Do you have burnout? To dos- and it's not all your fault!

When you are burned out: what about energy, and it’s not all your fault

 Energy levels is a key part of burnout and how to address it, potentially avoid it and recover from it.

There are four areas to think of:

·     Performance

·     Survival

·     Burnout

·     Recovery

In each of those areas you have emotions that should help you to notice and readjust to a “more healthy” zone, one you may need to continue.

In the Performance area you feel these emotions, and could be “in the flow”:

·     Engaged

·     Invigorated

·     Calm

·     Optimistic

·     Positively challenged

In the Survival stage you are feeling these emotions (and are not in any kind of flow):

·     Impatient

·     Frustrated

·     Irritated

·     Angry

·     Fearful

·     Defensive

·     Anxious

·     Worried

In the Burnout stage you feel these emotions/body feelings:

·     Empty- nothingness

·     Exhaustion

·     Hopeless

·     Sad

·     Angry

·     Depressed

When you begin to recover, (or to keep from burnout) you have these feelings in the recovery stage:

·     Freedom

·     Carefree

·     Peace

·     Mellow

·     Relieved

·     Open to new

The key is to get to the recovry mode and then after recovery, move into that direction whenever you start to be in the survival mode.  How do you do that?  Carve out time for:


R&R, in general

Creativity (and not just for work)

Thinking and reflection

BURNOUT, it is not all the employee’s fault!  REMEMBER:

A while ago I sat with someone and we talked through some of the stress she is facing at work.  It’s a lot of stress, and I cannot imagine how that company system is going to continue. The level of expectation on employees and the speed of change is no sustainable.

You see, the company has decided to take the term “Agile”and apply it to everyone and everything in the whole company:  work faster, smarter, more flexible, ever more responsibility.  

Except there is a big problem:  people are human and there is a limitto the speed and efficiency they can reach and work at in a sustainable manner. At my friend’s work place burnout is common and heart attacks and strokes happen, and not just to “fat old men”.  

This expectancy of ever more perfect employees is a worrisome pattern in many of today’s leading companies.  Agile is not just for R&D/Tech., it’s an excuse for companies to use and abuse their employees.  Yet their employees are the company’s most valuable asset, and many of them are now sick with burnout and other stress-related illnesses.

Here is what the World Health Organization says about burnout:

“Over the past 20 years one of the most significant changes to workplaces in industrialized countries has been the relative decline in permanent full-time employment and a corresponding growth of what has been termed precarious employment or contingent work arrangements… Widespread and often repeated restructuring/downsizing and outsourcingby large private and public employers has increased insecurityamongst workers previously presumed to have secure jobs.”  All this causes burnout.  “And burnout syndrome includes the following three dimensions: 

emotional exhaustion; 
depersonalization; and
reduced personal accomplishment

Locally speaking, according to KMU Magazin,  (nr. 2, 2009), Switzerland has aburnout bill of over 18 billion francs!  That is an amazingly high number!  Companies need to realize that this phenomenon is not about the individual employee, but about the company culture, the company systemand when there is a seriously high level of long-term, stress-related illness and burnout, the company needs to look at itself and ask some questions about how they “do business”!

So, what can be done about this problem:  

·      First, have healthy expectationsof yourself, your co-workers and your employees.

·      Second, allow a culture of failure and learning becomethe norm.  Let yourself – and your team – grow from mistakes instead of trying to be like robots.

·      Third, when people start to experience burnout, do not shame them, but instead, help themto get the care they needas soon as possible.

·      Finally,create healthy work expectations and systems. Remember that you and your employees are humans, not machines.

This is just a beginning, but a necessary one to starting off towards sustainable growth and development, instead of using and abusing employees until they are not of any use to anyone anymore.

Here are some (non-exhaustive) signs of burnout:

·     You hate Sunday night because you have to go to work in the morning

·     Tiredness (often with insomnia), stress-related health problems, difficulty concentrating

·     Emotional problems like irritability, resentment, apathy, boredom

·     Making more mistakes than you usually do, uncommon procrastination

·     Conflicts are increasing, needing to prove or defend yourself in an unhealthy manner

·     Use of unhealthy coping mechanisms (drugs/alcohol, food, shopping)

·     Withdrawal, inner emptiness, depression

Even though it is not just the responsibility of the employee, if you are starting to experience burnout, here are some things you can do:

·      Focus on your (home, not work) relationships- talk about your feelings and frustrations with trusted friends and family.

·      Do things that you can change, be in controlof (google Coveys’ list of things you can change).

·      Choose to believe that your (good) actions will lead to (good) feelings—in other words, fight against negativity with positive actions, not just words.

·      Accept yourself as good enoughand be realistic about your goals and expectations

·      Pay attention to your emotional and physical needs.  Listen to your body and give it some good care.

·      Maybe you need to do some soul searching about what (and how) you are doing for work.  Maybe you need to change some things.  Take time to reflecton this.

I wish you a very healthy – and – sustainable spring!

Patricia Jehle