Burnout is more than just overwork; it’s become a peril to our well-being.
The World Health Organization has classified it as a contributing factor to significant health problems, defining it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
There are recourses, though. Here are easy-to-implement actions to reduce burnout:
1. Work normal hours whenever possible. Not everyone works a 9-to-5 schedule, but we should all strive to maintain an eight- to nine-hour workday when possible. Sure, workflow and extenuating circumstances will change that from time to time, but 10- to 12-hour days should not be the norm. A Gallup study shows that Americans work 47 hours each week on average, with 40% clocking 50+ hours. Alarmingly, 25% of salaried workers report working an average of 60+ hours each week. Some might argue that their job requires excessive hours, but consider this: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos works a healthy schedule. He wraps up most important meetings by noon, and he calls it a day by 5 p.m. If he can adhere to traditional work hours, so should the rest of us.
2. Show your worth, but don’t become overworked. How do you prove your value working a roughly eight-hour day? Early in our careers, as we strive to climb the ladder of success, we often feel pressure to work extra hours to show our worth. Rather than putting in excess hours, employees should focus on efficiency and improved process. Any smart manager will find an efficient worker to be the most valuable, even in an industry that lives by billable hours.
3. Take your allotted vacation time. Do you feel that taking a vacation would reflect poorly on you? It can actually prolong your life, according to a 50-year study. Those who think they can’t afford time away from the office probably need decompressing the most. If you’re averse to taking off for a full week or two, consider three- or four-day weekends. That way you can still unwind over a long weekend, but not feel as though there will be too much work awaiting your return. Whether it’s a few days at a time or a full week, take time off. Not only have you earned it, but it will also make you more productive, less stressed and less anxious.
4. Turn off devices. In its home country, Volkswagen freezes business email from 6:15 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day, allowing employees to spend quality time away from work. Some European countries are even phasing in “right to disconnect laws” that protect employees from feeling the need to work each evening.
5. Find a change of scenery. Though some businesses require daily in-person attendance (or think they do), others allow employees to work remotely, at least on occasion. According to a 2018 survey by FlexJobs, 97% of people say having a more flexible job would have a “huge” or “positive” impact on their quality of life. If it’s an option, work remotely on occasion. If not, a simple change of scenery within your office can provide a refreshing new outlook.
If you’re feeling burnout, or on the edge, I hope these tips give you the motivation to make some changes. Drawing on my firsthand experience, I can guarantee that a little goes a long way to creating a healthy work and life environment.
Steve Diehlman is an account director at Stratacomm Detroit. A version of this post first appeared on the Stratacomm blog.