How to avoid a burnout crisis
In a more typical period, burnout is an exception. In the age of COVID, this almost looks like the norm.
According to Jennifer Moss, organizations should look closely at themselves in the mirror to foster cultures of overwork that make matters worse. Author, speaker, and workplace wellness expert wrote “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It” to help curb this crisis before we all hit the wall.
Moss spoke to Reuters about the possibility of getting through the pandemic in one piece. The edited excerpts are below.
Q: You have researched how people feel now. What did you find?
A: During the second wave of COVID, we found that only 2% of people rated their well-being as excellent, and 89% said their work lives were getting worse. We expected people to be exhausted, working more hours in the day, and losing efficiency.
But we also found that the cynicism was very high: people are starting to feel like they have no control over the results. It is really dangerous.
Q: How do you specifically define burnout?
A: It is chronic stress at work that is not managed. There are six root causes: an unsustainable workload, a perceived lack of control, insufficient rewards for the effort, a lack of a supportive community, a lack of fairness, and inadequate values and skills.
Q: Businesses know something bad is going on, so are they doing enough?
A: Executives are worried about people leaving, so they have added wellness strategies to their portfolios. It put employees more in the driver’s seat; for example, we have seen many companies delay the return to work. Self-care strategies can be a good thing, but sometimes they are a quick fix to a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed up front.
Q: What should businesses do to prevent burnout?
A: They need to look at the root causes of the workload. Giving people a day off is okay, but you also need to lower your productivity expectations.
If you have a culture of overwork, it doesn’t make people more efficient – it makes them sick. Businesses need to give people more control over how and when to return to work, pay people what they are worth, pay them if they work overtime, and make sure they promote jobs. people for the right reasons.
The lack of fairness is a big problem here because young people feel that there is no way for them.
Q: What can people do to make sure they are not running on empty?
A: Organizations must have a huge responsibility for burnout, but employees can also be part of the solution. We can do a lot of work to identify if we are burning out, such as how often we feel exhausted, disengaged, and cynical. Then we need to start thinking about retiring, like taking breaks every two hours, digitally detoxing, going out, putting on some music.
Set limits for responding to emails and manage your customers’ expectations, so it doesn’t always seem so urgent.
Q: The leaders are also exhausted. How can they deal with these feelings?
A: We’ve never had a collective trauma like this where every person goes through it. We all experience fear and social anxiety, and so do leaders.
Be self-compassionate, be transparent with your team, and don’t worry about appearing vulnerable. There are things happening too, and employees can’t be what they can’t see, so model the behavior. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help the team.
Q: Have you personally faced burnout?
A: It was really hard. We need to give ourselves the space to not be as efficient as before. We are tired and none of this is normal.
I really tried to follow my own rules and take some moments for myself – sitting outside, reading fiction, walking my dog in nature.
I knew the only way to get through this in a healthy way for my kids was to do this job. And it helped.
Every day each of us should look back on the past year, congratulate ourselves and say, “I did it”.
(Edited by Lauren Young)
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