In recent years burnout has become a commonly used term, with an increasing awareness about the effects overworking can have on mental health. But what actually is burnout, how does it affect an individual, as well as the wider team, and what can we do as leaders and business owners to prevent it in ourselves and our employees?
What is Burnout?
Burnout describes the feeling of exhaustion and being overwhelmed as a result of prolonged, chronic stress. Often, but not always, this is caused at work.
It can be hard to recognise when we are at risk of burnout. When we fail to put in place boundaries around how we work and stretch our resilience beyond the point of recovery, we often don’t realise until it is too late.
There are many reasons why employees, business owners and leaders are facing burnout. From our 24/7 access to emails to the belief that to be productive, we must always be ‘producing’, or ‘on’; work has never had more of an ability to infiltrate our downtime and wreak havoc on our mental health. The trauma of covid and sudden changes to work processes and environments, as well as the social and personal struggles many people faced, meant leaders increased their risk of burnout as they tried to be always present and available to support and guide their staff.
In its ‘History of Burnout’ article, the British Medical Journal explains the term burnout was coined in 1974 and it first related to air traffic control workers, who undertook extremely long shifts without breaks, were given inadequate equipment and frequently changing shift patterns. In the 30+ years since then, the term applies to those in all professions but the working conditions that lead to burnout remain the same.
It is clear burnout is not simply caused by long working hours, as let’s face it, most jobs require this every now and then. It is brought on by a number of factors with the presiding commonality being the relentless repetition of those elements – never ending long hours, an impossible to complete workload and no support from management or isolation as leaders being key drivers.
Mental Health UK cite the following symptoms as common signs of burnout. Do you recognise any of these in yourself or your team?
- Feeling tired or drained most of the time.
- Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated.
- Feeling detached/alone in the world.
- Having a cynical/negative outlook.
- Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
How to foster resilience and engagement in your workplace
As a leader, ensuring your team does not succumb to burnout or even get close, doesn’t just look after you – it protects your business. A team full of burnt-out employees results in a demotivated and stressed workplace, with a reduced productivity and creativity level.
You can do this by creating a supportive work environment. This can look like:
- Creating space.
- Creating opportunities for development and reflection.
- Creating an engaging culture.
- Creating a sustainable workload and environment.
However, it is important to note that you need to support yourself first in order to care for and recognise others who are struggling – a bit like fitting your own oxygen mask before assisting others.
- How do you create the space to think?
- How do you juggle your multiple commitments without continually feeling overstretched?
- How do you stay curious and continue to develop yourself?
- How do you focus on what’s most important for your business and not on the busy detracting tasks?
Taking time to reflect and build space for you to thrive will enable you to create an engaging culture and help you to be a leader who notices when your team’s workload and environment is stretched beyond what is healthy.
Executive coaching is the most effective antidote to burn out. Our Coaching empowers leaders to challenge and support themselves to stay in what is a healthy and effective personal zone. We enable leaders to support their team through proven techniques that increase confidence and reduce unhealthy inner voice and self-talk. Through our coaching you will understand how to best support your team to take a healthy and productive approach, allowing you to prioritise taking time and space to reflect.
The anti-burnout movement
There is a growing feeling amongst prominent mental health champions that something has to change in our work environments. CEO Brene Brown is a working Professor, researcher, author, with a TV series and award-winning weekly podcast. In June this year she announced that she, along with her entire team, would be taking a sabbatical until September. Tools down, no work, no social media, no press comments – fully off the grid.
Why did Brene impose this unheard-of three-month break? She shared the following quote before she disappeared into the silent ether:
‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.’ Viktor Frankl.
What Frankl explains in this quote, and what Brene is showing the world, is that in order to grow, taking time out and giving ourselves space is essential. And Brene shows she believes this applies to the individual as well as the team. The cold corporate view that taking time out is lazy is not just unacceptable – it is factually inaccurate.
Of course, closing your company for three months is most likely not something you could even consider. You probably find taking a week off without checking emails a challenge.
But by following Brene’s lead, by creating space in manageable, practical ways, and building a supportive and open work environment, you can help your team thrive and see the benefits in your business as a result.
Coaching to prevent burnout in your team
You might resonate with everything we have said here about burnout and want to implement preventive measures and new healthy habits in your own business, but not know where to start.
Our Coaching sessions will help you prosper as an individual and enable your staff to flourish.
We offer a range of different coaching options. During our coaching sessions, our experienced coaches will work with you to increase your understanding, knowledge, confidence and clarity around fostering a strong, productive and happy workforce. We can help you grow as a leader and set and achieve both personal and professional goals. Together with your coach you can create an action plan to tackle burnout.
Giving your team the opportunity to take time away from their day-to-day work and focus on themselves is a huge act of validation and will help them grow in confidence and resilience, encouraging a strong team and engaged workforce, built to weather any storms coming its way. Our Team Coaching supports individuals to increase confidence, focus and resilience whilst bringing the team together and improving the overall dynamic.
Don’t let burnout stop your business. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.
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