May is mental health awareness month, so it feels like the perfect time to discuss what burnout and self-care can look like in the workplace.
The topic of burnout is becoming a major focus for many organizations. It’s encouraging to see workplaces raise awareness of the dangers of burnout and the importance of self-care and acknowledge the significant impact of workplace stress and long hours on employee health.
But this is still an area where many leaders need to deepen their understanding of burnout and self-care – putting in the time and energy to truly care for their employees and team members.
Burnout is defined as Chronic workplace stress not successfully managed by employers or employees.
One important thing to note here is that the opposite of burnout is not an absence of stress, but rather the successful management of stress. Leading successful teams will always carry some stress, but if we can learn how to use self-care to appropriately handle our job responsibilities – and teach our teams to do the same – we can avoid the dangerous repercussions of severe burnout.
Here’s what we know is true: Teams are burnt out – it’s a global health condition at this point.
According to Gallup, workplace stress costs $300B per year and 44% of workers regularly experience burnout and exhaustion.
These stats show us that, as leaders, we are acutely responsible for the mental health and wellbeing of our people. We must be aware of what can happen when we ignore the signs of burnout, push our teams too far, and don’t make space for proper self-care.
I started thinking more about burnout – specifically who is to blame when it happens – after I was asked to speak about the benefits of self-care (and the negative impact of burnout). I personally experienced a serious health scare due to the burnout I suffered, which ultimately led me to make huge changes in my lifestyle and career. And I really wanted to know – whose fault is it?
Was it my leaders’ fault for not seeing the signs and creating an unhealthy environment?
Was it my organization’s fault for creating a toxic culture and having outsized expectations?
Or was it my fault – for letting things get so bad before I made any personal changes?
As I thought about who to blame, I realized something: The better question is what can be done about burnout and self-care in the workplace?
We have all played a part in letting things get so out of hand, and I think our energy should be spent on finding solutions and creating positive change within our realm of influence.
Before we can find feasible solutions, we need to understand how burnout occurs, even in businesses that don’t intend to work their employees into an unhealthy state.
The world is changing at an exhaustive rate. We are always on. We have competing priorities to keep up with and everyone expects instantaneous gratification. We can always be reached. Everything is urgent.
And while it’s convenient to blame COVID, this burnout culture existed long before the global pandemic. COVID simply accelerated and exacerbated the issue.
For organizations who thrived during COVID, it was game on to capitalize on the opportunity to experience exponential growth in a new segment, new category, or new industry.
For organizations who struggled during COVID, it was game on to keep the business afloat, rethink, reinvent and emerge on the other side so they could rebuild what once was.
Employees on either side of the coin were overworked with blurred lines between work and home, anxiously facing sleepless nights, worried about their job, or worried they wouldn’t appear as productive as they needed to be to save themselves if they had to.
The demands of our busy lives, coupled with the performance cultures we face in our jobs, wear us down and make burnout a real experience.
Burnout is caused by:
And these are all things that destroy performance while harming individuals.
When speaking to a local news channel about burnout in 2019, I gave a suggestion to “get 7 hours of sleep” as an effective way to combat burnout. This simple suggestion garnered a snicker from the anchor – you can watch the clip here. It just shows how far we have to come, and how embedded the burnout culture truly is.
So what are we, as leaders, supposed to do?
The solution for burnout isn’t “self-care” – and it isn’t lowering performance expectations.
Solving burnout in the workplace requires a co-created space between employees and the company that includes ambition, drive, results, and time to rest and recharge.
Hard work should be met by equal rest. The most ambitious of your people need to be praised for recharging the same way they are praised for meeting big goals. We must remove the stigma of “laziness” and reframe genuine rest and recharging as essential components of success.
Whether you’re a leader looking for better ways to support your employee's overall well-being or an employee teetering on the edge, looking for ways to avoid burnout – here are 3 strategies to try:
My work is centered around helping leaders become more effective while also leading more fulfilling lives. If you’re interested in working together to avoid burnout, recover from existing burnout, help your employees avoid burnout, or learn how to implement a self-care practice that prioritizes success and recharging – I’d love to chat with you.
