After a long 18 months of living in the pandemic environment, firms are beginning to more fully Return to Office (RTO). From recent conversations with our clients, we are hearing about a new challenge which is staff burnout.
Having made it through the pandemic in very successful ways, organizations are now seeing that their people have reached a point of exhaustion. While we had moments of this throughout the pandemic, burnout seems to be taking a higher toll at this time. Our blog aims to highlight distinctions about burnout and offer some suggestions that can help you navigate burnout for yourself and your team.
What is Burnout?
“Burnout” was first coined by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975 and is marked by exhaustion, feelings of depersonalization, and a lowered sense of accomplishment from extended periods of stress. Pause here: think about our 24/7 lifestyle and constant worry and lack of social connection during Covid.
In the book, Burnout by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski, they affirm the key dimensions of burnout and offer some insights. One is that emotional exhaustion happens from a drain of caring too much; I suspect nearly all of us have been caring so much for our well-being and others throughout the pandemic. You can listen to a summary of this book on goop podcasts.
- Our stress cycle response is triggered any time our brain perceives a threat, and like any cycle, there is a beginning, middle, and end. Until the cycle completes, the stress stays with us.
- Burnout rises when we have been living in an emotional state over a period of time. Think about being in all the uncertainty of Covid, the juggling of worry about our jobs, organizations, families, etc. This dimension includes unresolved emotions, so as the delta variant comes forward, it’s another example of being stuck in a state of anxiety.
- Burnout stays around when we do not “end” the stress or stressor. Again, we are living in this longer transitional state of not knowing, yet we are also extending our days with work and family jobs 24/7. This leads to not having time to feel our emotions which also keeps them stuck.
- As emotions are “stuck,” they deplete energy and can even lead to physical issues.
Actions we can take:
- PAUSE and notice if you are feeling stuck, depleted, etc. Try to notice what emotions you are feeling.
- Check-in with yourself and notice what you are feeling. Allow yourself time to feel.
- Use physical engagement to process feelings and help your body feel safe completing the stress cycle.
- If the stressor is something you can control, move to problem-solving. If it is not something you can control, use positive reappraisal.
- Engage in affection and connection for 20 seconds. A hug works really well! Again, this signals our body we are safe.
Humans are social beings, and organizations are social structures. Yet, our time in Covid has really limited this connection and has diminished feelings of accomplishment, closure, and celebration for work completed.
- To help your teams, make time for connecting with people about their lives, how they are feeling, etc.
- Make sure you mark the end of projects and work phases, forming a completion of work.
- Tie assignments to bigger purposes and show how work has meaning beyond a task.
- Make sure your team members take time away from the computer to engage in outdoor activities!
As a leader, reflect on the dimensions of burnout and implement two actions to re-introduce connection, physical engagement, breaks, etc. More to come on another key finding in our next blog.
Read more here: https://hbr.org/2021/02/beyond-burned-out