Four Questions to Consider
by Vicki LaBrosse
Our team just returned from a wellness retreat where we spent time relaxing, rejuvenating and reinvigorating our physical, mental and emotional states. Many of us arrived tense, stressed and anxious about keeping up with work while trying to be present in what was supposed to be team bonding and leisure time. It didn’t take more than one or two hours in the sun, away from screens, calendars and phones to come to the realization that what we were embarking upon – a brief, but much needed getaway – was just as important as answering emails and meeting deadlines. We left feeling rested and refreshed, ready to get back to our busy careers, families and social obligations. We as a culture have become all about “work first, life second” and often fail to recognize that this is not always to our benefit. We change jobs, get promotions, put in more hours, work harder, work remotely and do all we can to achieve work-life balance, but we still feel burned out. We often blame our jobs, but perhaps we should ask ourselves: What really is the underlying cause of burnout?
It’s not just workload – the most common scapegoat for burnout – that leaves you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed. There are other areas in your life where you can feel the imbalances that cause burnout. But take heart! There are ways to combat these imbalances to help you have a fulfilling career and a meaningful life without sacrificing one for the other.
Who are your people?
Think about the people you work with or around. How supportive and trusting are those relationships? A strong sense of community is characterized by good teamwork, low levels of conflict and positive social interactions.
If your workplace lacks a sense of community, ask yourself what you can do to increase positive social interactions with colleagues. In many cases you can’t choose your colleagues and clients, but you can improve the dynamic. It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going, sending an email to someone to let them know you appreciated their presentation or choosing to communicate something difficult in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. Burnout can be contagious, so to elevate your individual engagement, you must shift the morale of the group.
Are you in control?
In order to feel satisfied and competent in our jobs, we need to have a sense that we’re in control of our tasks and their outcomes. Feeling like you lack autonomy, access to resources and a say in the decisions that impact your professional life can take a toll on your well-being.
If you find yourself feeling out of control, step back and ask yourself what exactly is causing this sensation and what you can do to shift this situation. Consider asking your employer for more autonomy or responsibility. If you’re not feeling mentally challenged or perhaps you’re undertrained in a certain area, take steps to learn new skills or new technology that can help take the company and your career to the next level. If you’re experiencing any ambiguity about your role or responsibilities, be proactive and clarify exactly what’s expected of you.
Is the reward worth it?
If the rewards for your job don’t match the amount of effort and time you put into them, then you’re likely to feel like the investment is not worth the payoff. This includes financial rewards such a fair pay and good benefits, social rewards such as recognition from those around you and intrinsic rewards, which include the feeling that you’re doing a good job. If you’re lacking in any of these three areas, you’re more likely to feel dissatisfied with your work and may be more susceptible to burnout.
Burnout is more likely when your rewards don’t match your expectations. Look within and determine exactly what you would need to feel properly appreciated. Perhaps you need to ask for a raise or promotion, or maybe you require more positive feedback and face time with your boss. Experiment to see which rewards would make what you’re doing worth it to you and whether there is the opportunity to receive more of those rewards within your current work environment.
What are your values?
A mismatch in values is what you have when your personal values and goals aren’t in line with those of the organization. If you value something that your company does not, your motivation to work hard and persevere can significantly drop. When you’re assessing this element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to you to match your values with those of the company.
Consider how your boss, team and organization make decisions and invest resources. Do you feel good about those underlying motivations? Do they seem open to change? While smaller, less significant value mismatches can often be accommodated within your current job, finding an organization that supports similar values may be preferable.
Burnout is about far more than just working long hours. Asking yourselves these questions is one way to help you understand and recognize the symptoms and causes of burnout and provide a defense against its impact and an opportunity to reevaluate your priorities and values. Make sure to also take time for proper self-care (e.g., adequate rest, healthy diet, exercise), setting aside part of every day for relaxing, enjoyable activities and spending quality time with friends and family. Our company wellness retreat gave me a chance to exhale, refocus my energy and enhance my personal well-being so that I was excited about going back to work.
About the Author
Vicki LaBrosse, director of global public relations for Edge Marketing, has more than 18 years of marketing and communications experience in both the legal and accounting industries. LaBrosse works with clients to develop and execute comprehensive PR and marketing strategies that will help grow their business.