When you work in a fast-paced, high-demand environment, it can be tempting to believe that you just have to buckle down and push through. It can also be especially difficult to slow down when LOVE what you do. However, when we let an excessive workload drive the ship, we end up sinking in the stormy sea of burnout, desperately trying to bail out with a thimble-sized bucket.
There is another way.
As an employee in today’s economy, you have more power than you think. Unemployment rates are low, competition for talent is high, and the costs of the burnout epidemic are driving companies to pay attention to employee well-being. By speaking up and setting healthy boundaries, you can protect yourself from burnout and help create a company culture that your colleagues will thank you for!
Research shows that employees who put in more than 50 hours of work per week are LESS productive. If the demands of your workplace have you burning the midnight oil, you are getting less done, your quality of work is suffering and you’re putting your health at risk. By cutting back, you’ll be able to work more effectively, make better decisions, and get more done in less time.
Talk to your supervisor or colleagues about setting clear work hours. Communicate your “in-office” hours to your team so they know when you are available and when you are not. If you struggle to leave the office or log out at the end of the day, set an alarm for yourself, schedule yourself immediately after work, or recruit an accountability buddy to help you put a close to the workday.
Technology has made it possible for us to be constantly connected to work. It has also created work environments where we are expected to respond instantly. We respond to work emails on the weekends, at the dinner table, and while we’re executing important work projects. The immediate response mentality contributes to stress, scatters our focus, and actually makes us less engaged.
Block out time in your workday for deep work – time to actually get YOUR work done – and turn off your email and all notifications. If it helps, set up an auto-reply that says “I’m currently focusing on XYZ project and will respond to your email after ABC time.”
To disconnect in your personal life, set certain times and places as “work-free zones.” For example, put your phone and laptop away during family time; turn off your email notifications at the gym; or leave all work-related technology out of your bedroom.
Most of us want to be good team players. Especially in a fast-paced work environment, where everyone is stretched thin, no one wants to be a stingy colleague. However, being a team player doesn’t mean you have to raise your hand for every additional task that comes up.
Ask yourself, “am I the best person for this job?” Often, you’ll find that a task could be more efficiently executed by another team member, or outsourced. If it takes you 3 hours to put together a Facebook ad, but Sharon can knock one out in 30 minutes, you are clearly not the best person for the job.
If everyone on a team is doing the tasks they are best suited to, everyone is more effective. Put together a “to-do” swap. If you’re a whiz with budget creation, you can take over the budget Sharon’s working on while she executes on her expert Facebook ad. Both tasks will get done but in half the time.
When we set boundaries for ourselves and effectively communicate them, we start a conversation about expectations and company culture that can benefit the whole team. A lack of healthy boundaries contributes to burnout, which is bad for individuals and the long-term sustainability of the companies we work for. The question isn’t, can we afford to set boundaries, but rather, can we afford not to?