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June 5th, 2019
Burnout – a phrase coined in the 70’s that Psychology Today describes as a “state of chronic stress that leads to physical and mental exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment”.
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, unusual levels of irritability and criticism, apathy and feeling overwhelmed in noisy or busy places? All of these are symptoms of burnout. Remind you of anyone? If so, you’re not alone…
High performers are most at risk. The “always on” people-pleasing perfectionists, that never turn projects down and work longer hours are likely to suffer from stress and burnout.
Unsurprisingly though, most of the nation identify as being “stressed”.
• In 2018 half of all employee absence was due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety.
• 300,000 Brits lose their jobs every year due to stress.
• The Government’s Thriving at work report concluded that this costs the UK economy £42bn.
• Employee assistance programme provider ComPsych found that 59% of all employees describe themselves as “highly stressed” with the top three causes being workload (39%), people issues (31%), and juggling work with their personal life (19%).
These shocking statistics cannot be ignored. Now, more than ever before, is the time to act!
So, what can Businesses do to make a difference?
Just as it’s important to get fresh air for your well-being, it’s also important to get exercise. The next time you plan a meeting you have why not suggest a standing or walking meeting? These are generally 33% shorter than usual seated ones so it’s a win-win situation – exercise and more time!
Encourage staffs to take regular breaks from their screens and workstations. Lead by example and go for a short walk. Let’s get air into the lungs of your employees. Understand that workers need to take personal phone calls, take breaks and have chats to their colleagues in order to feel refreshed and happy to conduct their daily tasks. Trust in them not to take liberties.
According to ComPsych, 31% of work stress is caused by people issues. If you’re aware of tensions and problems between staff, try and resolve the disputes through mediation. It doesn’t always work out as you would quite like, but employees will acknowledge the effort to restore working relations. At the very least, it should encourage a more civil atmosphere in the office.
Working long hours has long been linked with depression, anxiety and even coronary heart disease. To prevent over-work, it’s important that we ensure that workers have enough “down time”. How about introducing a policy of no emails between 7pm and 7am may help colleagues from feeling like they don’t always have to be “on” and obliged to respond to emails out of working hours?
The good news is that workplaces are shifting from reactive to much more proactive management of employee well-being. Regular reviews, one-to-one sessions and surveys can help managers identify workload issues and problems their employees are facing. Make employee happiness your priority. We have a saying at ACS that “happy teams are productive teams”.
And how can you make a difference to help yourself?
If you feel that you ought to do something that you don't want to do or have time to do and isn't your responsibility, don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes, when you give an inch people will take a mile. If you find yourself questioning why you have been regularly asked to do something that isn’t in your job description by a peer, something might not be right. Speak up and ask your manager for support in turning down requests that needn’t be your responsibility.
Other people’s expectations of you probably have a lot to answer for (unfortunately, so do your own) and it’s important that you don’t end up being a victim of your own success! You don’t need to be perfect all the time and please everybody, so make sure you set realistic expectations. A very wise man once told me to “never bend over backwards for someone that’s not prepared to move forwards”. Now, I’m not exactly sure what he meant by this, but it struck a chord. Presumably, he meant that it’s important to be wary and make your own needs and tasks a priority.
When you feel stressed it can sometimes feel like you never get anything completed and your to-do list doesn’t get any shorter. Time management is a difficult beast, so here are some suggestions to save you time:
• Speak on the phone or face-to-face rather than sending emails and recoup many minutes of time spent fruitlessly going back and forth.
• Write a list of what absolutely must be done. Order your list by priority (or add numbers next to each task on your list) and focus on the most important tasks, those that have looming deadlines or those that you want to complete first.
• Avoid the urge to multitask – try and focus on one thing at once rather than flitting between tasks.
The best food for your physical and mental well-being is whole food – such as wholegrain cereals, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. As we all know, it’s important to get our five a day and fruit and veg are easy ways of helping our body and mind function well. It needn’t be a chore – even on-the-go smoothies and frozen vegetables such as peas and sweetcorn count as one of your 5 a day.
ACS was taught the following one-minute meditation technique during our recent Stress Busters workshop, ran by our 2019 charity partner, mental health charity, The Cellar Trust.
Just take 60 seconds to:
• Sit with your eyes closed and your spine straight.
• Focus on your breathing. Imagine a balloon in your tummy - when you breathe in, the balloon inflates, when you breathe out it deflates.
• If thoughts come into your mind, simply acknowledge them then bring your attention back to your breathing.
• If you notice sounds, physical feelings, and emotions just bring your attention back to your breathing.
After one minute of doing this you should feel more focused and less stressed.
Want more advice? Find out more about our Charity of the year, The Cellar Trust, here