Burnout is neither a new concept nor a new experience for many in the world of work.  There is any number of articles and studies to be found on the subject when one carries out a Google search, the plethora of which in itself may illustrate the pandemic-like escalating presence of the condition.

Whilst each industry sector has its own specific stressors and triggers that, when matched with predisposed personality types, culminating in the diagnosis of burnout; and the diagnosis can be made along a spectrum of seriousness, this trend poses a risk to the sustainability of service provision across the board.  Service and sustained service delivery, however, is rooted in the health of the individual(s) providing it.

The focus of this article is that of sharing four practical methodologies, tools and techniques that can help individuals to prevent and manage the condition so as to ensure as minimal an impact on the provision of service as possible.

Understanding personal energy:

During my professional career as an incapacity expert, alongside being a business coach, I have had the privilege of gaining a number of valuable insights regarding the relationship between work and health.  One such insight is the fact that, irrespective of the professional area of expertise, the cost of non-investment in one’s personal well-being – i.e. the ‘engine’ that drives service, is huge.

The long-term success of any business and the people working in it is only as good as the continual investment in personal, professional and business development and growth.  Ensuring the most suitable investment, however, starts with gaining a clear understanding of who we are as individuals and in recognising what it is that energises us.

Being consciously aware of one’s own character; values; beliefs; strengths; weaknesses; capabilities; sense of purpose and vision is vital in aligning oneself optimally with the work required.  When one’s sense of purpose is not aligned with what one does in the workplace each day, things become mal-aligned – and over time this has the ability to wreak havoc.

Knowing and understanding ourselves; what engages and enhances personal energy enables us to do something about it, whether it be shifting attitude; delegating tasks; adjusting the workload or work environment or referring elsewhere.

Without a solid understanding of who we are, it is virtually impossible to play to one’s strengths, thereby constantly building on what provides a sense of purpose rather than what rubs up against it.

Maintaining perspective:

Somehow it is easier to identify stress and burnout in others than in ourselves – as if it is a circumstance that only happens to ‘other people’. This is simply not so.

It is imperative that the workforce engages with one another and or with others outside of work in order to maintain perspective.

Whether this is done in a workgroup; with a trusted colleague; by engaging with a mentor or coach does not matter.  What matters is that the method works and the avenue selected is one of regular support; understanding; objectivity; feedback and guidance.

Routine reality checks via engagement with others play a vital role with regard to maintaining perspective.

Working in cycles:

One of the most useful methods of coping with the intensity of the provision of service – no matter what it is – is to work in cycles, at the end of which there is a scheduled break. Being aware that a break is coming at the end of the cycle period allows for the mindful awareness that a ‘pause’ and ‘breathing space’ will happen.

The fact that there is a release valve helps to manage the stress of the immediate demand.

Creating daily mini-breaks:

One can break the above-mentioned cycles down into even smaller components on a per day basis by ensuring that a period as short as 10 minutes or as long as an hour is put aside in order to ‘de-stress’.  This could be while pausing over coffee or going for a run, for example.  The trick is that the time taken allows for a short period of total disengagement. The activity itself does not matter as much as the attitude towards it.

These daily mini-breaks often work best when experienced in the mindset of reward as, in acknowledging the reward one automatically reinforces the feeling of achievement and having successfully completed an aspect of work.

There are numerous ways in which to prevent burnout, with the above-mentioned four tips all being within each of our power on a sustainable, daily basis.

Adapted from an article on burnout in the health profession, first published in the Aug-Sept 2018 edition of Modern Medicine

Elise Burns-Hoffman