Some years ago I (finally!) began to understand the importance of personal downtime and family time. I was eager to make this a way of work for my team. But when I spoke to my team about transitioning to a more balanced way of working, I was surprised to get resistance. I assumed that it was because they thought that we would be viewed as too “soft”. But a 1:1 with one of the team members was eye opener! He told me that his friends and family believed that he was doing very well in his career because he was “indispensable” to the team. Having to work late evenings and sometimes on weekends showed them that what he did was important. Going home early and not answering emails and taking calls in the middle of family or personal time would impact how people viewed him! Over the years, I have heard many different versions of this story as the reason to overwork!
More often than not, some of our own behaviors and fears play a big role in our burn out.
There are a lot things that are going on in our lives that affect our mental well being. But I have found that there are some simple things that we can all do that help reduce burnout.
Social Expectations & Self Image
In some cultures, social expectations play a big role in how we view ourselves and how others view us. Being successful is often linked to how busy we are. Working 24/7 is viewed as hallmark of success. The best of us sometimes feel subtly encouraged and validated when people around us say things like “she can’t make it for the family gathering because she is in the middle of a big deal”. Being aware about how these expectations set us up for burnout is a big first step to avoiding it.
The exceptionally volatile economic situation around the world has made many of us insecure about our jobs. We think that if we work longer hours and are available all the time, the organization will value us more. If they value us more, then we will not be part of any job cuts. Unfortunately, often this is just a fallacy. No doubt that if an organization values us, they will work hard to retain us. But working 24/7 and sacrificing all personal time does not translate into being valued by the company. Overworking is no longer a certain way to retaining our jobs. But it is definitely a certain way to burnout and health breakdown!
Lack of personal interests
I have seen many of my friends sacrifice their hobbies and interests to dedicate themselves to their career. So many people I know who enjoyed outdoor hobbies like bird watching or hiking have given it up, because they cant “afford” to be away from work over the weekend! Slowly over a period of time we become unidimensional- focused solely on our work and professional networks. Almost all of us talk about pursuing our interests after “retiring”! But why should personal interests wait for retirement? Our belief that we can’t pursue our personal interests while we work at full time jobs is just a self- limiting one! It’s truly time to break this belief.
Our organization’s culture and our manager’s leadership style play a big part in team burnout. But it is time to acknowledge that the things we believe and do also contribute significantly to our burnout. Most importantly, this is something we can change! It’s time to finally recognize and acknowledge our own dysfunctional behaviors and beliefs and try to change as much of it as possible, before we quite literally burn ourselves out!
As we start planning the next year, can we make this our top priority for ourselves?