Avoiding Burnout During the Pandemic

The pandemic calls for inspiring leaders demonstrating balance and self-care themselves.

simona pilolla 2 / Shutterstock
simona pilolla 2 / Shutterstock

Maintaining work-life integration is no easy task, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, when many of us have experienced blurred boundaries between work and home, and some are also taking care of families while schools are closed. Working from home in the current environment  requires considerable effort, and workers, especially leaders, often feel the need to log extra hours to get their work done — and to “prove their value.” But overworking is never a good idea. These are anxious times, making it especially crucial to protect against burnout

As we navigate the pandemic, we all need to be vigilant about taking care of our health and mental well-being. In a Thrive Global original survey of more than 5,000 people, over 75% of respondents said that the COVID-19 outbreak has negatively impacted their habits, routines, and structures. That presents an opportunity for strong, supportive leadership. 

“The heart of burnout is emotional exhaustion — feeling so depleted and drained by your job that you have nothing left to give,” Adam Grant, Ph.D., professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania writes in The New York Times.  In the U.S., over half of employees feel burned out at least some of the time. It doesn’t just hurt our productivity — it can harm our mental and physical health, too,” says Grant, pointing out that burnout has been linked to weakened immune systems and  cardiovascular disease.  

Given those statistics, leaders must work to impose healthy boundaries around their work to avoid burning out — and must collaborate with their team to help them do the same. One key way to help is by listening closely to those you work with, checking in regularly to  make sure that people are coping and feel appreciated. By listening closely, you can better detect whether your colleagues are overworked or need a bit of extra support. 

When you feel overwhelmed by what’s required of you as a leader, take a short break.

A walk, a stretch, or even a few minutes of conscious breathing can help you get yourself into the metaphorical eye of the hurricane, that place from which you can come up with your most innovative and creative ideas. Remember, what is expected of leaders is judgment, not sheer stamina.

Check in with each member of your team about their workload. 

When everyone is working remotely, it’s much harder to detect the signs of burnout. Ask your direct reports to let you know when they’re overloaded — and also to raise a hand when they have bandwidth to help. 

Remind yourself that what is expected of leaders is judgment, not sheer stamina.

In times of deep uncertainty, leaders often think they need to be always on and in a state of burnout. But to be able to see the icebergs ahead, they need to find a way to get themselves into the metaphorical eye of the hurricane — that centered place of strength, wisdom and peace which we all have inside ourselves.

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