Fight Burnout

Are you Doing it Right? Here are some tips for fighting burnout. 

We all have slow days but when they come too frequently they can be an indication of burnout, which comes at the high cost of lost productivity and diminished success. The Globe and Mail recently published an article about what better bosses are doing right to avoid burnout and “quiet quitting”.

A new term emerged during the COVID era, describing what can happen to people who have become disenchanted with their jobs, “quiet quitting”. The term implies doing as little as possible at work to offset burnout. Sounds like someone who should be fired right? But what if that person is talented and usually hard working? What if that person is you?

According to recent studies, workplace burnout is on the rise – and it’s rooted in circumstance, not choice. In a recent article, Suzy McAlpine, author of Beyond Burnout, cites six main reasons people are burning out at work:

  • isolation 
  • absence of fairness
  • insufficient rewards
  • overwork
  • lack of control
  • conflicting values between the individual and the organization

Lack of control, isolation, and work overload have all become more prevalent since the pandemic struck, these are three main types of burnout we should all be on the lookout for:

  1. Overload Burnout

Cited as the most common type of burnout, overload burnout tends to affect “highly dedicated employees who feel obligated to work at an unsustainable pace, driving themselves to physical and mental exhaustion”. If you find yourself suffering from overload burnout, it’s recommended that you work on building your emotional regulation skills and address any negative self-talk. Understanding that enjoying your personal life makes you better at your job, instead of telling yourself that you need to work all the time, is a solid step towards becoming more successful at work. It’s also important to separate your identity and sense of self-worth from your work. If you notice overload burnout in the staff you are responsible for, address the issue by prioritizing the work you assign them and limiting tasks to a reasonable volume.

  1. Underchallenged Burnout

Bored or understimulated by your work? Maybe you’re feeling unappreciated. Underchallenged burnout is the opposite of overload burnout and can lead to quiet quitting. Someone with no challenges to overcome at work should seek ways to pique their curiosity about work-related tasks. As the leader of someone experiencing these symptoms,  offering learning opportunities, showing appreciation for their work, and allowing them some freedom and input of their job will help to spark interest.

  1. Neglect Burnout

Talking to the people you are responsible for at work to review, assign or, reassign tasks is a great way to connect with staff and ensure they have enough structure to be successful. Providing direction and guidance will help them manage their workload and clearly communicate your expectations. To effectively lead your team and prevent them from experiencing feelings of helplessness, dedicate one on one time and attention to each team member to show your support as they conquer day-to-day challenges.

Avoiding burnout involves more than “yoga classes and a fruit bowl in the lunchroom”. Taking a serious look at how you and your team perform work will help to establish a firm burnout initiative. Here are some tips from McAlpine to determine where you’re falling short and how you can pick up the slack as a leader:

  • Be mindful of the common reasons for burnout mentioned at the beginning of this article (overwork, lack of control, isolation, conflicting values between the individual and the organization, absence of fairness, and insufficient rewards).
  • Determine which of these causes are already present in you or your team and identify which ones present the highest risk of occurring.
  • Define strategies and steps to take to address these problems before they happen.
  • Be realistic about workloads. Prioritize and schedule tasks, and examine processes for efficiencies to facilitate a reasonable pace for all staff, even you!
  • Encourage people to look at the how and why of their work instead of simply focusing on completing tasks. This will go a long way in improving processes and increasing productivity.
  • Effective leaders can have a huge impact on countering burnout. Be open to flexible work situations to ease the pressures on staff. Be aware of psychological safety as well as physical safety in the workplace to build trust in your workplace culture.
  • Have difficult conversations. Addressing stigmatized topics like mental health and general well-being creates a safe environment where people can address and seek help to deal with issues like burnout.

Important takeaway: people are the driving force behind any professional organization. Take care of your people and they will take care of your business.