 6pm and 9am. No one’s working late in their office.
Free – range Employees vs Burnout
Whilst some companies have recently signed up to employee monitoring systems other companies recognise that this is a counterproductive move. They’re pivoting in the opposite direction and we say hallelujah to that. Remember Heldergroen? the company that lifts its desks all the way to the ceiling at 6pm? Their Director, Sander Veendendaal, gave employees the opportunity to rewrite their working conditions. The result? Profit increased and stress related absenteeism fell. ‘To combat burnout, you have to do two things: create meaningful work and give people back their freedom.’ said Sander. We couldn’t agree more.
Burnout is created by unhealthy dynamics
Resilience is a dynamic between employer and employee. These companies offer solutions instead of sticking plasters. Systems and procedures that support employee wellbeing. Designing healthy environments that support resilience and wellbeing are the way forward as pivot into a new way of working post lockdown. But what if you’re working from home and responsible for creating your own schedule?
Renewal prevents cognitive overload
Create regular breaks. When we work with organisations on sustainable performance the key is pace. The temptation to chug through your workload will increase cognitive stress and impair your performance. Regular breaks create a natural pause for renewal throughout the day (goodbye sacrifice syndrome). It’s the first step to working smarter instead of harder.
Create a Strategy
Strategy is critical to sustainable performance. Burnout can feel overwhelming, affecting our decision making. You can begin to regain the clarity necessary for effective thinking by creating a plan. Effective strategy involves setting clear goals, designing a plan to deliver them and monitoring your progress. Decide upon your metrics for success and tackle your goals each day. Remember to stay flexible, things change and you need to be able to adapt to each situation.
If you’re doing something and it won’t help you to achieve your metrics for success, ask yourself if you should be spending time on it. Think in terms of ROI for your time to maintain your focus and keep your strategy on track.
When you feel really overwhelmed, set small goals to build your self efficacy. You’ll find the the more you achieve, however small, you’ll begin to feel more in control and that’s one of the most effective ways to build your resilience and guard against burnout.
We’ve successfully worked with thousands of businesses and individuals around the world to help them achieve their resilience goals. We’ve coached hundreds of leaders in business, elite sport and tech. We work internationally with Fortune 100 companies to optimise performance, reduce burnout, building resilience and workforce wellness. We provide consultancy, leadership coaching and training. If you’d like to know more about how we can partner with your organisation, get in touch.