Take These Steps to Reduce Burnout

BY Tim Londergan
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A healthy work-​life balance is critical to effective management. Increasingly, leaders face complex levels of stress assisting colleagues through conflicts every day. Indeed, managing people and coaching employees require a healthy mental attitude. However, when stress is overwhelming, energy dissipates, negativity creeps in and there’s nothing left to give. Organizations that are aware of the consequences of tremendous pressure are better able to reduce burnout for their executives and restore positive equilibrium.

Reduce burnout by recognizing the signs

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout to the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon. To clarify, WHO details this sensation NOT as a medical condition, but one reason for which people should contact health services. Further, WHO lists the symptoms of “chronic workplace stress” in three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion”
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or negativism or cynicism related to the job”
  • Reduced professional efficacy”

Incredibly, WHO states that burnout is defined in the “occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.” Good luck with that! The blurred lines of life and work are not clear cut. In fact, a friend who is a single mom and insurance executive told me, “Stress is such a part of my life; I hardly recognize it as stress anymore.”

Reliance on resilient teams can reduce burnout

Going it alone is out of the question. Undeniably, the complexities of today’s work environment are beyond the scope of a single person’s effectiveness. However, since the bulk of organizational work is done by teams, there are opportunities to reduce burnout by taking specific action. Below are several steps recommended by Paula Davis, JD, MAAP and CEO of the Stress and Resilience Institute. As a contributor to the Knowledge at Wharton series, she suggests less obvious ways to prevent burnout.

  • Save time by creating templates for consistently repetitive tasks.
  • Assign a team member to monitor your industry and report on emerging issues.
  • Determine ways to support each other when signs of burnout arise.

Pace yourself to reduce burnout

There is no downtime in business anymore. Furthermore, it’s impossible to control the demands of your work environment and the velocity of requests. However, you can control how you and your co-​workers navigate the terrain. Greg Shea, adjunct professor at the Wharton School contributes to an article that urges managers to take a breather and suggests pacing techniques. Here are several:

  • Establish a “Not to Do” list – Occasionally, your team is asked to do things outside the scope of its designated purpose. Staying true to your achievable goals, getting results and saying no to excessive requests can reduce burnout.
  • Take advantage of breaks in the action – Importantly, stepping away from work, both mentally and physically is healing. Learn to anticipate naturally occurring breaks and have a plan to exploit them.
  • Compel workers to take vacations – Enforcing vacation time is a recognized way to alleviate stress and increase productivity.

Embrace mindful meditation

Notably, short periods of meditation help to promote rational thinking. Meditation helps people focus on the present moment rather than spend energy on the past or the future. What’s more, meditation can reduce stress, improve focus and help regulate emotions. This article from the Wharton School directed at senior leadership shows how major companies use mindful meditation to improve decision-making.

Additionally, the authors provide effective meditation techniques and ways to fit this practice into your daily routine. They are quick to note that meditation doesn’t require you to set aside time. On the contrary, this practice can be spontaneous. Merely focusing on your breathing, ignoring distractions and letting go of thoughts for 10 or 15 minutes can help you become present and centered. Meditation is a direct pathway leading to your best thinking.

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash