Picture this… you’re the GM or CEO of a booming commercial company; you’re well connected and well respected within the industry; you rise above any challenge, find superior solutions to any problem, exceed all expectations and the business thrives because of it; you’ve got a nice little holiday home, drive a European car and fly business-class. But here’s the problem… the holiday home sits empty because you work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year; you rarely see your kids before they’re in bed, only ever eat on the run and haven’t been on a date with your partner in months; you’re gaining weight at a steady pace and even the strongest pain-killers are no longer easing your migraines; you can’t take your mind off work, feel as though your constantly putting out fires, and you’re stress levels are through the roof. So is it all worth it?
While studies into burnout have been happening for years, acknowledgement and awareness have only recently become more prevalent within Australian businesses, with workers from the CEO to the receptionist and cleaner often ignoring its symptoms. But not only is burnout affecting the lives of those experiencing it, it’s also costing businesses billions of dollars each year in absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents and injury.
And this is a problem! Job burnout is associated with work stress and is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, usually involving a sense of reduced achievement, which can be related to health conditions such as depression, illness and disease. Symptoms can include becoming cynical or critical, irritability and/or impatience, decline in productivity and concentration, fatigue, lack of satisfaction or physical illness. So whether you’re the CEO of this particular booming business, or you recognise symptoms in your employees, it’s so important that they are not ignored.
Here are some key areas to focus on:
• Lack of control – do workers have control of their own schedule, projects or workload? Do workers have all the resources they need to do their job?
• Role and expectations – do workers clearly understand their role and expectations, how much authority do they have and do they feel valued?
• Demands – are workers able to cope with the demands and workload of their role?
• Relationships and support – do workers have positive working relationships, with open communication, with co-workers and managers? Do manager’s micro-manage work? Are workers receiving encouragement and support for a job well done?
• Organisational change – if change or restructure is taking place, are workers well managed and effectively communicated to?
• Activity extremes – is the job monotonous or chaotic? Both can lead to burnout.
• Work-life balance – does the job take up so much time and effort that a worker is missing out on time with friends or family, or doesn’t even have the energy to take part in activities outside of work?
It’s important to remain object and keep and open mind when you consider these questions… because at the end of the day, health is more important than ticking an item off your to do list.
“Presenteeism is a concept that describes people being present at work but not productive. Current research shows this to be a $33 billion loss to Australian industry.”
If you’ve realised that burnout is in fact prevalent in your workplace, take action! There are plenty of small things which can help:
• Evaluate the options – what is priority 1 on you or your workers to do list? Work together to determine expectations, problems and solutions, what needs doing now, and what can wait. Be realistic.
• Get help – reach out to support networks: co-workers, family and friends. Anyone who might be able to assist either in collaborating you to get the job done, or provide you with some stress-relief. An Employee Assistance Program is a great tool to provide counselling, support and useful techniques to manage stress and build resilience.
• Take your mind off it – try a relaxing activity or hobby that might assist in taking your mind away from work, even for 10 minutes.
• Exercise ¬– there’s a lot of research proving that exercise is a great stimulant for improving mental health. Get moving!
• Rest ¬– as with exercise, sleep is vital to functioning at full capacity, not to mention allows you to think clearly and make good choices.
• Practice mindfulness – there are plenty of Apps available which can take you through mindfulness techniques to calm and reduce stress.
So after a bit of re-prioritising, delegating and practicing some mindfulness, you’re still the CEO of a booming commercial company; still well connected and well respected; and you’re taking the family to the holiday home for the weekend, while you switch off your phone and enjoy some ‘me’ time. Because what you’ve just learnt is that well-managed workplaces are proactive about burnout, see issues as they arise and are prepared to put workplace health first.