If you’re struggling to balance personal and professional obligations right now, you’re far from alone.
The pandemic has had a nightmarish effect on almost all aspects of life. Juggling job responsibilities has been especially cumbersome for many of us, which is continuing to fuel alarming rates of workplace burnout. In fact, a FlexJobs survey found that 56% of respondents said they have experienced burnout during the pandemic, and 39% said their mental health is worse today than it was in January 2020.
What can we do to start striking a healthier balance? The first step is recognizing what burnout looks like. Then, it’s time to make some changes.
Spotting burnout, and plotting against it
According to FlexJobs, burnout is caused by unmanageable amounts of workplace stress, which typically manifests in three ways:
- Feeling exhausted or lacking energy
- Increased disengagement from your job (or feeling overly negative or cynical about it)
- Reduced productivity on the job
“Burnout” is a bit of an abstract concept, but you know it when you feel it. To paraphrase “Office Space,” if “every day is the worst day of your life,” it’s high time to make some drastic changes.
But what leads to such a sad state of affairs? Chronic stress is typically the top burnout culprit, but FlexJobs cites four more common issues that conspire against us:
- You’re not challenged
- Tasks are overwhelming
- Lack of recognition
- Lack of control
Kathy Gardner, senior director of communications at FlexJobs, believes delegation is a vital remediation for the overwhelming nature of “always-on” comms work. It’s crucial to share the load:
“Communicators, especially those in public relations, experience the added stress in their job of having to be ‘on’ and available 24/7 to answer and coordinate incoming media requests from reporters on deadlines,” she says.
Gardner adds that the nonstop “urgency” takes a heavy mental toll. To alleviate the pressure, she says, “it’s important to try and create systems within your team to share that responsibility.”
How to assess and overcome burnout
Gardner offers eight questions to consider whether you’re on the verge of burnout—or perhaps already over the edge:
- Are you feeling more cynical or negative about your job?
- Is it a significant effort to go to the job and engage with your work?
- Have you become short-tempered with coworkers, clients, or even your boss?
- Do you lack the energy to be productive?
- Are you having trouble concentrating?
- Do you feel exhausted all day every day?
- Do you experience unexplained headaches, stomachaches, or other physical issues (and a doctor has ruled out medical causes)?
- Is every day a bad day?
Gardner believes these are questions we should all be frequently considering, as teetering on the edge of burnout can be harmful to our careers, colleagues and relationships. She shares:
“When you’re experiencing burnout, it’s easy for your tone to shift into a negative, aggressive, or apathetic place, which will quickly impact your performance and relationship with others. It is always better to assess and take action to improve your situation before it reaches that fever pitch.”
No one produces exceptional work when they’re burned out, she says, and adds that “the impact of it can really cause our messages to come out sideways.”
Of course, unmitigated stress affects more than your work output. To be more mindful about your health, communicators can assess their own stress levels through Mental Health America’s free Stress and Health Self Test.
7 ways to beat burnout
Finally, it’s time to counteract all those bad vibes. FlexJobs offers these suggestions:
1. Disconnect. Working from home has blurred work/life boundaries, but you must, “Fully commit to ‘unplugging’ by turning off email notifications and not accepting work calls after hours.”
2. Create structure. “Set a schedule that’s realistic and fair to your employer (and yourself), then stick to your regime to help stay focused and avoid overworking,” FlexJobs writes.
3. Talk it out. Don’t just bottle up all that frustration. Instead, “Find someone to talk to about how you’re feeling about your job, career, and life in general, which can also help you brainstorm a resolution to the burnout you’re experiencing.”
4. Try something new. Is today the day you finally try archery or take up pigeon racing? It could be! As FlexJobs writes, “Learning a new skill or expanding your social circle can do wonders for helping find balance and stress relief.”
5. Connect with intention. Instead of ignoring all those Slack messages, take time to send a thoughtful Gif or choice meme to brighten someone’s day.
6. Take a vacation. Or just take time off to recharge your batteries.
7. Consider a switch. “If you’ve tried everything to make a job more interesting and less stressful, but you’re still feeling burned out, that may be a signal it’s time to move on,” FlexJobs writes.
How are you battling burnout, Ragan readers? Please share your suggestions, advice and tips in the comments below.