The clerk greets you with an apathetic gaze. The waiter gives you an attitudinal one-liner. The sales associate has zero hustle to check the stockroom.
It’s human burnout: where there is no longer energy nor motivation to push through the labor pains. Someone, somewhere, needs a breather.
The service industry brings the politics to a head in an interpersonal exchange; there are thousands more behind-the-scenes burnout cases each week across the country. Just ask any manager: people on the clock, naturally, will lose their will to work.
When it sets in? Why it hits? What to do about it?
Solving for burnout is every economist’s area of study: how to preserve a consistent supply-to-demand balance whereby the market need can be sustainably met over time. The time could be a day’s shift, a month’s project, a year’s contract.
Sustainability is not just a buzz word; it’s the reality of any successful marketplace.
Let’s break burnout down to basics:
- the workforce: real people with real dreams and human needs
- the clock: a set block of time for the workforce to deliver upon
- the labor: the exertion of energy on the clock to meet the demand
Note: There is a limited supply of human capital, hours in the day, and energy available for the purpose of work.
- the clientele: the representation of the market’s need
- the delivery: the satisfaction of the market’s need
- the cost: the value of the market’s need
Note: There is an unlimited— and potentially infinite— market need: the volume, expectations, and value willing to pay for it.
So when limited and unlimited meet face-to-face, we witness burnout firsthand: supply falls below demand.
It’s also where the answers to burnout reside. To test this hypothesis, I’m applying the theory to my line of business: coaching.
Coaching is a human-centric marketplace, where on the one side coaches are in limited numbers, and on the other side, every prospective client has the potential for higher fulfillment.
Over the past decade, the business of self-mastery has become increasingly mainstream. Thanks to aspirational figures like Tony Robbins, Oprah, George Mumford, and the accessibility of media (podcasts, webinars, television shows), coaching programs across the United States have seen a surge in attendance.
And rightfully so. The demand is there, as more and more people are recognizing their power to improve the quality of their lives.
Still, on the supply side: As service providers (the workforce) equipped to empower other people, coaches devote hours each day (the clock) to supporting clients on an intimate level (the labor).
Doers by vocation, coaches are motivated by the human needs of connection and service. We also have more basic reasons for why we work: stability, recognition, and earning potential. Coaches are just as human as the people we support.
Now, looking to the demand side: people (the clientele) are taking the reigns of their lives and looking for coaches to hold them accountable to their goals (the delivery). These high-potential clients have ambitious goals, ideal visions of success, and a willingness to pay top dollars (the cost) to get the results they desire… FAST.
So how do supply and demand find balance?
The following 10 tips are applicable to any business model where human capital is a variable in the equation.
Set expectations for time and energy. With clearly outlined expectations before a business exchange, there is a concrete measure of the time and energy to be bartered. Time and energy are precious resources of the supply, and honoring their sanctity fosters sustainability.
Know your value. Some forms of labor require energy that is less objectively measurable. Emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual energy all have a unique “going rate” for each individual. Studying market prices of competitors is a solid jumping board for suppliers, then adjusting based on your own assessment of personal investment.
Agree on a fair value. The line is fine between knowing what you deserve and communicating what you deserve. Negotiate a value of the exchange regarded fairly by both sides of the marketplace. Confidence in communicating your value starts the exchange on a positive note. If you decide not to proceed forward in business, your ability to uphold your worth garners respect.
Establish boundaries. We work in a culture that propagates “hard work pays off,” and we’ve collectively predisposed ourselves to over-functioning: giving more than receiving. An hour of overtime; an additional assignment, a complimentary phone call. These blurred lines tally up, and the precedent for more is set each time we say YES. There is equal power in saying NO, then proceeding to work out a compromise that suits both sides.
Rely on feedback. The simple act of freely expressing one’s thoughts and feelings creates clarity on each other’s satisfaction. Feedback is a safe space to ensure expectations and boundaries are being honored in the exchange.
Change it up. If work is becoming a bit mundane, experiment with new ways of being and doing. Test out working from a different spot in the office, adjust the order of tasks, do lunch with a new colleague. Adding in such variables can break the Groundhog Day cycle.
Recognize what’s outside your control. When we accept the things we cannot change, we have greater peace of mind to proceed. If a job is no longer providing you what you need, you have opportunities to meet those needs elsewhere.
Listen to your inner voice. The subconscious communicates through our emotions, so look at your burnout with the question, “What do I need?” And then make a list for yourself on what would give you greater joy in your day-to-day.
Celebrate the wins. There are milestones worth commemorating collectively. Marking an anniversary, completing a big contract, or succeeding in a challenging obstacle are all moments to celebrate with colleagues. The energy of glory can build morale, conquering burnout in a very organic way.
Be hopeful for tomorrow. Everyone of us deserves to have joy in what we do. When burnout does set in, consider it a temporary sign in the road directing you to the WHY you lack sustenance and then HOW you can fill yourself back up.
When we approach our work with a commitment to enjoying, then we have a new rule: to devote our time and energy toward filling our days with purpose.
Those who submit to the cycle of endurance, keeping up for the sake of someone else’s agenda, experience burnout as a regular part of their work-life. Endurance connotes the mantra of working to live, which is drastically different from the mantra of enjoyment: living to work.
Whether you work to live or live to work, raise your consciousness to the one that you choose to live by. There is where you unlock agency to discover more sustainability.
To learn more about “living to work,” connect with Julia at HigherPlaybook.com.