Ah, burnout. It can wear on careers, relationships, even our sense of self. Today we’re going to dig into the root of the issue to figure out how to prevent burnout from getting to you the second you start worrying about it.
But first, let’s start this off with a workplace burnout refresher:
What does Burnout Feel Like?
Burnout describes what happens when stress compounds over time. Stress occurs in our personal lives, of course, but at Wholeness At Work, we’re more focused on professional burnout.
This compounded stress at work makes us feel emotionally drained, so much so that it becomes overwhelming and difficult to complete tasks. It hinders our ability to work well, to communicate with others, and to gauge our performance on the job. If you’re feeling negative and hopeless at work, you may already be experiencing burnout.
Hopefully, you’re not already overwhelmed by burnout as you read this article. Maybe you’re worried because the symptoms are just starting to creep in. Either way, you’re here for a reason, and we’re here to unpack it with you. And if you think you might already be experiencing burnout at work, I’ve got you covered with a free assessment.
Where Does Workplace Burnout Come From?
To prevent workplace burnout, we have to get to its root causes, and there are a few different places it can come from.
When looking at workplace burnout, we like to view it through the three integral lenses of I-We-It: the individual lens, or “I,” the relational lens, or “We,” and the systemic lens, or “It/Its.” Mental health is all about the “I,” and it’s the first place you need to look for symptoms of workplace burnout.
Those who experience common mental health disorders may be more susceptible to workplace burnout than others. Suppose you suffer from anxiety, depression, or ADHD, for example. In that case, it’s important that you take time to reflect on how you’re doing and consider how your psychology may be impacting your emotional experiences at work.
As we say to all of our clients, everyone would benefit from having a therapist on speed dial! Let’s normalize how many of us experience some form of mental health challenge over our lifetimes. Getting help is key, as is being courageous about acknowledging what’s going on for you. Let us help you build awareness about how you’re doing now and what might be under the surface of any workplace burnout symptoms you’re noticing.
Now for the issues that may stem from the “We” perspective: team and cultural dynamics.
Taking a look at the business culture at large, many leaders are expected to be “on” 24/7. Take time for yourself, but be available in case something goes awry. This unconscious—or sometimes outright explicit—way of working on teams creates tremendous pressure on the human beings involved, especially when rest or renewal is discouraged.
In addition, if you tend to approach your work with fear as an underlying motivator, there is often little intentional alignment with core values; work becomes about surviving and self-protection. Moreover, when a company culture reinforces the false belief that some people are more important than others (i.e., they hold status), that is where We-level sources of burnout can rear their ugly head.
To prevent burnout on the We-level, we must examine the underlying and implicit narratives around us. Is there something we can change in the team dynamic, or even the way the team talks to and about itself, to make the dynamic work better for everyone rather than some?
As much as we like to ignore the elephant in the room, the fact is the things happening around us are, indeed, impacting our work. When it comes down to it, our brains aren’t even wired for today’s working environment. We are inundated with world news, technologies that allow us that connection we talked about earlier, and it’s all moving at a rapid pace.
As early as 10 years ago, it was easy to ignore what was going on in the world. If you weren’t dialed into the right channel at the right time, world news could go unnoticed. It’s a miracle that we can be so tapped in today, but it also takes a toll.
Systemic oppression and discrimination, our identifying genders, class, religion—they all impact our overall mental health and wellbeing. Knowing this will help as we navigate burnout.
How Do I Prevent Burnout?
If you’re starting to feel the early effects of burnout, the only place to start is with communication, communication, communication.
Communicate with yourself, and perhaps with a professional, about your mental health.
Communicate with your team about your needs and expectations of them and, just as importantly, their needs and expectations of you.
Communicate with other leaders in your workplace to cultivate an environment that makes everyone feel heard and supported.
Does Everyone Eventually Burnout From Their Job?
If you think you’re beginning to feel some effects of work burnout, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to a study by Deloitte, 77% of professionals say they have experienced workplace burnout. 51% have experienced it more than once.
Workplace burnout may be an epidemic (that feels increasingly intense), but it doesn’t mean you or your workplace are doomed. I’ve dedicated my career to finding the root causes of burnout and developing customized solutions for it. With 15 years of experience with high-performing, exhausted executives, I’m here to support you.