“What have you done for me lately?”
That could be the motto of business. You work, toil and sweat to meet deadlines. And when you achieve that objective, it’s like the goal post has been moved. There’s always another task on the horizon, so you suit up and get back to work.
That cycle is a sure way to crash and burn out. Burnout is a big problem for employees and executives. Working with 110% effort might feel worthwhile in the short term, but we all know it’s impossible to keep up that pace. Executives should know that if they push their staff too hard, they deplete resources and lose talent.
So, is there a happy medium, a way to get the job done without pushing yourself to the breaking point? Prioritizing your tasks and clearly laying out your work day can help tremendously. By balancing your tasks with task management tools like apps, or even just sticky notes, you can get a chaotic work-life balance under control. If you fail to get organized, you may start to experience symptoms of burnout.
Symptoms of Burnout
Before we can resolve a problem, we must identify it. If you’re working yourself to the bone, you’ll likely not have enough energy to notice that you’re driving yourself right to the edge of a cliff, metaphorically speaking (unless you’re a truck driver, and then…hit the brakes!).
What is burnout? People define it many ways, but you know it when you got it. Mostly, burnout is caused by overworking, which results in a physical and mental breakdown. This doesn’t just apply to office workers either; people who work from home are susceptible as well.
So, how can you tell you’re headed for a breakdown and avoid it before you get hit? Look out for the symptoms. The New York Times published an article that explains How To Recognize Burnout Before You’re Burned Out. Some of the warning signs include feeling emotionally drained, alienated by your colleagues and even nausea.
These symptoms aren’t regulated to the office, either. Ask your spouse. They can tell. Maybe you’re not sleeping well or you’re fighting more with family members or you’re just not there because you’re always at work. That’s a big clue right there.
Okay, You’re Burned Out. Now What?
Knowing you have a problem is great. It means you’re not deluding yourself. But doing something about that problem, working towards resolving it, can be more difficult. For one thing, you’re burned out. You don’t want to do anything. Who has the energy?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to get over that burnout hump if you’re not being appreciated on the job. There’s little you can do to resolve that problem. If your boss just isn’t the type to pat you on the back or reward success with some gift or outing, then you’re on your own. But you can maybe change the culture at work from within by acknowledging other people’s hard work. It’s a start.
One of the first things you can do on your own is to seek more control. Feeling overwhelmed feeds the burnout monster in your soul. So, if you can request some flexibility in terms of your work schedule, it can reduce your stress. If you can find the right balance in your workload schedule by avoiding nasty commutes, and maybe even working from home occasionally, you’ll feel your work is more manageable.
If you consistently work at the office, then take a small break at least once a day. That really helps. Just get up from your desk or work station and have a coffee, read a book or take a walk. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s something other than work. Don’t forget to take your vacation time, too. You deserve it.
When managing burnout, it’s important to maintain your physical well-being. Exercise is a proven antidote for stress, so if you’re not engaged in some activity, be it a team sport or just going to the gym, you might want to start. Plus, if you’re drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, you’re not giving your body a chance to recover. It also helps to stay away from the junk food and follow a healthy eating plan. Finding a creative outlet is helpful, too.
Mostly, the cure to burnout is to have fun. Work can be fun, but it’s not always. Still, if you can find ways to bring a little bit of lighthearted fun into the workplace it will do wonders in lessening the amount of stress. It’s not like you must become the class clown, just share a joke or engage in some silly group activity from time to time. If you can laugh at yourself, your work or just a bad joke, stress is on its way out.
How to Get Support for Burnout
If burnout is a risk of working, why aren’t there more safeguards in place to help support employees who are suffering from burnout? There seems to be a support group for every affliction under the sun, and yet support groups for burnout are a rarity.
In the New York Times article, Dr. Malsach said, “Quite honestly in America we glorify stress, and that’s another thing that leads people to be quiet and shut up about some of the stressors they’re facing…”
Some workplaces have acknowledged the impact burnout has on their bottom line and have implemented practical strategies to support employees who are experiencing burnout. These strategies include acknowledging success to boost employee confidence and to help support their positive sense of self. If you notice that your work culture doesn’t exhibit these strategies, speak up or consider new employment.
Another strategy you can implement involves helping other employees, especially new hires, with their work. This might sound counter-intuitive, but it takes away attention from your problems and improves morale. This is especially useful if your burnout is being expressed by apathy or cynicism.
How to Talk to Your Boss About Burnout
Regardless of being able to identify and even work towards resolving burnout, the most stressful part of being burned-out might be having to explain your situation to the boss. But that’s often where the recovery starts. So, how can you talk about this condition in a way that moves towards a positive resolution?
To start, find someone you trust at work and talk to them. If there’s no one at work, bring up the problem with your spouse, loved one or family member. It might feel hard, but by opening up to another person and not holding your problem inside, you’ve begun the healing process. It takes bravery to swallow your pride and ask for help, but it’s worth it. Afterwards, it’ll be less of an ordeal speaking to your boss or coworkers.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. You’ll likely feel uncomfortable, but it’s crucial that you let people know the seriousness of the situation. That said, don’t approach your boss and think that this is another task that you’re working on accomplishing. It’s not. Don’t offer a solution, be vulnerable and open to suggestion. Think of yourself as the job and now you’ve handed it over to someone else to get done. You must start thinking of yourself first.
Take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. This is not the first case of burnout in the history of business. Work is littered with burned-out employees, and most of them end up back on their feet again and productive. So, be honest and explain that you’re dedicated but have reached a breaking point. If you need to criticize what you see as a toxic work environment, do it. Your honesty must cut both ways.
Burnout is a serious condition. Overburdening teams with more than they can handle is not smart. However, if you give them the right tools to make their tasks more manageable, then you’re supporting your team and the project. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that gives you real-time data, a collaborative platform and the tools you need for each project phase. Try it today for free with this 30-day trial.