Burnout has been a topic we’ve been discussing with leaders and teams for years. In the past couple of years, we’ve noticed a trend that many conversations are resurfacing around the topic. It’s not surprising, given the Pandemic’s aftermath that’s left many struggling with it as they try to balance all the things. There is a correlation between burnout and stress and either can lead to disengagement in the workplace.
Right now, the level of burnout is real and your team may need more or less of certain activities and/or support in order to flourish. It’s not just HR’s job to check in on employees. In fact, it takes a whole team and Culture to support each other. Meeting employees where they are at on an individual basis is important to properly supporting the team.
We recently shared a resource during a collaboration with Strategic Alliance Partner NorthStar Solutions and Services for International Women’s Day in March, 2021 that reported that women have been disproportionately impacted by the Pandemic. According to Lean In’s Women in the Workplace Report, 42% of women say they’ve been “often” or “almost always” burned out in 2021 when compared with 2020, where 32% of women reported burnout. When we consider Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging this should be of concern for all of us as we continue to look for different and better ways to support women in the workforce.
Let’s start the exploration by defining burnout: According to Psychology Today, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.” We liked this definition because it encompasses the fact that our lives don’t stop at work and we may have other stressors that could burn us out, impact how we show up or don’t show up to work, and what support we may need. Total Wellness is body, mind, and spirit, not just physical, though this is often what we first think of.
We don’t often recognize we’re burned out until it’s too late and we are low on reserves. Whether or not we’re allowed to safely show up to work as our full and authentic selves and whether or not we make time to restore our energy reserves are all very important pieces of the equation to keep us doing our best at work. CEPHR talks to employees and leaders every week who are exhausted, yet who keep going despite the need for rest. Our bodies will eventually give up on us if we don’t rest them properly, and our minds can wander to unhealthy places as well without proper rest.
Now, let’s explore a bit further. We liked the healthy dose of information provided by helpguide.org to identify burnout, stress, and to managing it. It is common to use the words stress and burnout interchangeably, but there is a difference. Stress is a temporary state that can elongate into burnout over a period of time. It is possible to experience one absent the other. It’s also possible to experience both simultaneously. Take a look at the grid below that HelpGuide referenced in their article for a deeper dive.
Know the Signs of Burnout
Would you know the signs of burnout if you saw them? How can you be assured that you’re tapped into the team enough to know when enough is enough, when they’re burning the candle at both ends, when they may need more flexibility? How do you recognize when you may be burning out as a leader?
Here are some signs to watch for to identify potential burnout. This list is not exhaustive and people manifest stress and burnout in different ways. Our goal is to share some of the more common signs that occur that you can watch for:
- Sudden negativity when normally the person exudes positivity
- Teammates, leaders, or other stakeholders are complaining about the lack of productivity, performance, or poor work quality
- Attendance has become an issue or withdrawing from normal activities and events
- Snapping easily or having a short temper
- Trouble focusing, recalling information, staying on task, or struggling with attention to detail
Preventing and Managing Burnout
Psychology today also reports that “when the stress response is activated, a whole series of neurological and hormonal activity occurs. The way a person manages the stress cycle will either lead to wellbeing or burnout.” We agree. Responses in the workplace can either be constructive or destructive. Managing stress and burnout are critical components to achieving balance and Psychological Safety at work and to supporting an engaged and empowered team. Are you a Recovering Perfectionist? According to verywellmind, “Personality traits and thought patterns, such as perfectionism and pessimism, can contribute [to burnout] as well.”
Picture a ton of plates spinning in the air simultaneously and you’re not the best Juggler. How are you going to manage it all? Do you have the tools to succeed in doing so? Who will help you if a plate goes flying in the wrong direction? Is it even safe or a good use of time to be juggling all these plates?
So often, we ignore the foundational questions that need to be asked in order to make good decisions to avoid stress and burnout. Other times we do our due diligence, and things just happen that we must manage in the moment, and that is ok too. We can’t account for nor control everything. Remember our friend Covey? Manage that Circle of Influence, Circle of Control.
One of the things we see that is fairly common is leaders firefighting their way through the day, week, or month. Being proactive vs reactive is a critical skill to develop to be an effective leader and to be attuned enough to your team to spot burnout they may be experiencing. Delegating tasks and activities effectively helps to balance what’s on our plates and is one tool to preventing burnout and the temptation to react vs plan.
Does that last e-mail really need to go out right now or can it wait until the morning? Are your expectations of your team reasonable or are you trying to have them crank out every millisecond of work to meet those deadlines, leaving very little flexibility in between to allow them to recharge and be as creative, innovative, collaborative, and supported as possible?
Many have found themselves working lots of hours during COVID. Be sure to set and assign priorities accordingly so that you can balance work and life. As we approach the Holidays and at the end of the year, we’re doing all the things when time can be a constraint. Let’s remember to take appropriate and adequate pauses to pour back into self and our loved ones. None of us are any good to each other or ourselves if we are on burnout. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone to get support if stress, burnout, or anxiety become more than you can manage alone.
Resources and CEPHR Happenings
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Happy Holidays! We made this video just for you for some year-end and beginning-of-year cheer!
We’re excited to continue building with you, building Community, and to share new tools and resources with you in the coming year!