I work with women across all industries and fields on their professional development and career satisfaction. I help companies build learning and development programs that are infused with a bit of well-being content and resources, since people are hungry for that across the board. I meet countless others at networking events and I have #realtalk conversations with my friends and close colleagues. No matter the circumstance, one thing is abundantly clear: burnout is real and it’s kind of like ANALOGY HERE.
Enter Clarissa*, Stage Left: She felt like she was ‘always on’ and even at brunch on weekends with her husband, her phone was face up on the table, all notifications enabled. She got to the point where a ding from her phone would literally cause her to start sweating. She even took her phone into spin class so she could be available. This wasn’t sustainable, but she didn’t know what else to do.
Then there’s Monica. She ended up in the hospital with severe ramifications to her long term health from a demanding office and superiors and a lack of an ability to stand up for herself. As a POC, she had an extra layer of insidious workplace issues to deal with and felt powerless to do so.
I could go on and on. I wish I couldn’t, but I really have never-ending stories. In my own past life in financial services event production, I had the same reaction as Clarissa to dings and pings, my stomach always hurt no matter what and I had developed an embarrassing case of rosacea on my face.
This has got to stop. Companies are starting to get hip to the idea that this is not sustainable, but honestly there is SO much more work to be done. What follows is my wish list for companies and my self care regimen checklist for those of you reading that are prone to burnout.
Self Care Checklist for Individuals Suffering from Burnout:
Recognize & Fully Embrace That You Have A Choice: Without this, the rest of my checklist will be pretty much useless to you. You MUST fully accept that YOU play a role in your burnout, too. Yes, the company or your boss may be unreasonable, but you aren’t a potted plant or life sized blow up doll. YOU have a say. You’ve got one body and one life- there are no do-overs.
Dings, Pings and Things, Oh My! Turn off all notifications on your phone, ESPECIALLY when you’re not at work. I turn off notifications besides incoming phone calls and texts all the time, but I understand when you’re at work, you may need them to be on. Weaning yourself off the immediate response train of thought is a huge huge step. This allows you to present at brunch or enjoy your spin class.
Journaling: Writing down how your work day went can be a useful exercise in getting out frustrations and even more importantly, identifying patterns in your day-to-day and how you might be contributing to your situation. Awareness is key.
Try Out a Healing Modality: Yoga, Reiki, Acupuncture, Meditation — any of these and more can provide you with the space and quiet you need to reset yourself.
Do Things More Slowly: Instead of racing out the door with nothing in your tummy, why not spend the 10-15 minutes it takes to eat a truly nourishing breakfast? If you’re sitting there saying you don’t have the time, ask yourself, “How can I find the time?” and “What’s getting down in those 10 minutes anyway?” (Hint: You’re likely WAY more productive over a longer period of time spending those precious morning minutes fueling yourself.)
My Wishlist for Companies:
Walk the Walk: There are so many companies that tout wellness for their workers and point to their unlimited healthy food options as proof. This is definitely a start, but if you’re in people ops or HR, it’s REALLY important you check in and get the pulse of your workforce. How are people feeling? Are sick days on the rise? Be honest with yourself if you’re not actually walking the walk.
Use an Email Delay Delivery Service: I get that some people are GREAT workers at midnight (I’d love to study those people because they are so different than me!) so I’m not trying to stop that. But I’ve heard from so many clients how when they get an 11pm email, they feel like they HAVE to answer it or it keeps them up all night. So your 11pm email may be part of the reason Sally looks like a zombie this morning and is less productive. Think about using a service like Boomerang for Gmail for a true win-win: you get to do your work when you want and it’s delivered to your colleague in the morning or whenever you schedule it for to allow for a solid night’s sleep.
Turn off Email: Better yet, have senior management lead the charge with this one and make it part of the culture to turn off notifications and email after work hours. France recently made this a law. I don’t see that happening in the United States, but our leadership can lead by example.
Don’t be Cheap: Hire the right amount of people for a team or department. Don’t skimp on technology resources or other tools that can help people be more efficient. If you don’t have money for the right resources, it’s worth rethinking whether you’re growing too quickly or something else is askew.
*Names have been changed.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite de-stressing technique? Or what have you instituted at your company to stem the burnout tide? Answer in the comments below!