THE BURNOUT ISSUES FACED BY PROFESSIONALS IN THEIR DAILY WORK ENVIRONMENT
Work anxiety, deadlines, multitasking, relentless travel, long hours of work, project milestones and similar indulgences put an inordinate demand on one’s time. There are various pressures, many of which are self-induced but at what stage of buckle is it considered burnout? We experience the above daily and keep rationalizing to ourselves that it is part of the career choices we make but when does one start experiencing burnout? Burnout doesn’t have an elastic point where one fine day one is debilitated by it.
Burnout is the result, the manifestation, of systematic and disciplined abuse of thoughts that are scripted by oneself and passed on to one’s own head without adequate inference filters. It is based upon one’s perception of the world around us and some awry interpretations. It is the accumulation of calamitous thoughts over a period of time that changes one’s coping mechanism from an initial ‘confident and enthusiastic’ to a later ‘diffident and withdrawn’ sort of behaviour. Life transitions into a burnout phase when a few of these symptoms manifest:
Burnout doesn’t happen merely due to accumulation of tasks and deadlines. Top leaders have been inundated with many tasks; some military leaders have been overwhelmed with the enormity of their mission, while many have negotiated it with admirable tact. In such situations one finds resourcefulness to delegate tasks effectively, manage chunks of work efficiently and use the available ecosystem intelligently. Sounds deceptively simple but for this to happen, to get the right validation and appreciation, one’s performance has to transcend excellence hence is a kind of spiralling concept awaiting a trigger either by oneself or by the organization. Triggering it oneself is the best strategy.
It is when one feels unappreciated that actually sparks the discomfiting rudiments which if consistently unaddressed, aggregates itself into a burnout. Inaction and indecision are the two key contributing factors to burnout. How much harm can stress and burnouts create? It would suffice it to say that unmanaged stress can be fatal.
SEVEN RULES TO PREVENT PROBABLE BURNOUT
1. Cognitive awareness is the first step in addressing burnout – an awareness that something is amiss and ability to confront it and handle it. Addressing the ‘Incident-Thought-Emotion-Feeling’ quartet is the most fundamental amongst remedial measures.
2. Organizations need to toughen employees to withstand workplace stressors.
3. Meditation, yoga, laughter, breathing, stress busters, exercise, recreation, work-life balance, relationships all augment the cause in state preservation as a therapeutic prelude to prevent a burnout.
4. Mindfulness, ability to pay attention, powers of concentration, obliterate distractions, quiet the mind, focus on the present, eliminating past constraints and so forth are also key attributes to prevent a burnout.
5. Empowerment, delegation, autonomy, abrogate micromanagement are a few business practices organizations can indulge in to mollify burnout at the workplace.
6. Money is not the panacea for all problems but a well architected reward and incentive mechanism alleviates stress.
7. Psychotherapy: This is a deeper, long-term cure and a sturdy interventionist approach.
CREATIVE MEANS ADOPTED BY VARIOUS FIRMS TO PLACATE BURNOUT AND RETAIN EMPLOYEE ENTHUSIASM:
+ Google: Has a 20% rule. One day in a week programmers can spend time working on a project of their own design. Most of these projects are used internally and if there is immense potential a few of these projects also emerge in the public domain and this is how Google weaves their creativity over their internet real estate.
+ Mercedes-Benz USA: Offers 175 instructor-led training sessions every year, more than 250 e-courses, up to $8,000 per year in tuition reimbursement, and job shadowing.
+ Ernst & Young: In 2011 they launched the ‘EY Connect Day’. Employees logged over 38,000 volunteer hours and celebrated in 60 locations in the Americas.
+ Accenture: Spends $600 million each year on training and development.
+ Volkswagen: Its servers no longer forward emails to employees’ work phones between 6:15pm and 7:00am.
U.S. businesses lose an estimated $300 billion a year to stress, according to the American Psychological Association. The UK loses over £15 billion a year due to workplace stress. Stress cannot be totally avoided. As the pace of business accelerates and newer products/services come to market, demand on employees to sustain a competitive advantage immensely increases. Stress will be part of the system but the answer lies in its manageability and orchestration with better coping mechanisms to prevent reaching the point of burnout.
Nandu Menon is the Managing Director of Headstride Ltd, and also a leadership coach and speaker. firstname.lastname@example.org
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