Executive Career Burnout in London
16 April 2021
Burnout is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion resulting from prolonged and excessive stress. It often occurs when one feels emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and unable to meet continuous demands. The stress piles up, and one loses motivation and interest that had led them to take up a particular project or role. It saps your energy, reduces your productivity, and will leave you feeling resentful, hopeless, cynical, and helpless.
Burnout is more severe than the stress you may face every day at work and handle easily. It makes it hard for you to function since you lose interest in everything, and you do not have the energy to participate or work on anything. Suppose you are dedicated to your work, and you often find it easy to manage everyday stress at work effectively. In that case, it will become very upsetting to find out that you suddenly cannot cope, even more so when your expectations differ from reality.
After the pandemic hit and people had to work from home, most London employees admit to having worked way past their regular working hours. A lot of workers have felt close to burnout ever since they started working from home. If you are not self-aware, you may not be able to tell when you or a colleague gets to the brink of executive burnout. Therefore, it is essential to know what signs you need to look out for so you can keep an eye on both you and your colleagues. This copy will highlight some of the signs that indicate burnout.
The Origin of the Term Burnout
Burnout results from long-term work stress that has not been resolved. Burnout originates from author Graham Greene in his 1961 novel, A Burnout Case. He coined this phrase to describe an intensely exhausted doctor who worked in Belgian Congo treating patients with leprosy. Burnout started being used in psychology in 1974, when Herbert Freudenberger, a researcher, published a paper and used the term. The term was inspired by studying volunteers who worked at a free clinic for drug addicts.
In his paper, burnout was characterized as:
- Closed thinking
- Bad temper
- Cognitive, physical, and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive demands at work
- Career led, and personal accomplishments are seriously reduced
- Disengagement from others
- Acting, seeming and looking depressed
Why Executive Burnout Happens
The advancement of technology has brought about different shifts in all sectors. The work sector keeps getting complex by the day, and because of the digital element in most, if not all workspaces, going home when the day ends does not mean that one is done with work. Currently, with some people still working from home, it is even worse. For instance, with a smartphone, your boss has access to you at all times of the day and night. This may lead you to feel like you are constantly working but not accomplishing much because your role has grown dramatically, and you are taking up more work, which ends up with you doing work meant for two people.
Most companies have performance targets that keep getting more challenging every year. It is becoming impossible to find personal fulfilment at work. The improvement in technology also makes more people get laid off since their services are no longer needed. When companies merge, different shareholders have different principles and interests, so it can be challenging for employees to keep up. Other factors like budget constraints and staff shortage can force existing employees to take on more responsibilities at work, which can take a toll on one. So it constantly feels like the more work you put in, the more you fall behind.
As mentioned earlier, when the pandemic first hit and people had to work from home, most people were close to burnout. This is because they kept taking on more work because it felt like they were not doing enough, people were getting laid off, so the tension of possibly losing one's job was high, and working from home is not as easy as it is painted to be. For instance, parents with children had to work and care for the children since they were out of school.
Who Can Suffer from Burnout
Anyone can suffer from burnout, but it happens to people who are high achievers in most cases. If you are a high achiever who finds it hard to say "no" to things and you constantly push yourself too hard, the minute you become an underachiever or a low achiever, it will depress you.
Suddenly your high motivation and drive to do things will plummet. Instead, you will be met by low motivation. You will experience overexertion and exhaustion. You will also be met with a lot of inconsistency, limiting your career and creating a lot of mixed and even odd performance-related interpretations and messages.
While it is essential to excel at work and do anything it takes to scale your career, you need to create a balance, especially if you are an overachiever. Things do not always have to be perfect, and you do not need to get everything done at once. Being a perfectionist and letting work consume you will lead you to burn out faster than you think. Currently, the average age of career burnout is 32years. Working too long and working too hard will lead one to burn out faster. If you can avoid it, do not take up a lot of work and rest after work hours.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
Most people, if not everyone, experiences those days where it requires a lot of strength to get out of bed. Those days can be characterized by feeling helpless, unappreciated, or overload. However, if you feel this daily, then you may be burnout. Burnout does not happen overnight. It is a process that is gradual. When you notice the early symptoms, please address them to prevent a major breakdown.
Some of the signs include:
- Feeling tired and drained most of the time
- Withdrawal from responsibilities
- Feeling defeated, trapped, and helpless
- Frequent headaches and a change in your sleeping pattern
- Negative outlook and decreased satisfaction
- Skipping work
How You Can Save Yourself from Burnout
As mentioned earlier, you need to be self-aware. It will be easy to protect yourself from burnout when you are self-aware. It will help you notice that you often say 'yes' when you ought to say 'no' because you cannot take on another project. You will also be aware of your tendency to set high goals for yourself and how you often overwork yourself.
