It’s Monday, the inception of another work week. You drag yourself off your bed at the beeping buzz of your alarm clock. You toss and turn, wishing that you could get some extra lines of z’s in the chronicles of your sleep before you get ready for work. Your mind sighs at the thought of heading out to work. You slept, you rested, but you can’t explain the buzz in your head as some unexplainable migraine sings in soft asynchronous tunes in your head. You sluggishly get up, drag yourself up and head to the restroom for the daily ritual of buccal cavity care, showering, and getting yourself ready for the workweek. You are not up for breakfast today, but you settle for a Cup of Joe on the go at the neighborhood Starbucks. You are grateful for the job you have—you the means to make ends meet. However, somewhere within the depths of your subconscious, you are inundated by the feeling that you may be just pigeonholed in your current position. You’ve become more cynical. You have become more irritable. You now lack the oomph to stay consistently productive. You feel disillusioned at work. Could you be a victim of workplace burnout?
Workplace burnout is a unique kind of long-term chronic stress that occurs on the job. It is a psychological state of mind that has transpired for a while, unrecognized, and now has spun out of control. It is a place of physical, emotional, or mental expenditure. You have cashed out and cashed in your last wad of psychological currency with no more cerebral liquidity to carry on. The state you now experience could easily get you to the precipice of an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. A lot of people don’t see it coming, they are blindsided, only noticing it so late after they are already broadsided by its debilitating consequences. Different individuals in the workplace can experience workplace burnout in various ways. These could be having unclear goals or job expectations, working in a dysfunctional team or organization, experiencing an excessive workload, having little or no support from your boss or organization, lacking recognition for your work, work-life imbalance, having dull or low stimulation work, poor job fit, just to mention but a few.
Consequences of Workplace Burnout
The effects of burnout can be severe. From an organizational perspective, your productivity can taper off dramatically. This not only impacts your career outlook, but it can negatively impact your team and organization as well. Apart from your productivity being affected, workplace burnout can also deal a severe blow to your creativity and innovativeness. From a health perspective, workplace burnout can cause chronic fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, high blood cholesterol levels, Type 2 diabetes chiefly in women, stroke, and obesity. From a social purview, workplace, or career burnout, if not adequately managed, can also spill over into your social life, negatively impacting your relationships with friends and family. From a mental standpoint, it can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and the embracing of bad habits (e.g., alcohol and substance abuse). This is the reason why most forward-thinking organizations promote a culture of work-life balance.
Ten Ways to Prevent Workplace Burnout
First, always work with purpose. Ensure that your career has a broader goal, other than just earning a paycheck. Finding what your purpose is can go a long way towards helping you avoid workplace burnout. Your purpose is your gifting, your talent, your design—that very nature that resonates your best self ever. It is that activity that gives you your greatest joy. It is that thing you are best at doing—your unchallenged front. Look at the broader impact of what you do every day; how your work makes life better for others.
Second, find a way and reduce working long hours. There is a direct linkage between the amount of overtime you work and your stress levels. Have the saying of a Louis D. Brandeis at the back of your mind which says that “The best of wages will not compensate for excessively long working hours which undermine health.” The more hours you work without balancing other aspects of your life is a sure way to burn yourself out. Become conscious of how many hours you are putting in at work. Cultivate a sense of dynamic life equilibrium.
The times may arise when working very long hours are unavoidable. However, this becomes an issue when it becomes habitual rather than just an occasional event. Look around you; there are some of your colleagues who put in extra time at work because they feel that no one else can handle their work portfolio or they don’t have any strong relationships pulling them home. Whatever the reason for working excessive overtime hours, increased tension levels and burnout can often ensue.
Third, find a way to break projects into bite-sized-bits. Attacking a task head-on without breaking it into little objectives can be quite exhausting and overwhelming. Performing tasks in this way will provide just a small room for rest in between assignments. Breaking up your project into manageable chunks with reasonable deadlines in place gives you a much easier way of getting things done without having to overwhelm yourself.
Fourth, learn and know when to say “No.” Many things will come your way. Most of them could be irresistibly appealing, and it could become difficult to say “No,” especially if you are a “high-capacity” team member who brings a lot to the table. Every “Yes” adds another task in your quiver-full-of-tasks to accomplish. Extra tasks will take more energy and more creativity to accomplish. Don’t be bogged down by scope creep. Saying, “Yes” to too many things at the same time can cause us to fail and enter the burnout arena. Learn and know when to say “No!”
Fifth, stop being a perfectionist. Set acceptable work boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Trying to maximize every task and squeeze every drop of productivity out of your creative work is a recipe for procrastination and eventual workplace exhaustion. The famous quotation by Edward Young says, “Procrastination is the thief of time.” In your bid to drive yourself towards excess perfection, procrastination, a resultant factor of over-consummation can become the thief of your sanity when you burn yourself out in the workplace.
Sixth, try and cut down on excessive multitasking. The ability to multitask can be useful, beneficial, and at times necessary. Your boss might even praise you for doing it at work. However, the fact remains that excessively sharing your time across several work deliverables may spread you too thin. This could prevent you from allocating the necessary time and attention in doing an excellent job on the one task that is vital. It could make you more susceptible to errors. It also consumes more time and energy than one might think.
