The buzzword “burnout” may be making its way through the latest news cycle, but it’s nothing new for workers young and old. However, it is now such a phenomenon that the World Health Organization has officially classified it as a contributing factor to other health problems, defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Like many, I have experienced workplace burnout. In a previous role, my phone would buzz with emails and text message at all hours of the night, weekends and holidays. It made me super anxious until I decided to take my life back. If you want to take your life back, too, below is a list of easy-to-implement actions to help reduce burnout.
1. Work Normal(ish) Hours Whenever Possible
Not everyone works a nine-to-five schedule, but we should all strive to work an eight- to nine-hour workday when possible. Sure, workflow and extenuating circumstances will change that from time to time, but 10-12 hour days should not be the norm. A Gallup study shows that Americans work on average 47 hours each week, with 40 percent clocking 50+ hours. Alarmingly, 25 percent of salaried workers report working an average of 60+ hours each week.
While some argue that their job requires excessive hours, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos – one of the most successful businessmen in the world – works a healthy schedule. He starts each morning eating breakfast at home, then makes his way into the office. Most of his important meetings are completed before noon and he insists on calling it a day by 5 p.m. If Jeff Bezos can run one of the world’s biggest companies during traditional work hours, the rest of us should be able to complete our daily work in a similar fashion.
2. Show Your Worth, But Don’t Become Overworked
So how do you prove your value working a roughly eight-hour day? Early in our career, we often feel pressure to work extra hours to show our worth. It’s understandable as we all strive to climb the ladder of success. But rather than simply putting in excess hours, employees should consider seeking ways to increase their worth through 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. Check out these time management tips for inspiration to get more out of your day.
3. Take Your Allotted Vacation Time
Do you feel like taking vacation will reflect poorly? It can actually prolong your life according to research presented in a 50-year-long study. I will argue that those who think they can’t afford time away from the office are likely the ones who need decompressing the most. While I’m a proponent of taking at least one full week’s vacation each year, anyone who feels that is too much at once should consider three- or four-day weekends. This way you can still unwind over a long weekend, but not feel as though there will be too much work to come back to upon 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 your more productive, less stressed and less anxious.
4. Turn Off Devices
In its home country, Volkswagen is so supportive of its workers’ right to disconnect that it freezes 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.
While the U.S. has a long way to go, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki recently told Fast Company that she has a policy at home where electronic devices are ignored from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. If the CEO of a massive tech company can ignore her email for three hours every evening, so can you. Sure, there are special projects that will need heightened attentiveness, but you and your family deserve a few hours of disconnectedness EVERY DAY.
5. Change of Scenery
While some office environments require daily in-person attendance – or think they do – others allow employees to work remotely on occasion. According to a 2018 survey by FlexJobs, the impact that work flexibility (things like remote work, flexible hours, and reduced schedules) can have is so great that 97 percent of people say having a more flexible job would have a “huge” or “positive” impact on their quality of life.
An office culture supportive of flexibility has proven to be a godsend for me, as I began working via virtual office one day a week approximately a year ago. Once a week, I work from home and allow my work and home life to blend throughout the day. It allows me to try out different coffee shops around town and visit the library often – two things I wouldn’t do otherwise.
Just this one small change in my work schedule has provided a whole new wave of energy and enthusiasm to my work week. 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 first-hand 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 and just returned from a 10-day vacation refreshed and ready to go.