Burnout is common in the final race toward the Christmas D-day, though the scale of burnout this year is far more prevalent, and universal, due to pandemic-related pressures. The challenge is how to prioritise burnout at a time when it’s taking longer than ever to find and close a deal, which is exacerbated by with already-stretched resources and limited bandwidth.
The immediate response when under chronic stress is often: ‘I don’t have time to think about anything else other than getting the job done.’ Though as difficult as it may be, we encourage industry to reframe their thinking to become: ‘What will my life look like if I don’t prioritise being burnt out?’
The answer is that businesses will be fundamentally affected if its key stakeholders can’t perform due to burnout-related side effects including impaired decision-making and diminished performance - which are often compounded by the Molotov cocktail of health-related conditions including extreme fatigue, insomnia, substance abuse, emotional volatility, high blood pressure and propensity for heart disease and/or Type 2 diabetes.
A recent paper published by Daniel Marchalik in Harvard Business Review, What Health Care Can Teach Other Industries About Preventing Burnout, identifies the seismic shift in the health care sector’s approach to wellness of which, many principles can be agnostically applied to industry in effort to combat pandemic-induced burnout.
“With burnout rates approaching 50 per cent in physicians and nurses, the medical field is an unlikely role model for wellbeing programs. And yet, it is precisely because of the epidemic of health care worker distress that the health care sector can be seen as the blueprint for mitigating workforce burnout,” said Mr Marchalik.
Throughout Mr Marchalik’s research, the message became clear: “To minimise burnout you need to maximise yourself. The approach seemed the epitome of what we, in medicine, had been pushing against for years as increasing evidence has revealed that burnout is primarily a result of organisational forces rather than a deficiency in personal resilience.” Here are some tips to get started:
- Set boundaries and enforce breaks: Boundaries have become obliterated with work being digitised and home-based. This lack of delineation means that many people often feel like they’re in ‘Groundhog Day,’ which is intensified by the pressure of feeling of needing to be accessibility 24/7. To combat the feeling that you ‘live at work,’ be clear with your team (and yourself…) about what constitutes an acceptable workday. It’s also critical to be disciplined about scheduling breaks - and in particular, prioritising physical exercise, where possible. It’s wise to adhere to the basics and also prioritise sleep – being mindful to resist the temptation of sending (or responding) to late-night, non-urgent emails.
- Triage priorities: Consciously gain control over your job and ‘triage’ what must get done and what can wait. Reduce ‘mental overload’ by being structured in your approach and integrate activities into a CRM where possible to increase efficiencies.
- Seek professional fulfilment: Those who have high levels of optimism and self-efficacy tend to manage stress relatively well due to their belief that they can cope. It has been demonstrated that one of the best ways to increase self-efficacy is through ‘mastery experiences,’ which provide the opportunity to experience the positive effects ones’ actions: a.k.a. have a self-directed, non-sales-related ‘professional win.’ This may be through doing a workshop or investing time to attend an industry event that upskills in certain areas – whether it’s product knowledge, how to increase financial literacy, how to better accelerate your company or personal profile, or enable better business practice management.
- Prioritise wellbeing: Establish wellbeing as a personal and organisational priority akin to finances and operations. Commit to an activity that supports stress such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi. Before you roll your eyes, keep in mind that confidence levels are boosted through prioritising physical and psychological health.
- Seek support: Actively connect with colleagues and invest in supportive relationships to help buffer work stress. Encourage dialogue that supports ‘wellbeing interventions’ that are both reactive (supporting those (including yourself!) in distress) and proactive (preventing burnout from occurring).
Finally, keep an open mind when considering burnout. The unprecedented pressures of the current moment require an unprecedented response.