Burnout – The biggest health threat to our generation

Burnout is fast becoming one of the biggest health threats to our generation (aside from COVID19 of course). When we are burned out, our instinct is not to speak up because we don’t want to compromise how others see us. You believe the lie, that you are at fault, so what do we do? Fight back with this 9 to 5 survival guide.

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In an ideal world, our biggest worries at work should be who used the last tea bag or forgetting a colleagues birthday card. In 2020, office fears have escalated. Increased workloads or the possibility of redundancy mean we tend to stick to our contracted hours like our diet – and we all have a sneaky bit of sugar or chocolate when watching our weight.

The UK Health and Safety Executive estimates that 57% of sick days in 2017/2018 were due to work-related stress, anxiety or depression – mainly caused by work overload. Workplace burnout has become a global occupational phenomenon. Exhaustion is the new work uniform. It also affects the self-employed who have to be continuously ‘on’.  Smartphones are definitely a culprit, as they can pull you back into work with social media, emails and networking.

Burnout is categorised by three dimensions; increased mental distance, negativity about your work, and a reduced ability to do your job well.  We need to take work stress seriously, and not just run on coffee and sugar.

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Manage workplace burnout

Keep a journal

In the back of your notepad, or on a word document on your computer, take note of your workplace habits. Log those early starts to stay ahead, the late nights you caught up, and the days you skipped lunch. See how they make you feel. Once you know the causes, try to reclaim workplace control and contentment with some of the following steps.

Speak to your boss

Such an obvious one, but it is easier said than done. However, if you don’t get it off your chest, nothing will be resolved.  If nothing is resolved, it’s time to find a new job! Ask for a conversation in a private room. Rehearse what you want to say, you could even write some bullet notes to use as reminders. Try to get comfortable with what you want to say. Explain, factually, what happening and how it is personally impacting you. Offer helpful solutions. If they make a suggestion, but you are unsure of how to say no, ask if you can sleep on it and come back to them. You will need to push back to get it fixed.

24/7 work culture

Almost 83% of managers have said they would contact employees outside work hours. So, agree with your colleagues when you are available and when you are not. “I’m on holiday, but if there is something critical, you can ring me,” or “I’m on holiday, so I won’t be answering any phone calls.” Mute those work What’s App groups so you are not tempted to reply too.

Need a break? Take one

Unbelievably, a study in 2018 found that more than half of UK employees do not take their full annual leave. You need that rest! Even if you have not got anywhere to go; plan a day in the countryside, at the beach, doing some DIY – something to take your mind and body away. Our wellbeing and clarity peaks whilst taking a break from work. We sleep better, have fun experiences and let our bodies recover (unless you book a bender to Ibiza!)

Remember your strengths

You know what you are great at, right? Sadly, most of us dwell on what we are not good at, an instant mood downer. If you are struggling ask a good friend or family member to share a story about a time when you really impressed them. You might be surprised by what they say, putting a smile on your face and the ego boost.

Top three accomplishments

When you are really up against it, take a minute or two to these what three accomplishments you would like to make on that day. Once these have been ticked off your list, this should give you a real boost of achievement.

Time to move on

If the only way is a new job, be sure to avoid a repeat scenario with your next employer. When waiting for the interview, observe the staff, sense the atmosphere, and ask about work-life balance, “how would you describe the culture here?” It is hard to come across as confident when you are utterly burnt out. Practise interview answers and seek feedback from friends. The key is body language and energy, that will support your great answers.

In short, it’s about showing burnout who’s the boss!

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