Prevent Burnout

I write this as a I prepare for a wonderful trip to France with my mom.  I’m grateful that this isn’t a vacation I need to maintain my mental health or sense of work-life balance.  Instead, it’s a trip I am taking because I am determined to make short work of my mom’s bucket list, which is hardly a vacation!

But it did cause me to reflect on the need to understand what burnout is, how to identify it and how to prevent it.  I admit, I had been squarely in the “take a little time off of work, you’ll be fine” camp. 

Doctor Google did not disappoint. I found this good description of burnout and was particularly struck by the difference between stress (too much!) and burnout, which is too little.  Too little satisfaction, enjoyment, fulfillment, energy.  Ah, midlife crisis.

Actually, burnout can creep up on anyone. That feeling like you’re running on fumes, emotionally drained, and mentally wasted, all while your body is trying to wave a white flag.  What does it look like in the workplace?

Because everyone is different, there is no single right answer here, but look out for signs like decreased productivity, new performance or attendance problems, and a general sense of disengagement. Are they withdrawing from social interactions or seeming unusually irritable? Bingo, that’s a sign.

Sometimes, in an attempt to be “professional” or “private”, people try to hide it. They put on a brave face, soldiering on even when they’re running on empty.  That means good leaders cannot assume that no news is the same thing as good news.

To really help identify it, take the time to check in with your team, ask how they’re doing, and really listen to their responses. Sometimes, all it takes is a genuine conversation to uncover what’s really going on.  Then you can help the team make the adjustments they each need to refill their tanks.

Preventing burnout can include encouraging a healthy work-life balance, communicating openly and appropriately, and leading by example. Show your team that it’s okay to take breaks, set boundaries, share personal information (or not!) and prioritize self-care.

I’m glad I took the time to learn a little bit here.  The analogies abound, but I now see that vacations are more like band-aids than miracle cures. Or like the sweet part of life, which requires a little bit of bitter to be a well-balanced affogato.

Although I’ll be gone, the team will still be happy to talk about ways you can identify, address and prevent burnout.