April is Stress Awareness Month, so I wanted to write about burnout - what happens when you are subjected to too much stress at work?
Meredith Grey from one of my favourite TV shows, "Grey's Anatomy", has my favourite explanation...
"Put simply, burnout comes from a deep imbalance. Too much stress with too few rewards. You're exhausted, depleted. You no longer have patience, pleasure, or serotonin. This is the end unless you turn it into something else and find your path to recovery. Pick the pieces you want from your life and find a new way forward."
Burnout is a work-related condition that affects many people, especially those in high-stress jobs. It's a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can result from prolonged periods of stress. Burnout can leave you feeling depleted, unmotivated, and disconnected from your work and colleagues. It can also have severe consequences for your mental and physical health.
We frequently have clients who come to us who are completely burnt out and don’t even know this is wrong with them. So, here are some tips for recognising the symptoms of burnout in yourself and your colleagues and ways to prevent and overcome it.
Recognising the signs of burnout in yourself and your colleagues is essential to prevent it from getting worse. Here are some common symptoms:
Feeling exhausted and tired all the time, even after a good night's sleep
A lack of motivation, feeling disengaged from work or activities that were once enjoyable
Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomach problems
Decreased performance and productivity at work
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Increased irritability, impatience, or negative attitudes towards others
Social isolation and withdrawal from colleagues, friends, and family
Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or depression
If you or a colleague are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's essential to take action to prevent burnout from getting worse.
Preventing burnout - for yourself!
Preventing burnout is much easier than curing it. Here are some strategies that can help you to avoid burning out:
Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself: Avoid overcommitting or taking on more than you can handle. Set boundaries and learn to say no when necessary.
Prioritise self-care: Make time for activities you enjoy, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. Take breaks throughout the day and make time for hobbies and interests outside work.
Manage stress: Find stress-reducing techniques that work for you, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualisation.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance: Set aside time for rest and relaxation, and avoid working excessively long hours. Use your time off to recharge and engage in non-work-related activities.
Seek support: Connect with supportive friends, family members, or colleagues who can provide emotional support and help you cope with stress.
If you are experiencing burnout despite your efforts to prevent it, consider taking these steps to help overcome it:
Take time off: The best (only?) way to overcome burnout is to take a break from work and recharge. Take a holiday or a few days off to rest and recharge.
Seek professional help: Consider seeing a mental health professional who can help you manage stress and develop coping strategies.
Re-evaluate your priorities: Take a step back and evaluate your goals and priorities. Determine if your current job or lifestyle is sustainable, or if you need to make changes to prevent burnout from occurring again.
Consider a career change: If you're experiencing burnout due to your current job, consider exploring other career options that align with your values and interests.
Recognising the symptoms of burnout in yourself and your colleagues is essential to prevent it from getting worse. Implementing prevention strategies can help you maintain good mental and physical health, and taking steps to overcome burnout can help you regain your energy and enthusiasm for work and life. Remember, it's okay to take a break and seek support when you need it. Take care of yourself, and don't hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.
Preventing Burnout - for Leaders
As a leader in an organisation, you need to recognise that burnout can have severe consequences for both individuals and the company. For example, burnout can lead to decreased productivity, absenteeism, sickness and high turnover rates (on top of the fact that, as an occupational disease, work is to blame for burnout!)
So what can you do about it?
Here are some proactive steps to prevent burnout among your team members:
Lead by example: As a leader, you should model healthy behaviours and promote work-life balance. Take regular breaks, avoid overworking, and prioritise your own mental and physical health.
Encourage work-life balance: Work-life balance is essential to prevent burnout. Encourage your team members to take time off when needed and promote flexible working arrangements such as remote working or flexible working hours. If your people have worked extra hard on a big project that has meant some late nights, give them time off to recover!
Set realistic goals: Set achievable goals for your team members and avoid overwhelming them with too much work. Regularly review workload and ensure that it is manageable. People tend to be reluctant to say they are struggling, so you'll need to dig to ensure they are not overloaded.
Provide support and resources: Offer support to your team members by providing access to counselling, mental health services, and employee assistance programmes. Also - have you provided all the tools they need to do their job? Have you conducted stress risks assessments with your team?
Foster a positive work environment: Create a work culture that values and recognises employee contributions. Celebrate team achievements and encourage open communication. Can you create a high-trust culture which prioritises psychological safety?
Promote professional development: Provide opportunities for learning, growth and development. This can help team members feel valued and engaged in their work - and of course, an organisation's most important asset is its people - invest in them!
By implementing these strategies, you can create a work environment that supports and encourages employee well-being, productivity and job satisfaction. Remember, a healthy and happy workforce is essential for the success of any organisation. As a leader, it's your responsibility to take care of your team and prevent burnout.
In conclusion, burnout can have severe consequences for individuals and organisations. It's essential to recognise the symptoms of burnout for yourself and your colleagues and implement prevention strategies to maintain good mental and physical health.
Leaders can take proactive steps to prevent burnout among their team members by setting realistic goals, encouraging work-life balance, providing support and resources, fostering a positive work environment, and promoting professional development. Leaders should lead by example and model healthy behaviours, prioritising their own mental and physical health.
Remember, it's okay to take a break and seek support when needed. Take care of yourself and your team, and don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. That’s what we’re here for ;-)