Long hours, difficulty sleeping, and a constant state of exhaustion. Difficulty with focus, overwhelmed with stress, and a decline in performance. These are all symptoms that can amount to burnout.
It seems we’ve been conditioned to believe that longer hours are correlated with greater dedication to your organization. Even with work-life balance constantly promoted as a perk of working at many companies, once you’re in, there seems to be this silent rule. Employees are putting in more hours and requiring reminders to use their vacation time. Even better; employees are rewarded for prioritizing work over their home life – with more work.
But is that the truth? Is mental and physical health meant to be compromised for the sake of climbing the corporate ladder? Of course not.
Burnout Has Mental And Physiological Repercussions
Herbert Freudenberger coined the term burnout, to encompass workplace conditions that involved exhaustion from the excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources of an individual. There are three predominant areas of symptoms of burnout– exhaustion, alienation from work activity, and reduced performance. Burnout shares many common symptoms of depression, and can have an impact on physiological and mental health.
So why are we encouraging dedication in the form of long hours? What’s become lost in translation is the need to separate work from personal time, and what we’ve failed to recognize, is that in all capacities of work, individuals need time to rest and recharge, in order to remain healthy and productive when they are at work.
Organizations Have An Inadvertent Influence
The corporate environment has socialized us to believe running yourself into the ground is an expectation. While some employees are able to set definite boundaries between work and personal time, it isn’t as easy for many. Naturally, hearing that coworkers are clocking long hours, even as many continue to work remotely, puts immense pressure on individuals to dedicate more time to work.
Remote work has made it increasingly difficult for people to separate from their work. For many, work and home are now under the same roof, and they’ve become intertwined. While it’s understandable that there may be the urge to do some work when you’ve got some free time, it’s really important to define work and personal time. When this cannot be achieved, burnout becomes a very real possibility.
Define Your Boundaries
“Understanding our worth and value means that we have an awareness and appreciation of our achievements and what we can offer,” says Jayne Hardy, author of The Self Care Project. It’s incredibly vital to understand that your efforts are enough and derive value from those efforts, rather than the quantity of output, which tends to send people into overdrive- and overtime.
Hardy continues, “when we communicate honestly and clearly, we’re leaving no uncertainty behind our intention and our meaning.” When defining your boundaries, especially at work, communicating them effectively doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation. Asserting your boundaries is not something to shy away from. This includes laying out your schedule, “signing out” at the end of the workday, and identifying non-negotiables regarding work hours, answering emails on the weekend, and leaving your work at your desk at the end of the day.
Easier Said Than Done
There are many factors contributing to burnout. A healthy work-life balance is certainly difficult to maintain. What’s important is recognizing the need for scheduled work hours, and scheduled personal hours where you’re entirely removed from work. Take your vacation time, identify your boundaries, and invest in activities that recharge you, not exhaust you.