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The burnout epidemic – what’s the real answer?

The burnout epidemic – what’s the real answer?

 

Last week I talked about rest and how people really need to see rest as an investment and even a competitive advantage.

I’ve been teaching my clients about the many benefits associated with rest for years but the main reason I wanted to write another blog post on the topic is because of the current and very real concerns around widespread burnout.

Earlier this month, the Harvard Business Review, published an article titled, Beyond Burned Out – Chronic stress was rampant before the pandemic. Leaders can’t ignore it any longer’ …

 

To which I wholeheartedly agree! … What the pandemic has done is simply amplify many problems that were already there.

 

Yes, there are businesses struggling right now who need their employees to go above and beyond in a desperate attempt to survive. But there are also companies who push for more and more because profit, productivity and growth are the always the underlying motivation.

From my perspective, I think the machine is so big in many companies, that the workplace culture has a life of its own, and so it’s something that’s very hard to police and control.

And then you also have the more interpersonal dynamics of peers vying for the next promotion, bonus or pay rise – so you create a culture of people purposely or unconsciously trying to out-perform each other to progress or even keep their role.

This leads me to on to the another very real but tricky problem; that many people who work in the corporate world have issues with workaholism and/or getting their sense of self-worth from excelling.

 

Workaholism, like any addiction, is an attempt to numb, distract, avoid and regulate the nervous system.

 

However, unlike other addictions (drugs, gambling, alcohol etc.) – workaholism is often celebrated and rewarded in western culture. Yet it is unhealthy and potentially harmful like any other addiction.

Then in addition to workaholism, you have people with unhealthy habits such as people pleasing, perfectionism, chronic negativity, worrying – all of which impact stress levels and increase the potential of burning out. I wrote about this in more detail in a previous post on burnout, which you can read here.

 

When we consider all of the above, you can see how the stresses related to the pandemic, the move to working from home and the well-intentioned option of flexible working hours has created a recipe for burnout.

 

So, what’s the answer?

As we move into a world where it looks like working from home is set to stay or at least become a very real option for many people, here’s what I think needs to happen … In fact, some of these things are already in motion, they’re just going to take time to fully actualize and become the norm:

 

  • Organisations creating serious company-wide rules of conduct around working hours – which will also involve modifying expectations around productivity and output!

 

  • Organisations basing their objectives and targets not just on market share and profits, but on the health, wellbeing and happiness of their people.

 

  • Organisations basing their employee ‘performance’ reviews not just on technical skills, output and hitting financial targets but also on the health, wellbeing and happiness of that person and those they lead.

Basically, how well-rounded and balanced are they in their approach to life and work and if in leadership positions, what they’re role-modelling and how happy and healthy their team are.

 

And, in order to facilitate points 2 and 3 and we will see…

 

  • Organisations prioritising wellbeing as a key skill that employees need to develop – treating it as a serious growth priority and a business-critical skill that can be improved through training and development programmes (not only apps).

 

  • Organisations selecting and promoting leaders for their proficiency in all-round wellbeing and emotional intelligence as well as their technical skills.

 

These changes are necessary for a number reasons, not just as an emergency plan to lessen the always on culture and current burnout epidemic…

As I say above, wellbeing is actually a business-critical skill – a resilient workforce will be undoubtably better positioned to rebuild the economy in 2021 and beyond … more on this in next week’s blog post.

 

We are already seeing a big shift in employees seeking out employers who commit to supporting their wellbeing with excellent resources and pathways so they can learn how to best support themselves…

 

This will become more and more important, with people even opting to take lower paid roles (if necessary) to work somewhere that fully supports their wellbeing and lifestyle values.

Good people will seek out employers who offer them best opportunities that are in alignment with their wholesome aspirations, their altruistic values and their desire to thrive in all areas of their life.

 

Kate x

 

If you’re an organisation looking to provide training and support for your employees around burnout, high level wellbeing and healthy hardwork, email: info@katehorwood.com to find out how I can help. 

Kate Horwood