By Rose Radford, below
Burnout. It’s a word you may be all too familiar with due to its frequent use in recent years. But behind what often feels like a catch-all buzzword in the business world, is a very serious consequence to mental and physical health that impacts more than the person experiencing burnout or burnout symptoms. According to new research commissioned by LumApps, a leading Employee Experience platform, 88% of UK employees have experienced at least some level of burnout over the past two years, with one third claiming to frequently suffer from physical and mental exhaustion due to pressures in the workplace.
A question I often ask is: Is burnout on the rise because of the fast-paced world in which we live and work, or has it always been this way, but people are now more open when it comes to talking about their experiences?
Who does it affect?
Burnout can affect anyone at any stage, whether you’re an independent business owner building your business from scratch or an SME that’s scaling and expanding and investing in new technologies, products or employees. What we all need to do, regardless of the size of our business, is understand the warning signs and put plans in place to support everyone within the workforce, so that symptoms don’t turn into something more serious.
Where does it stem from?
Burnout can arise from a variety of causes, not merely the cliché idea of overworking for too long without devoting enough time to rest. The roots can actually go much deeper and stem from the meaning and purpose you place on your role within the workplace. As the founder of a business, are you fully aligned with the business that you’ve created? And more importantly, are you hiring employees who share your vision and mission and are motivated and driven to achieve the same end goal?
If you’re focused on doing the very thing you feel you were born to do, and it brings you joy and satisfaction then it’s almost impossible to feel burnt out from it, no matter how hard you happen to be working.
When it comes to the team, it’s important for you to check in with them to ensure they’re still on the same page as you in terms of the direction the business is heading. Do they still believe in the mission and purpose of your brand? Do they feel supported in the work that they’re doing? Are they recognised for the skills and talent they bring to the table? Is their workload evenly distributed?
A team is only as strong as its weakest player, so it’s important to distribute work in a way that allows people to accelerate their strengths and dismiss their weaknesses, knowing that that weakness is the strength of someone else.
During the recruitment process it’s too easy to expect one person to be able to perform many tasks in a mediocre manner, when actually, the growth and the success of the business relies on having the best people to do the job.
Can burnout be avoided?
Absolutely, yes! The most important factor is to understand what it is and how it can arise so that you can spot the warning signs early.
When I experienced burnout I didn’t know much about it, so I wish I’d have seen more content about it on social media, so that I could recognise the warning signs early and communicate those signs to the team too. Now that we’re better educated it’s brought us closer as a team as we’re more mindful of the warning signs and we’re better equipped to have those conversations and make any necessary changes.
Here are my five top tips on how to support yourself and your team and stop burnout from happening:
1. Ask yourself difficult questions. It’s really easy to get caught up in progressing your career, or building a business, that you’ll forget to pause, take a breath and reflect on what is actually going on. Are you doing something that you believe in? Does it light you up and bring you joy? Or are you doing it because it’s become second nature?
If you truly love what you do then it may be time to take on extra team members so that you can delegate tasks to them, giving you even more space to scale the business that you love. If you’re employed and find that you’re stuck on the hamster wheel, then this is an opportune moment to have an honest conversation with your manager or the head of HR and redefine your role so that it plays to your strengths and allows someone else to utilise their strengths in replace of the things you’re not so good at.
2. Flex your self awareness muscle. If you’re a high-achiever you’ll love setting goals, but the reality is that you’ll often take on too much and feel like you’re constantly spinning plates, fearful that if one drops then they’ll all drop.
If you’re running your own business, ask your assistant to block out time in your diary so that you have time to take a break and catch your breath. Give them the autonomy to do that whenever they see that you’re taking on too much, rather than when it’s too late. If you don’t have an assistant then I’d highly recommend taking a CEO Day once a week, or once a fortnight, that way you’ll commit to taking time out in the same way that you’d commit to clients. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so it will better serve you, your team and your clients in the long run.
3. Take time out. Not just an afternoon here or there, but a proper break where you completely switch off for a week or two. Without breaks, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of pushing through and pushing isn’t an energy that creates ease and abundance. If anything, it starts to create a sense of lack, or even desperation, which clients and customers can sense a mile off. Not taking time out is the biggest motivation killer and once motivation disappears you can feel like you’re treading water, which will make you feel even worse about yourself and your business.
4. Automate as much of your business as possible, in a way that still feels genuine and authentic to you. If you’ve come from a corporate career then you’ve been led to believe that you always need to show up and do the work, but that’s not the case anymore. We now have access to systems and processes that can automate parts of our business and keep working while we’re asleep.
5. Set realistic goals. Are you setting goals based on your strengths and your desires? Or are you setting goals based on feeling like you need to prove yourself to yourself, or to other people? Setting boundaries can feel difficult if you’ve been taught to say yes to everything to please others, completely ignoring the fact that you’re not pleasing yourself. If you can be true to yourself and own your desires, then you’ll make better decisions along the way.
Goals are great for motivation, but it’s often the journey that teaches us the lessons and makes us better leaders and business owners. Saying that, if something isn’t achieved in the timeframe that you wanted, don’t think that the goal wasn’t achievable, it just wasn’t achievable in the timeframe that you set – deadlines can easily be extended!
Rose Radford is an award winning business & wealth coach & mentor. Tedx speaker, creator of The Evergreen Queen® & Millionaire Girl Next Door®.