When you become aware of these habits, you will begin to act differently. Getting to know yourself well, understanding how you operate, and being honest with yourself will help you learn to take action and step back before you get to the burnout stage. Listed below are some of the steps you can take to ensure that you do not burn out.
Learn to delegate work to other people. You do not always have to do everything by yourself. Most high achievers are also perfectionists, so they prefer to take up on all projects, so it is done to their standard of perfection. This will lead you to burnout. Whenever you have many workloads, distribute the responsibilities wisely and fairly among your colleagues instead of taking all of them by yourself. By delegating, you can get sufficient work to finish up on your part, and you are also not consumed by work, which is a win for you.
Learn to say 'no'. No will save you from a lot of stress and prevent you from burnout. Many people are afraid of saying no at work, and even when they know they need to say no, they say yes instead. You do not have to be rude when saying no. Politely decline to take on another project or assignment at work and ask if it can be reassigned to someone else, especially if you have a lot on your plate.
When you take on many projects at once, you will be forced to work past work hours to beat the deadlines. This will lead you to burn out fast because you will constantly have work that seems never-ending. Working extra hours and still not catching up and never seeming to have any free time whatsoever will make your work life so stressful, and you will eventually cave.
When you are self-aware, you can acknowledge if you are a perfectionist. Something you may not learn if you do not take time to reflect. If you are a perfectionist, try and tone it down at work. This is because no one can reach the perfectionism standard you have set in your head except you. Therefore, teach people or explain what you need them to do and try not to expect them to do it how you would have done it.
Everything does not always need to be perfect. Learn to take a step back and acknowledge that someone has done an excellent job and do not try to micromanage them or take it upon yourself to do all the projects. If you do not have the time to take on a project or a different role at work, let other people do it and focus on what you are working on.
Prioritisation is another aspect that can save you from burnout. Learn to prioritise tasks in order of their importance and deadlines. Sometimes you may have many different projects you are working on, but the deadlines are rarely the same. Therefore, create a schedule for the projects you are working on and prioritise them from one that needs most of your attention. You can delegate other projects to your colleagues and oversee how they run. This can help you significantly because you can focus on one project at a time instead of running multiple projects at a go.
It is essential to train all employees in the workplace to recognize and manage work-related stress to prevent burnout. This also favours the company because people are more productive when they are in a good mental state. It would be best if you also understood that everyone requires different activities to make them feel restored.
Having a wellness program at work may be a good start. Ensure that you have a social life outside work since it can help a great deal. Do things that you enjoy, activities that make you feel happy, and recharged outside work. It will prevent you from experiencing burnout.
Some companies are incorporating burnout programs into the workplace. These programs often focus on mental and physical relaxation techniques, didactic stress management, cognitive restructuring, AKA CBT, and cognitive-behavioural therapy. You can also take the initiative to employ healthy habits in your routine. For instance, take a break from technology, set boundaries, have a healthy sleep schedule, exercise regularly, eat healthy meals, and have a relaxing morning routine ritual.
The Key to Your Anti-Burnout Strategy
Once you learn to be self-aware, you can look after yourself and learn your limits. This will lead to your ultimate success. You need to identify what stress levels are good and bad. Learning the difference is vital in ensuring you are productive, but you are also not expending too much of your energy, leading to you burning out. It would be best to stay productive at work, but it is essential to learn the right balance between unending productivity and little productivity. Step out of your comfort zone but do not do it all at once. Start small, step by step, and you will get there eventually.
Ensure that you practice mindfulness. Study shows that it significantly improves your stress resilience. There are various apps and tutorials online that you can use to guide you to practice mindfulness. Practice meditation or enrol for yoga. You will notice that you are more productive at work, and you always start your day on the right note. Ensure that you also exercise for at least thirty minutes every day. The exercises do not have to be intense, it could be as simple as taking a walk, dancing, or swimming. Pay attention to how your body feels when you are partaking in these exercises.
Take a break. If you are an executive facing career burnout, step back and sought help. People experience burnout differently, so the treatment options will vary from person to person. Seek professional help, especially if the condition is severe. When you take time off, re-evaluate your priorities and pay attention to what you feel and why you feel that.
Facing burnout is a sign that something in your life is not right or is not working how it should be. Therefore, it is essential to set aside time to think about your goals, dreams, and hopes. Learn to take a break to reflect, rest, and heal. Do not allow work to take over your life to a point where you have no social life, and you never have time to do things that make you happy. When you need a break, take a break. Whatever you do, set aside time to relax and get enough sleep.
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