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10 Ways to Prevent Burnout at Work

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In the past couple of months, I’ve asked many people of all ages “How are you feeling?”

There’s one answer that saturates their replies: “I’ve never felt so tired and exhausted in my life!”

Many publications are backing up this trends. Employee burnout is a trend we can’t ignore.

Here in Australia, we’ve surfed a wave of fires, floods, a pandemic, uncertain economic conditions and rising costs of living. Hybrid work, with its many benefits and challenges, has been another massive shift.

We’ve been through a lot, and this discombobulated BANI environment looks like it’s here to stay!

What is burnout?

While it may seem burnout is about overwork, the real causes of burnout are unmet emotional needs… which is why emotional intelligence is the answer.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress; occurring when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet life’s constant and relentless demands.

What are the signs of burnout?

What causes burnout?

  1. A perceived lack of control, autonomy or choice
  2. A feeling of insufficient reward or recognition
  3. A perceived lack of social support / community
  4. A feeling a lack of meaning / purpose in your life

According to Gallup’s 2020 Perspective on Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. Even if they stay, they typically have 13%  lower confidence in their performance, and have less desire to learn and grow.

It can be surprising how little you care when you feel burnout. It’s common to check out emotionally, disconnecting from your work projects and from people in all parts of your life.

This is a tough experience to navigate, both for the employee and the employer/manager. There are some things in our control, and often much that is way beyond our control.

Think about the things you can control. This is our emotional intelligence.

The emotional intelligence we bring to our workplace and to others goes a long way in preventing and navigating employee burnout.

How can we prevent and reduce burnout?

#1 Do Regular Emotion Check Ins

Theodore Roosevelt once said: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Have frequent employee check ins to ask how they are (really) doing. I call this making the space for empathic connection. It means REALLY listening to what they tell you, repeating and connecting with what they say. It takes 5 minutes, and it goes a long way towards supporting people to better name and navigate their emotions.

#2 Model Helpfulness

Create a workplace culture where people help each other, and every person has someone at work who is willing to listen. This starts with you! Your example is always present, so role modelling is essential. Ask people what support looks like for them. Work actively to shift any toxicity in the culture.

#3 Value All Voices

Make people feel that their voices matter, and their opinions and ideas will be heard. Give honest feedback on ideas, acknowledging the good ones and providing constructive feedback on the less helpful ones.

#4 Empower Others

Find ways to empower people and put them in the driver’s seat. For example, co-creating meeting agendas, joining working groups, cutting red tape and making decisions at level.

#5 Tune Into Vision

We all want to feel like our work matters. Developing a genuine, shared sense of “why” is key to preventing burnout. Show how people how their work is contributing to a greater purpose. Reinforce how they’re making a difference both to the organisation, and to meaningful causes. Many organisations are aligning their work to global impacts.

#6 Grow a Feedback Culture

Grow a feedback culture; micro-moments of tapping into development opportunities that energise us. Help people to identify their strengths and strive for personal mastery.

#7 Offer Freedom

As far as possible, give people a chance to shape their own path, to set their own goals and targets, and support every effort they make to reach them.

#8 Create Calm Environments

Create environments which are deliberately calm, so people can focus and have the chance to do some quality thinking. This might look like instilling mindfulness, practising your own internal awareness, setting intentions, regulating your emotions, giving opportunities for reflection and taking care of your energy. Beware of “sacrifice syndrome”; neglecting your own self-care due to work demands, which leads to burnout. Calm and compassionate people are those with boundaries.

#9 Express Gratitude (Often)

Acknowledge. Say thank you. Be grateful. In this crazily busy world, we can think we’ve done all these things in our head, and yet we’ve forgotten to actually express them. Make an effort to show someone that you value them, giving them the gift of time and thanking them for their effort/disposition.

#10 Prioritise Social Events

Always have a social event in the works! People get a dopamine hit when they have something to look forward to. This is especially important if you’re implementing a ‘work from home’ model. We as a human species are neurobiologically wired to connect; we were never meant to walk this journey alone and feel isolated. Ask yourself: How can you facilitate connection between your people today?

Try the 30-day Burnout Wheel Challenge!

Set aside 5 minutes at the beginning of every day to spin the wheel (bookmark the link for your convenience). Make a promise to yourself to commit to the challenge it lands on, and see what happens. This is a great ongoing daily ritual for you and your team. Leave a COMMENT on this blog once you’ve completed the challenge!

Want more help with this?

Book a free Discovery Call with me, where we can explore ways in which the team at Courageous Leadership Hub can support you on your organisation towards a more vulnerable and change-ready culture.

With courage & gratitude,

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