You can contact me here to get started.
After over a year of working from home, avoiding family gatherings, and checking in with friends and coworkers over Zoom, we’re exhausted. We haven’t hugged our loved ones or spent quality time with our friends or colleagues in person. The mental, emotional, and physical toll of our collective isolation is significant. But we have also discovered that we are more resilient than many of us even thought possible.
We have created a new integrated life, where work and home became a unique blend for many of us. We’ve discovered unexpected blessings, new priorities, and positive experiences amidst the chaos of pandemic life.
It is now time to decide what served us and be deliberate and intentional about what we carry forward into the next normal.
I often hear from my clients, friends and family that they are anxious to "go back to normal." The truth is, we can’t ever go back. Things have fundamentally changed: in public spaces, work environments, and social settings. There will be no “going back to normal” at any point.
But this isn’t as dire as it sounds. In fact, I believe we all have a rare chance to live life with great intention, as we move into the next “normal.”
We shouldn’t want to go back. Remember that hamster wheel of life that was constantly spinning – late nights at the office, over-committed calendars, making time for everyone but ourselves? We have had a year (or more) to adjust and leave much of that life behind, and if we are intentional about moving forward, we can avoid ever falling back into those toxic patterns.
Despite the stress and disruption of a year-plus of COVID-restricted life, there are a whole host of positive things we can bring with us into our next normal. The key is in taking time to reflect on what we have learned about ourselves and truly come to appreciate since March 2020.
Living life with intention as we move forward is the only way to avoid falling back into bad habits. It took us over two months to adjust to social distancing and COVID restrictions, but we can fall back into our “old normal” way of life in as little as two weeks if we aren’t diligent.
Examine your life now:
Once you are aware of these shifts and the positive things you would like to keep, you can take steps to ensuring they remain part of your life.
You have reflected on your life since March 2020 and identified the changes, routines, and expectations you’d like to keep. Maybe this looks like closing your laptop at 4:30 and spending half-an-hour with your kids before you start dinner prep. Maybe it means keeping your morning walk. Or maybe you’ve fallen in love with having small blocks of unscheduled time in your week that you want to protect!
Learning to set boundaries will help you protect the things that serve you.
Boundaries are limits we set with others that establish what behaviors we will allow and what we will not. Setting healthy boundaries can feel uncomfortable if you’ve never really used them before, but boundaries actually help us enjoy our relationships and avoid stress, anger, and conflict.
We can’t ever go back to life before COVID, but we can create boundaries to protect the things we have gained and come to appreciate since experiencing quarantine, social distancing, and COVID restrictions. You owe it to yourself to move into the next normal as strong, healthy, and balanced as possible.
I know that learning how to set boundaries can be challenging, which is why I created this helpful resource designed to help you determine your personal standards and then set healthy boundaries to protect those standards.
I invite you to download this resource and spend some time working through it. You’ll be amazed at how your healthy boundaries will help you create and protect a life that serves you and your highest values.
The last few months have been a true awakening and forced us to recognize what is most important in our lives.
Similar to the personal health crisis I faced a few short years ago, for all of us, this global health crisis is bringing our priorities into focus - health, family, relationships, time, happiness; and creating an inventory of what we need to be strong and prepared to continue to push through.
This defining moment in history and in our lives has made us more aware of what changes are needed.
Let’s face it…many of us have spent a good part of our lives waiting for the inspiration to do something different, to make a bold change. This world crisis is a defining moment and it is accelerating the shift.
Now is the best time to take yourself out of what you do, the job you are in, the path you are on, the success you are tied to, and focus on the things that inspire you and that give you energy. It is up to you to create your own inspiration.
This doesn’t mean that you have to walk into the boss’ office tomorrow and quit, abandon your current business or make a complete career transition.
