Must-Read Strategies To Avoid Burnout And Improve Work/Life Integration
The High Cost of Burnout
Burnout isn't stress; everyone - even those who love their work and are fully engaged - experience stress at work. Burnout is a different beast: it doesn't dissipate when the current crisis has passed or after some time off. Instead, it lingers. In the mind and in the body.
- Chronic fatigue
- Decreased concentration and increased forgetfulness
- Anxiety and depression
- Detachment and loss of enjoyment
- Physical symptoms, such as increased illness, loss of appetite, headache, chest pain, heart palpitations, gastrointestinal pain, etc.
- Impaired performance and decreased productivity
The impact on businesses can be equally damaging: higher rates of absenteeism, disengagement, lost productivity, lost innovation, and higher health care costs. General Motors, for example, spends more on health care than steel, and collectively, high levels of workplace stress cost the US an estimated $190 billion in health care costs alone.
To Quit or Not to Quit
You could quit. And many people do. Overworked, tired, and burned out employees are "31% more likely to think about looking for a new job than their colleagues who feel comfortable with their workload." Burnout, though, has a way of following you.
Strategies for Banishing Burnout
A look at the most common workload issues - and how to solve them:
Too Available. "My door is always open." It's a nice sentiment, but you should take it metaphorically instead of literally. The reality is that you need time to focus on your work, to do the important value-added tasks that only you can handle. And you need to do that without 15 people expecting attention and immediate replies.
You may have to come in early (and, hopefully, leave early) to get this time. You may have to close your door, turn off your phone, or head out to the nearest coffee shop to escape distractions and interruptions. Whatever works for you, commit to managing your availability.
- Too Much Work, Too Little Time. Taking on too many tasks doesn't make you a "team player." It puts you one step closer to burnout. One quick fix: learn the art of saying "no." If a request isn't worth your time, decline (respectfully). If it can be delegated to a direct-report, do it. Next, look at the tasks you must complete. Prioritize them, and then eliminate as many distractions and time-wasters as possible.
2. Solve Control Problems. As Maslach says, "Control problems occur when workers have insufficient authority over their work or are unable to shape the work environment to be consistent with their values." You feel like you're pulled and pushed by circumstances and people within your organization. Things are happening to you - putting you in the passenger seat of your own career and life.
Research demonstrates that when people contend with high job demands and low control, they are more likely to experience significantly higher rates of coronary disease and depression. Fortunately, there are various strategies by which you can gain more control over your work, including:
- Pushing against the boundaries and finding out how much leeway you have to take initiative.
- Asking for increased responsibility or different opportunities; using your track record and experience, demonstrate that you are ready to tackle the challenge.
- Taking control where you can. It may be showing initiative on new projects, advocating for high standards and seeking feedback on your own work, or supporting others in their endeavors.
Fair and appropriate financial compensation is, of course, a must. But when it comes to "rewards," most employees value a sincere "thank you" for specific behaviors. If that's not forthcoming, Maslach suggests adjusting expectations. Find intrinsic motivation to do your job well or seek, and provide, peer recognition.