How to avoid workplace burnout

Burnout in the workplace can be very common, in our 24/7 culture it can be easy to feel like we are constantly “on”. Our brains can feel wired all the time and the lines between work and home life can easily blur. To explain what we mean by burnout, we define it as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

It can be easy to fall into the trap of taking on too much or working too hard. We all have times where life becomes too full and it is normal. Sometimes we experience several significant changes at the same time and that can cause us a period of potential stress and burnout. However, there can be a creeping burnout which happens because we have fallen into a pattern of taking on too much with too little self-care.  

In this blog we will explore ways to spot potential burnout and strategies to address it, as well as establishing some more strategic ways of working and living so that our lives become more consistently balanced and healthy. 

Potential signals of burnout

People I work with who have experienced signs of burnout notice the following aspects to their lives:

  • Attending meetings where they are not needed.
  • Saying yes to things too easily without checking whether there is time to do it.
  • Carrying out administrative tasks that take up a lot of time.
  • Doing work that others could do. 
  • Setting unrealistic targets. 
  • Working long hours on a regular basis.
  • Giving up social/ family/ friends activities and working instead.

They also felt signs of stress such as headaches and ignored the signals. In summary, they pushed themselves too hard and beyond their physical and mental boundaries for too long. 

It can be useful as a starting point to notice your own warning signals. We all have them, it’s just that we forget we have them, or we ignore them. 

What are your warning signals?

Here is a list to get you thinking – it is important that you identify your own warning signals, whether that is a physical reaction, a mental reaction, or something else.

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration
  • Unable to make decisions as easily 
  • Not able to get to sleep or waking up with our minds full
  • Lack of focus
  • Spending more time alone or feeling withdrawn
  • Flashes of anger 
  • Lack of listening ability
  • Competing at everything
  • Pushing themselves too hard

Through coaching sessions, we understand our own warning signals so that we can easily spot these and do something about them. One person I worked with noticed they had a “full head” that then lead to a headache and this was one of their burnout signs. Another person noticed their decision making became foggy as one of their first warning signs. 

Know your limits

We are all different so knowing your own limits is important rather than what you consider the social norm or working norm. Ask yourself:

  • What does an ideal day look like?
  • How can you structure your day to work at your best? 
  • What sleep do you need and what sleep routine can you implement so that you are ready for bed?
  • What are manageable goals for you? 
  • What can you say no to?
  • Who could support you with tasks?
  • What could you eliminate?
  • What makes you flourish each day?

Becoming comfortable with our limits and achieving a life centred around those limits is crucial to our success. This does not mean staying in our comfort zone, in fact many people enjoy challenge and growth. It simply means the way you go about achieving that is balanced and yields you maximum impact with minimum stress. 

Strategies for avoiding burnout 

Start today! Many clients come to coaching after a period of burnout and when they look back, they realise they ignored the warning signs and learn that they could have made changes sooner. Making changes can start immediately and these can be seemingly small steps. Examples may include taking a proper lunch break and cancelling out of a meeting. Here are some strategies to consider and I encourage you to add your own:

  • Ensure you have sufficient planning and administration time in the diary.
  • Decrease meetings by 15 minutes, for example if you hold a one-hour meeting, consider shortening them to 45 minutes.
  • Allocate space in between meetings.
  • Consider how often you spend surfing the internet. 
  • Set up daily working hours, and stick to them unless there is a conscious exception you make by choice.
  • Continually ensure you delegate. 
  • Look for areas every day to eliminate.
  • Notice what you “should” do versus what you ”want” to do and identify why. 
  • Take a lunch break. 
  • Build in reflection time at the start and/or the end of the day.
  • Consider what you need to properly look after yourself, for example, sleep, nutrition, exercise and connection with others.

Talking about this topic can be the first step to solving it. Often, people are reticent to share burnout signs with others for fear of judgement. If you are experiencing warning signs do reach out to those you trust. 

I encourage you to make some small changes over the coming month that keep you in that healthy zone. If you wish to work on this, or have any questions for me, please get in touch to arrange a no obligation discovery call.

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