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Burnout: Everyone Knows Someone

I’m willing to bet you know someone who’s experienced burnout at work. I know at least three:

  • I know someone who quit the same organization three times, only to be lured back with a different role and plans for improvement. The workload never got better, and the last resignation finally stuck.
  • I know someone lined up for executive leadership until the outgoing president basically told him, “You don’t want my job. If I were you, I’d get out now.” My friend heeded the warning.
  • I know someone so exceedingly bitter about his last position that he finally started antidepressants to help let go of his resentment.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported what many of us already sensed was true: workplace burnout is getting worse. Case in point: one EAP provider reports that stress and anxiety are cited in 70% of phone-counseling requests. That up from 50% in 2014. And total calls are on the rise, up 18% from one year ago.

Why burnout is on the rise

Several factors are at play, including the “do more with less” hiring practices and job insecurities still lingering after the Great Recession. Our “always on” work culture contributes too, of course, as more and more people feel compelled to work after hours and on weekends, just to keep up.

As professionals, we can take a look at ourselves and shoulder some of the blame too. Too often, we let our ego take over, finding validation in all that stress and essentialness. We give in to a sense of one-upmanship, staying at work a little later, or answering one more after hours email, in an effort to appear as dedicated (or more-so) than our peers.

Overcoming the culture of overwork

In order to combat burnout, we need more people with the confidence to set boundaries. More people willing to say, “This is too much. This deadline is too tight. We have to limit our priorities.” We need more people to be the voice of reason and say, “Let’s pause for moment. We can’t do it all.”

Here at Life Meets Work, we build that confidence by making workload, energy, and quality of life everyday topics of conversation. We monitor capacity. We take time off, unplugged. We make this a safe place to say “no,” or at least, “not right now.”

How do you build the same culture? It has to start with your managers. Yes, certainly C-suite support is important, but all the leadership edicts in the world can’t change culture. That has to happen in the middle.

Your managers need to take charge of their own energy. They need to heal first. Then, only then, can we ask them to apply the same tools to their team.

Imagine the impact on individual employees when their leader: 1) models healthy work-life habits, 2) actively manages team workload, and 3) regularly asks about energy and wellbeing—that’s when you have the kind of workplace where it feels safe to set boundaries.

Scalable workplace change

The Refocus Leadership Experience was developed to respond to problems of burnout and overwork. The underlying theme is that managers need to take care of themselves so they can live in a way that helps others. Teaching this lesson is the path to scalable culture change.

We don’t believe this can be accomplished in a one-and-done training session. It takes ongoing support, to operationalize training messages and make meaningful, lasting changes.

Over the course of six months, our Refocus participants will develop the personal mindset and leadership tools to incorporate mindfulness, compassion, and healthy boundary-setting into their lives. They’ll be supported throughout the experience with personal coaching, peer support, and restorative skill-building retreats.

Ready to Refocus?

Meet the Refocus Leadership Experience. Learn to live and lead mindfully. And spark a culture shift within your team.

Learn more about our corporate workshops and leadership events.