Burnout was a big problem even before the pandemic, but recent events have clearly exacerbated its effects. As a collective we are more stressed, unhappy, fearful, frustrated, bored and unhealthy than we were six months ago. In May 2020, 75% of finance professionals and 73% of tech industry counterparts confessed to feeling burnt, according to a new report by Blind & Journify.
WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT BURNOUT
Burnout is something that it’s not new to us. It usually happens when we are unable to cope with the speed or the multitude of things that need our attention.
The key is to understand and make distinctions around:
- What we can and cannot control?
- What is our responsibility?
- Knowing this how do we want to respond?
What we can and cannot control?
The key question to ask is why is burnout happening in the first place? Life’s nature is to throw different challenges on the way so we will inevitably go through chaos at times.
As businesses and individuals we need to focus on building resilience. What do I mean by resilience? It’s our ability to solve problems, make effective choices and go through the discomfort these problems re-enact in us. As human beings and as businesses we like certainty, we like routine, we like to be in control. However, challenging situations are as far away as possible from this. Life and business nowadays are characterised by VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous).
Therefore as businesses and individuals the conversations need to change to focus on what is it within our control, because that is what we can influence. It is unlikely that the environment will change from a VUCA lens but what we can do is change how we respond.
What is our responsibility?
As someone that has experienced burnout in their life, I have learnt that as an individual there is a lot of responsibility I did not take at the time. So when we look at responsibility or anything to do with wellbeing we need to look at it in 2 ways: what does the organisation need to do and what does the individual need to do.
As an individual, our life with its problems and decisions it’s solely our responsibility. It is not uncommon for us to blame work, society, politics, others for what is happening to us. However, stress is not caused by circumstances, it’s caused by our thoughts and feelings about the circumstances.
As an organisation, we need to be clear as to what is the role we play. Most of the times we respond to this question with the service or product we sell. However, that service and product to sell is redundant without the people in your organisation. So the role is to create an environment where people can grow and develop and get the best out of themselves. People burn out because they lack meaning, purpose, direction and guidance. And this is what as an organisation we need to give our people. As an employee battling with burnout I felt alone. Although I didn’t take responsibility, my organisation didn’t create the environment to help me. We need to create environments in which we build people not break them.
Knowing this how do we want to respond?
If we want to change our circumstances, as individuals we need to start to invest time, money and effort into understanding ourselves mind, body, heart and spirit. We need to stop waiting for our organisations to give us things (training, resources, etc). We need to move into a state of taking leadership of our life. If we fail to do this, life will become accidental rather than the work of a conscious human being.
As an organisation we need to be a lot more purposeful in creating this environment. If we think we are achieving it now we should think twice, because these chronic issues discovered through this report would not be happening if we did. We need to start to look at how we are genuinely helping people get the best out of themselves. When we look at doing wellbeing initiatives, as a leadership team, rather than leaving the responsibility to HR teams and providers, we should be the first ones to lead by example and get involved. Expecting our teams to take care of themselves, but you not putting the time, money and effort will not achieve anything. Think about it, ask your child to not argue with you and you casually argue with your partner in front of them. Why would they take your advice and guidance?
We need to move from reacting to VUCA environments to building resilience to VUCA environments.