Unless you’re highly gifted and fortunate, we have all experienced the feeling of burnout. The Oxford Dictionary defines burnout as “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress,” These days, it’s much more common than one might expect. Especially with many companies making the switch to permanent work-from-home, the blurred line between work time and leisure time can make it feel like you’re stuck in a sort of limbo where you never leave work mode.
While Pulse is in an incredible workplace with insane benefits and an excellent and understanding team, burnout spares nobody. Additionally, many factors play into burnout — professional pressure, hours, how you spend your leisure time, coworker behavior, and more. As I am approaching my three-year-workaversary with Pulse, I have learned that one major factor (that is almost always within your control) is to tackle burnout before it overtakes you. Communication! Incredibly open and honest communication! Here are three sample scenarios where you can use direct contact to redirect your stress, gain comfort in your work, and avoid burnout.
Lack of Strong Expectations and Boundaries
If you lack boundaries within your workplace, burnout will hit you hard and fast. Please don’t feel like it’s your fault, though. If your managers are expecting you to work more than what you committed to, if you think you have not been trained enough to complete your tasks at hand, or if you feel you are being assigned work that does not fit your job description, the best thing you can do for yourself is SPEAK UP respectfully. Whether you are more comfortable writing an email or having a conversation in person, it is essential to let your managers know how you feel and work out a solution. Here is an example! “Hello, Name. I hope all is well. I wanted to reach out regarding the hours I have been working lately. While I am wholly committed to this amazing team and the overall success of our company, I have been staying late to complete projects several days out of the week. While this may be acceptable in extenuating circumstances, it has become quite regular, and I do not feel it is appropriate for my position. I was hoping we could meet face-to-face and discuss some boundaries and potential solutions to ensure that I am completing projects on time while only working within the agreed-upon hours. Best, Name.”
Overcommitment on Your Part
Okay, this one–you caught me red-handed. I am notorious for overcommitting and believing I am a super human who can do it all! But the reality is that I can not, and that is okay. When you find yourself willingly overcommitted (“Yeah, I can get that done by the end of the day! Yeah, I have time for that task! Yeah, I can work four hours today!”), the burnout that creeps up on you can also come with massive guilt. I felt like I had failed like I should have just gotten what I had committed to, or that I couldn’t go back on my word. The truth is, I didn’t make a blood promise, a pinky promise, or anything crazy like that, and hopefully, you didn’t! Letting your managers or coworkers know, “Hey, I overcommitted – Help!” is not bad, and there should be no guilt involved. Simplifying by saying: “Hi! I overcommitted on these tasks and was hoping I could get some help spreading out lower priority tasks over this week” is respectable. Your managers will appreciate you letting them know. Even better, you can come up with realistic commitments and timelines for your remaining tasks so that they can plan accordingly. Genuine 100% honesty is critical here; you can’t be honest with others if you can’t be honest with yourself. Only commit to deadlines you feel comfortable with, and you can make happen. Otherwise, the cycle begins all over again.
Stress in Other Areas of Life
This could be pressure within your family, drama amongst your friends, financial stress, or any unexpected burden that you find suddenly on your shoulders. It can be so easy to clam up in moments like that. To throw yourself into your work with sudden enthusiasm, pretend everything is fine like you’re not falling apart on the inside. Please take a deep breath; we have all been there before. For me, it’s working while also managing a course load as a full-time student at a challenging top-50 university. Sometimes, when I feel stressed about schoolwork, those emotions carry into my time dedicated to Pulse, or even worse, cut into that time. The best thing I ever did for myself told my manager, “Hey, I am so swamped at school, and I need a little support.” Rather than hiding the problem and pretending I could manage it all, being honest and open allowed me to get the help I needed to raise my performance and enjoy my work again. When I hid my struggles behind a smile and always said “yes,” my coworkers and manager began to lose trust in me because I was not completing projects on deadline or my usual quality of work. Looking back, I wish I had communicated my struggles to them sooner rather than later. With the help of my manager and others on the team, we worked out a schedule that worked much better for me, and I could combat my burnout.
Burnout is hard! It is a multifaceted emotion and a complicated situation. Sometimes, the cause is unknown. If you’re feeling burned out, I want to emphasize that you shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. It is an entirely natural part of life and is mainly linked to the pressure of being creative. It isn’t easy to rely on your creativity to bring in the bacon, but that doesn’t mean burnout is inevitable. The next time you feel lazy, lethargic, and uninspired, try a healthy dose of honest communication and see how it goes. As we learned as kids – honesty is the best policy, which applies to the workplace. So, from me to you, let’s tackle burnout more productively and watch how our relationships with our jobs change for the better.