If you want to make a change but don’t know where to start, don’t know what you really want, or are fearful of leaving old measures of success behind, there are a few things you can do to take control and take the first steps:
You have options and there is no better time to define your success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're PROUD AND INSPIRED to live...
If you are feeling ready to face your fears and take the first brave step forward toward a more meaningful and fulfilling life and career, please join my next zoom webinar on June 9: Redefining Success: The First Steps Toward Change. I will share more detail on how you can take back control and introduce you to the 8 Steps in creating a one-of-a-kind Heart-centered Women's Blueprint to re-engineer all aspects of your life and increase confidence and satisfaction in your career & your next great chapter overall.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Engaged and inspired by smart business leaders who manage it all, personally and professionally, Tricia plays the role of coach, accountability partner, advisor, and consultant. Drawing on experiences, skills, and HEART, Tricia helps others elevate their leadership and develop new possibilities in how they show up and how they engage every day.
The United States is in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If your organization wasn’t already crisis planning, they certainly are now.
For the past year, I have been watching the “message from our CEO” emails, the social posts, the news (now that is enough to scare anyone!) and can’t stop thinking about how much we learn about people during times like this…how much we learn about our leaders.
There is no doubt that the impacts of this situation are far-reaching as organizations pull back spending, freeze travel, update work-from-home policies and look to protect the health and safety of their employees and customers.
It is the right thing to do. Some leaders have managed their organizations through crisis before and for others, they lack the experience.
I have experienced it before, and I am seeing it with my clients now. It is times like this when intentional leadership is needed most.
Show up with a sense of responsibility and commitment to your organization and role model the behavior you want people to follow.
Engage personally with people, listen to their fears, and communicate openly and transparently. Acknowledge the challenge and help people know that you have their best interest at heart.
Most crises come on quickly and it is critical to jump into planning, make swift decisions, move people to action, address the external constituents.
But it is also critical to take a breath and think through the plan to lead your people through the situation.
Here are four things you can do as an Intentional Leader. Show up as your best self and as the leader your employees need you to be:
The worst thing you can do is overreact which brings fear, panic, and self-interest into the picture. All eyes are on you so maintain self-control by projecting a sense of calm.
Don’t minimize the situation as you can come off as inauthentic but use facts (not fear) to balance the reality of the situation with the emotions of the people.
In absence of information, people fill in the blanks. Be visible and explain the steps being taken. Be transparent, clear, and timely in sharing information.
Recognize the fluidity of the circumstances and commit to regular updates that keep everyone focused forward together.
Help your people see the bigger picture…the world on the other side of the crisis. Remain positive and encouraging as your organization pushes through the discomfort and uncertainty.
When necessary, stand back from the action and reassess. Solicit input within the organization but pull in outside advice when necessary.
Don’t waste the crisis! When the challenge is finally over, it is important to de-escalate and restore operations but that doesn’t always mean “business as usual”. Ask for feedback, capture lessons learned, and identify long last improvements that can be made.
Most importantly, explicitly thank and recognize people for what they achieved. Acknowledge the disruption and express gratitude for their continued support, focus, and commitment during a difficult time.
As painful as it is, a time like this is an opportunity to practice the type of leadership that is needed. To effectively and successfully lead through the most difficult and uncertain situations.
– inspirational, connected, present, mindful –
Embrace the challenge, be intentional in your how, and new ways of thinking will arise. You will get past it with an understanding that you can face a crisis, like COVID-19, head-on, and be a better leader for your organization in the long run.
Tricia is a global business leader, author, and certified executive coach. Her unique corporate background gives her a clear understanding of the personal and professional challenges that senior business leaders face today.
She brings real-life expertise around talent, culture, and leadership to every coaching engagement and is committed to helping individuals, teams, and organizations accelerate performance.
Tricia believes this can be done with authenticity and by staying true to personal values, beliefs, and leadership styles.