by Shayne Thomas
24 Apr 2020
Adding Another Crisis to the Mix: Employee Burnout
A few tips for avoiding burnout when the world is, oddly enough, burning out
It’s bad enough that we’ve got a pandemic on our hands, one that seems to be relentlessly tearing through all corners of the world. Add to that the economic turmoil that it has caused.
So, the last thing any of us need is another crisis. After all, we’re already hanging by a thread.
Unfortunately, there is a new crisis bubbling below the surface right now called employee burnout—and it’s the real deal. Think of it like constantly feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but in spite of all your efforts to take that weight off, your to-do list keeps on getting longer and longer with each passing day.
And before you know it, day turns into night yet again; another day has passed without any respect to where the time might have gone. You might as well say that we are living in a perpetual Groundhog Day reality—with no real end in sight.
To put this into context, let’s look to the ephemeral wisdom of the Harvard Business Review:
“The lines between work and non-work are blurring in new and unusual ways, and many employees who are working remotely for the first time are likely to struggle to preserve healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. To signal their loyalty, devotion, and productivity, they may feel they have to work all the time. Afternoons will blend with evenings; weekdays will blend with weekends; and little sense of time off will remain.”
If after reading this snippet, you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, there’s a good chance that you are on the path—if not already there—towards employee burnout. At least the good news is, you’re able to detect the warning signs already.
But aside from the fact that many of us are suddenly finding ourselves in a remote working (translated: always at home) situation for the first time, which is a challenge in and of itself if you’re not accustomed to it, those of us who are still working have an added layer of guilt. When you see millions upon millions of people declaring unemployment, you can’t help but feel thankful to be gainfully employed during a full-on economic meltdown.
And that probably weighs on your shoulders, too, because even though you are exhausted and working all hours of the day, incapable of finding any semblance of work-life balance, you keep up your intimate relationship with your computer because, perhaps deep down inside, you feel a little guilty. Or maybe you’re jealous because everyone around you is binging on their favorite series while you’re toiling away day and night without any breaks.
So right now, if what I’ve written hasn’t caused you to dive off the deep end yet and fizzle into a frazzled pile of burnout, take a deep breath. You owe it to yourself. And use these few seconds that you’re finally giving to yourself to think about what changes, even if they are super small, you can make to walk yourself away from the burnout ledge, little by little.
Mental health and wellness during any crisis is paramount. And given that we, at Cornerstone, truly care about the success and well-being of employees worldwide, many of whom are struggling to find balance or peace of mind during these turbulent times, we thought we’d share a couple of easy tips for avoiding burnout before it happens.
1. Keep meetings short
When you’re working from home and literally have nowhere else to go—so much for the days of working in coffee shops, right?—it’s easy to become all-consumed by the work in front of you. Even worse, because we have nothing else to do, it becomes almost habitual these days to create more work (sometimes out of nothing) whenever there’s a moment of calm.
But even so, part of managing our sanity is tied directly to managing our time. If you find your days filled with back-to-back meetings, with no time to get actual work done, you need to make a big change, fast. One incredibly effective way of doing this is by setting new expectations around the length of meetings. Why stick to the normal 30-minute, 45-minute, or 1-hour meeting time frames when, in all honesty, most conversations right now can likely be addressed and resolved within 20 minutes or less?
Part of why people are working so much right now is because, in the absence of a normal office-based work schedule, with natural pauses in between, it becomes all too easy to plan your day at home with no breaks because, again, what else is there to do? But work still needs to get done, and being on Zoom calls all day isn’t going to help you achieve that. So say good-bye to long meetings and find new ways of syncing up with colleagues, clients, vendors, and other business partners, so that you have more time to get your work done. The time you save by not being in meetings is the time you can finally spend meditation (in the event that you had set that as a goal when stay-at-home orders went into effect).
2. Set a schedule
When working from home, it’s even more important to draw a line in the sand around work time and personal time. Otherwise, the two have this funny way of blending together quickly.
To avoid getting caught in the trap of work co-opting your entire new way of life, set expectations about working hours with your manager and your team—and actually stick to them (which means, avoid the temptation to make return visits to your computer after you’ve officially signed-off for the day).
Truth be told, this isn’t always easy, especially if you have a lot of work piling on your plate. Being able to tune out at your set “shutting down” time is tough when you know you have so many things to do. So, in setting your boundaries, be realistic. Giving yourself a 10am-4pm schedule every day might not be the most sensible these days. But working until the wee hours of the night—every night—is not the answer either.
3. Seek out motivation
Times like these are true opportunities for self-betterment. Education and learning is a great way to ignite inspiration from within and feel a sense of accomplishment in something other than work. In fact, since February, we’ve seen a 40% increase in the number of our customers logging into Cornerstone for Learning and three times as much engaging in mobile learning via the Cornerstone app.
All this goes to show is that the best way to avoid or overcome burnout (if you’re already there), is to invest in yourself. Have you always wanted to learn a new skill? Have you been putting off learning a new language? Are there DIY tutorials that you’ve had open in your tabs forever but haven’t found the time to watch? This is the time to give back to you.
A little self-nourishment goes a long way when we feel like our world is revolving endlessly around work. If you can set a learning goal or a set of goals for yourself, between now and whenever we are able to go back to our offices, then you’ve successfully carved out a little time just for yourself. And the more you dive into the things you love and things you’re genuinely interested in, the more you’ll see just how important it is to create balance.
Let’s work together to avoid employee burnout
As a closing thought, it’s important for us to remember that we’re all virtually (no pun intended) in the same boat right now. That means we must support each other and create the space for well-being and happiness to take center stage. Whether you’re a manager overseeing your team remotely or a fellow colleague seeing that one of your team members is potentially falling into a downward spiral, it’s important now, more than ever before, for us to stand by each other and be the support systems that we so desperately need.
Remember, although many of us are working from, some of us are doing it all alone. No family. No kids. No significant others. No pets. Just us. This can be a disastrous recipe for replacing the total void of human contact and non-stop work. So, if someone on your team fits this bill, please go the extra mile to check-in regularly to make sure they’re not inadvertently driving themselves crazy. The only way we can get through this in one piece is if we stick together.
So, take care of yourselves and the people you work with. Let’s not allow employee burnout to become yet another crisis we face at such a difficult and challenging time. And if you need help doing that, the team at Cornerstone is here to support you however we can. Learn more today