Seventh, build a great team. One of the things employees like about their job is their coworkers. Companies can’t expect workers to get along with one another if they rarely interact with their colleagues. Workers should have regular team building activities to cultivate strong relationships between employees. Workers with friends in the office are much less likely to burnout at work. A strong team makes it possible for everyone to work cohesively like a well-oiled-engine. Feeling the support from all sides can help prevent workplace burnout. After all, together everyone achieves more.
Eight, ask for help when you need it. It is worth the time to ask for help, you can’t do everything on your own. Asking for help will buy you time and get you to a solution faster than you could ever hope to achieve if you did your work alone. No man or woman is an island, interdependency can be a competitive advantage instead of it being a sign of weakness. If you want to avoid workplace burnout, you’ll need to swallow your pride on occasion and reach out for help. Don’t be an “I will do it all on my own” type of person. Ask for help if you need the help. Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened. Embrace this wisdom–ask for help.
Ninth, schedule time for yourself. Life is short, and it is essential to enjoy the journey. Free time on your calendar for yourself in the same way you schedule time for a meeting and stick to it. Make time to take care of yourself. This time is an integral part of work-life balance. You’ll get back to work feeling refreshed and mentally rejuvenated. It is possible that you will accomplish a lot more than you would have if you worked straight through the day. When planning out your schedule, create some time for self-care. It is time to become deliberate about making time for yourself. Remember, you only live once. What profit is it to you that you spend every nickel of your time working yourself to stupor sans enjoying the fruits of your labor? It makes no sense, right?
It’s okay to splurge on yourself occasionally. It’s okay to give yourself a treat from time to time. Don’t inundate yourself with so much work that you find little time to have fun. Enjoy yourself a little. I have a friend who told me about a comment that a mutual friend of ours made some years back. This lady is a very successful nurse who makes a whole lot of money in her position. She made a comment once stating that she earns quite a lot of money, has a beautiful house, a very astounding car, etc. However, she lamented that she works so much that she never has the time to stop and smell the roses. She never has time to enjoy her beautiful home or spend quality time with her family. She asserts that she spends the bulk of her time working her scheduled hours and taking on more hours to work the schedule of those that call out from work. It is essential to enjoy life a little as a means of creating a harmonious psychological balance. Have fun a little! Enjoy yourself a little! It makes good sense and a sure way of ensuring that you eschew workplace burnout.
Tenth, find time to sleep. Sleep is essential for preventing workplace burnout. Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a significant risk factor for exhaustion. Poor sleep can have adverse effects on your job performance and productivity. Apart from causing workplace burnout, there are also various surprising effects of sleep deprivation. First, fatigue due to sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of accidents in the workplace. Second, sleep deprivation can impair your cognitive abilities. Not having enough sleep can impair your thinking faculties. Not resting the body affects your ability to reason aright and think straight. Third, lack of sleep makes you prone to several heart complications (e.g., heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, etc.). Lack of sleep is also one of the leading causes of stroke and diabetes.
Fourth, lack of sleep is a contributive factor to depression. Fifth, lack of sleep will age you quickly. Sixth, lack of sleep can make you forgetful. Seventh, lack of sleep can rob you of your love life. This could make you more tense and cranky and could affect your positive attitude in the workplace. Eight, have you noticed that a lot of people who are sleep deprived often have an increased appetite? This leads people to food binging that can lead to obesity. People who are obese find it more difficult to be very active in the workplace. Obesity can lead to people being more sluggish and less energetic in the workplace. Ninth, sleep deprivation increases the mortality rate of individuals. Resting is a critical factor in elongating your lifespan. Tenth, sleep deprivation can lead to making poor judgment calls, which can impact one very negatively in the workplace. Get some sleep and stay sharp in the workplace.
Your psychological well-being is first your responsibility before it becomes the responsibility of your organization. The Golden Rule in the Bible says in the Book of Mark Chapter Twelve verse thirty and thirty-one that “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (New Living Translation (NLT)). The second greatest Golden Rule here says that you must show yourself some self-love. Show some love to yourself and take care of your psychological sanity. Let it begin with you taking care of yourself. Don’t get stressed out! Don’t burn yourself out before you can tell the narrative of your transcendent achievements in the workplace.
A lot of organizations today are modern day slave masters in working their employees to the bone. Every dime and a dollar need to be made. Every ounce of productivity and creativity must be squeezed out of the employees. It’s not a bad thing to want to earn a profit to say the very least; however, I am a stern believer in moderation in the approach of doing so. Very few organizations make it a paramount duty to take care of their employees. For instance, Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, is a man of great intuition and corporate vision if I must say. His mantra at the Virgin Group is to “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business.” How many organizations today make their employees their paramount focus of importance? Seriously, I would love to learn more concerning these organizations. Let me know via the comment box in this article. Until then, thanks for reading and don’t be a victim of workplace burnout. Carpe diem! Cheers!