In today’s fast-paced work culture, it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly pushing yourself to the limit. However, working too hard and too long without taking time off can lead to burnout, which can have serious consequences for your health, your relationships, and your career.
The pandemic set a precedent in the way we engage in our work. After spending about two years working from home, many of our priorities changed, balancing what fulfills and benefits us as human beings and what is supposed to get done in the workplace.
In 2020, a survey done by Flex Jobs noted that 75% of people polled have suffered from burnout at work, with 40% of them saying they experienced it during the pandemic.
Over the last years, we have seen that returning to the workplace suppose a big challenge. While some companies accepted to turn at least into hybrid work, others have been playing under the same rules of the pre-pandemic world, which has not yielded the best result, especially for women professionals.
By the end of 2022, women were more likely than men to suffer from burnout. According to research conducted by McKinsey & Co, 42% of women reported feeling burned out at work frequently, compared to 35% of men who stated they felt burned out. Additionally, a study done last year by Deloitte’s Women at Work showed that one-third of 5000 women surveyed took time off work due to their mental health.
It is clear that now professionals are more attentive to their mental health while less tolerant of behaviors and systems that represent an imbalance to their well-being; so the slightest sign of burnout, they eventually resign.
What to do before burnout makes you resign
If you are starting to feel overwhelmed and not finding meaning in your career, it is crucial to take time off before it is too late. Consider these five valuable tips to help you avoid burnout.
Recognize the Signs of Burnout
Before you can take action to prevent burnout, you need to be able to recognize the signs. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), some common symptoms of burnout include exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of motivation; as a result, people usually switch from giving their best at work to doing the bare minimum. Also, it is common to start developing negative thoughts about your job and role inside the organization. In my leadership programs, it is usual to hear things like: “Am I good enough for this job?”, “why am I here?”, “I’m not doing anything relevant for my life”, clearly a sign that something is not working for these women leaders. So, be attentive to your body’s responses. If you are feeling emotionally drained, struggling to focus or experiencing physical symptoms like headaches, gastrointestinal issues, or insomnia (to name a few) it may be time to take a break.
Many pieces of research have shown that practicing self-care can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Be sure you get enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and taking time for your hobbies. I suggest setting around 30 minutes a day during a week to identify how you’re spending your time, and make a list of all the things you would like to do, and make you feel relaxed and fulfilled. This way, you will have the big picture of your actual behavior and make all the changes needed to reorganize your agenda and improve your wellness. Of course, leaving some space to be spontaneous could help you too. Also, practicing mindfulness is an excellent tool for learning to be present and avoid pervasive thoughts.
Set boundaries in your workplace
Some studies suggest that employees not allowed to disconnect from work experience higher stress levels and burnout. That is why setting boundaries plays a significant role in establishing work-life balance and maintaining healthy relationships.
Make sure to let know your manager and coworkers when you will be available to manage work issues. Being clear about this fact is critical to separate your professional life from your personal life. It makes it easier to change the chip in your brain that is always in work mode.
But it is not enough to limit others, it is also necessary to set boundaries for yourself. One of the main contributors to burnout is overworking. Professionals tend to think that working long hours and taking on more responsibilities than they can manage will make them advance faster in their careers. This behavior leads to anxiety, stress, and fatigue, symptoms associated with burnout.
Make a conscious effort to leave work at work, avoid checking your email outside of office hours, and delegate tasks when possible. If you have a defined schedule and stick to it, you will not be called in inappropriate hours, and sure, you will not need to stay at office hours later than the end of your shift.
Let your manager know your needs
Being vocal about your needs and challenges in the workplace is critical to have a better understanding among peers. Occasionally, try to find a moment to discuss how you feel about your workload, processes, and dynamics within the company. This way, you can work with your team to find potential solutions that benefit everyone, like adjusting your workload or taking time off. The APA suggests that employees that have supportive managers experience lower levels of stress and burnout.
It is also essential to learn how to regulate your emotions; talking is a tool that will help you get rid of worries, feelings, and negative thoughts. Remember that these situations that worry you can trigger increased production of cortisol, the hormone that generates tiredness and heaviness in your body.
Set time aside
During your working hours, take 5 to 10 minutes occasionally to breathe fresh air, take a walk or have a coffee. It is helpful for your brain not to feel exhausted. You can also take the opportunity and combine it with the Pomodoro technique, which is excellent for increasing productivity while establishing hours of complete concentration and minutes to rest.
In addition to short work breaks, taking a vacation is the reset you need to get back with more energy. Even if you are unable to take a long time off, a short getaway can help. Here is my advice: plan your vacation and set an out-of-office message to let your colleagues know you will be unavailable during that time.
Sometimes people take rest for granted, but studies from APA confirm that taking a vacation can lead to a reduction in stress and an improvement in mood.
Leaders have things to do
Responsibility for mental health in the workplace does not rely only on employees. Leaders must strive to develop a culture where people feel free and safe to talk about their issues regarding the workplace.
Managers must be open to hearing their coworkers and encourage them to take the time needed to avoid actions that might not benefit the team, company, or employees involved.
It is equally important that they have the tools to create strategies that help employees work efficiently. Improving processes is an excellent way to accelerate and dynamize workflows; keeping an eye to identify those steps that may be too stressful or complicated, it is critical to get better results.
On the other hand, including employees in decision-making regarding the workloads can be beneficial too. A survey realized in 2020 by Flex Jobs suggests that allowing more flexibility during the workday, offering mental health days, and increasing paid time off could be the best ways to support employees, according to the respondents.
If you want to learn more keys to avoid burnout and find ways to align your career to your purpose, visit my website.
The original version of this publication appeared in Brainz Magazine