Burnout is caused by unrealistic expectations, either from ourselves or from others so now that we find ourselves in a rather unprecedented situation, it’s far easier to be overwhelmed by these expectations, no matter who they’re coming from.
When you deal with elevated stress levels over an extended period of time it is far more likely you’ll be affected by burnout as well.
Burnout isn’t a new issue, as in recent years businesses have been facing an “employee burnout crisis” but it doesn’t mean it should just be part of life. Check out the signs of burnout, what might be causing it for you or an employee, and how to deal with it below.
Signs of burnout
The World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in 2019 and it results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. The three main characteristics of burnout are:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- increased mental distance from one’s job or increased negativity or cynicism about work
- reduced performance
Burnout can result in mental and physical symptoms including concentration and memory problems, sleep disorders and vulnerability to illnesses.
Causes of burnout
The main causes of burnout are the same, whether or not you’re dealing with a global pandemic as well, but the stressors of quarantine can exacerbate these causes greatly.
One common source for burnout is when work-life boundaries are blurred. This is far easier for this to occur now when many are working remotely and caring for children at the same time. It can quickly become an unending grind. Losing the separation from the office and your personal life means there are fewer barriers between work and home.
Another source of burnout is the feeling of a lack of control. Given the uncertainty of the current situation, it is very easy for things to feel out of control. It’s natural to feel stress, anxiety, fear and loneliness during this time, but seeking out information that will keep you in a state of fear will only add to the feeling of being out of control.
Perfectionism or a desire to be productive as possible in a less than ideal workspace is another way you can end up dealing with the pressure of unrealistic expectations.
Another issue that is unique to this situation is the loss of traditional social connections. It’s easy to feel isolated during this time and can compound with other stressors.
How to combat burnout
Creating a schedule can remedy the first two causes of burnout as it helps re-establish the separation you had between work and home, and puts some things back in your control, even if it isn’t much.
You might think self-care is some trite thing that means taking a bubble bath from time to time, but it’s really what the word says: taking care of yourself. This means getting adequate rest, eating healthy food and exercising.
Some of the normal coping methods are missing during quarantine, such as going to the gym, but you can still find individualized ways to unwind, de-stress and recharge from a challenging day. Seek your preferred methods of stress release that you can still do from home.
Flexibility is another key to overcoming burnout, as you need to communicate to employees what you expect from them at this time and work with their specific situations, but also be forgiving to yourself. You may not be as productive as normal, but this will eventually pass, so give yourself some grace for the time being.
While you may not be able to visit with co-workers or friends face-to-face like normal, staying in contact with loved ones and communicating well can help mitigate loneliness.
“I am so lucky to have my network of co-workers, friends, family and peers that love me,” says Paul Fraynd, co-owner of Sun Valley Landscaping, based in Omaha, Nebraska. “We have been talking a lot. I have gained so much from my mentors and am trying to share what I learn with anyone that it may benefit. Virtual happy hours and just sending text of love has really made it clear how much I have to be grateful for.”
Preparing for peak season stress
Even if your business hasn’t been as affected as others by the pandemic, you still need to prepare for when things do get back to normal and the demand for peak season services soar as usual.
Below are some of the ways to prevent burnout from occurring in your workforce regularly
- Avoid unfair treatment.
- Make sure you and your managers are managing employee workloads.
- Clarify employee roles.
- Provide communication and support.
- Keep an eye on time pressures.