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Can putting focus on People first help relieve burnout?

October 04, 2021 9:52 AM | Dena A Culpepper (Administrator)

By Holly Novak 

As we all know, burnout is REAL and it’s impacting us at work, in our Chapters, and in our families. While there is not one easy or simple solution, we can help our people – our volunteers, employees, friends, peers, family members – recognize some behaviors and understand the root cause of burnout to hopefully move the needle the other direction!

Purpose and connection are fundamental needs for all humans and our distributed world has taken much of that away from us and now we find ourselves in front of a camera or computer screen for way too many hours a day with no solid people interaction. Indeed did a recent study and found that 52% of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021—up from the 43% who said the same in Indeed’s pre-Covid survey. 

Before we move to solutions, it’s helpful to determine what burnout actually is! According to the World Health Organization, burnout is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and

3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

While we can all find our selves down and maybe stressed for a day, burnout goes beyond that to a full state of exhaustion and detachment. So, how can we help those that find themselves in this state? I suggest that we start with Purpose. It’s time to take a collective action on purpose – not just making blanket statements. In our post COVID world, purpose matters more than ever before. People want to know the WHY behind your organization and how you are differentiated in the market. They also want to know how their work impacts both the overall company/association as well as the communities they live.

Next, help your people to set boundaries and make time to think, tend to their loved ones, learn, and breathe. Encourage them to add it to their calendars and if you are a leader, add it to yours first and set the example! Extra time off might not always be the answer because the work is still there, and that does not alleviate the stress! Instead, maybe institute a “no meeting” or “no camera” day of the week and give them that chance to take a walk, go to lunch with a friend, etc.

Finally, help people to understand and set priorities! Give them the permission to ask questions and determine what things they should put their focus on. Also encourage them to pick one or two things a day to prioritize and check something off their list each day – that gives a sense of accomplishment which is a very powerful tool against burnout.

Quote of the Day: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…Including you.” Anne Lamott

Call to Action: I challenge each of you to help your people understand what burnout truly is, then focus on ways to help each individual that finds themself with some of the symptoms above to find their purpose and also find time to breathe and walk away each day.