How to stop burnout, so work/life balance is a reality, not a utopia – Andrew Pain

Andrew Pain

Andrew Pain is a TEDx / Keynote speaker, helping business leaders to avoid burnout whilst thriving in their roles by mastering their; boundaries and commitments, decision making abilities, delegation processes, time efficiency, resilience and impact.

Through 2020-2021, Andrew has been delivering online events to varied organisations including; Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, Association of Project Management, Association of Child Protection Officers, Project Management Institute, Aston University, Amazon, Lloyds, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, Birmingham City University, Essex County Council, schools, colleges, charities and mid-sized businesses.

Andrew’s blog below is all about how to stop burnout, so work/life balance is a reality, not a utopia…

How to stop burnout, so work/life balance is a reality, not a utopia.

Burnout: a modern buzzword, used loosely by some but fully understood by others, it’s now recognised by the World Health Organisation as an ‘occupational phenomenon’, with research highlighting devastating implications for people who ignore it, from the 146,000 lives claimed every year in the United States alone, to the 1 trillion dollars in lost global production every year.

But what is burnout and how do we stop it?

The World Health Organisation describes burnout as ‘chronic work place stress that has not been well managed’, describing 3 key symptoms:

  • Emotional, mental, physical exhaustion (you’re not just a bit tired and in need of a lie-in or weekend away: you’re utterly finished, overwhelmed and feel like you can’t go on)

 

  • Negativity/cynicism about your work (because you’re overwhelmed, everything seems unfair, wrong and insurmountable. Unsurprisingly, you sink into a spiral of doom and gloom)

 

  • Poor time efficiency (exhausted and stuck in a negative cycle, you’re unmotivated by the things which once energised you. You can’t concentrate, your efforts feel pointless and you can no longer make key decisions.)

There’s no single cause of burnout or magic fix but a combination of common triggers at home and at work, and many initiatives to consider in helping people to manage burnout.

Mental Health UK polled 3000 working adults in 2021 and the most common triggers included; 

1) money worries, 2) working from home, 3) job security, 4) isolation, 5) physical health, 6) sleep, 7) relationships, 8) home schooling and 9) caring for others. 

None of these triggers are particularly caused by working conditions, but they’ll certainly impact how an employee may perform at work.

On the other hand, in a recent Gallup poll of 7500 employees, the most common workplace triggers included; 

1) unfair treatment at work, 2) unmanageable workload, 3) lack of role clarity, 4) lack of communication and support from their manager, 5) unreasonable time pressure.

So if burnout can be triggered by a combination of factors at work and/or at home, what can employers do to tackle it?

  • We need to talk to our teams about what they need and how they’re feeling, not as a one-off exercise but as an ongoing conversation.

 

  • We need to put wellbeing at their heart of our organisational culture and mission, offering wide ranging and tailored wellbeing plans, undertaking mental health first aid training with follow-up plans for how to take that knowledge back into the workplace.

 

  • We need our leaders to dare to be vulnerable, being open about their own challenges and the things they’re struggling with. Harvard Business School Professor, Amy Edmonson, describes the value of leaders openly sharing about their struggles and the positive knock-on effect on the rest of the team when they’re prepared to be vulnerable, because if it’s ok for the leader to be open, then it’s ok for others to speak up too. Vulnerable leaders help create psychologically safe spaces.

Conclusion:

Burnout isn’t going anywhere as a problem and if anything, given the social and political upheaval in our world today (not to mention the rapidly unfolding environmental crisis and all that means for our way of life) burnout will get worse as a phenomenon, not better. But the good news is that with wide-ranging and ongoing action, which is rooted in what people share and ask for, burnout is surmountable and it is manageable. 

 

 

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