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Pace Yourself to Prevent Burnout

June 18, 2019 Jaime Torchiana

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Just last week, the World Health Organization (WHO), released an expanded definition of “burnout” in its latest revision of the International Classification of Diseases.

While not a medical condition per se, WHO defines burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” It is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout is characterized by three dimensions:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Much of the working world can attest that burnout is a real thing – I am pretty sure I used to suffer from it. Corporations seemingly perpetuate the productivity badge of honor. Careers are woven into our identities and the more we produce, especially in a pay-for-performance culture, the more we are rewarded and valued. Busy equals better. The early bird gets the worm. And the financial awards are appealing, which only feeds the cycle and incentive to burn yourself out. But at what cost? Who really wins?

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary at SHIFT, where I’ve grown more professionally and personally than in any other role I can remember. The hardest adjustment has been one of culture. While SHIFT has a culture of high-performance, it also takes on an immense human perspective — enacting safety nets to prevent burnout. The visibility has taught me a lot about pacing yourself to prevent burnout. Here are my top takeaways…

1. Assess your role priorities and determine "highest and best use."
Align on your role expectations and ensure that the inputs equal the outputs. Most high performers are not comfortable with the concept of “minimum viable product” or MVP, which might imply doing enough just to check the box. After all, we autograph our work with excellence and view it as a reflection of ourselves so much so that everything, large and small, receives the same attention and treatment.

Try this: Experiment. Assess what role accomplishments really warrant your 110% and others that can be delegated, or deleted altogether. It might seem impossible, but see what happens and how much energy you can gain by pouring into the higher-value items that really make a difference.

2. Rock out your role.
Those that excel within their position can earn “idiosyncrasy credit” – a concept that describes one’s capacity to deviate from group expectations. When you prove yourself over time, it might be worth a conversation with your manager to negotiate for what you want. Would you prefer to adjust your work hours to beat traffic patterns since you commute over an hour each way? As the gig economy continues to expand, and the impact of artificial intelligence is felt to a greater degree, even the most structured of corporations will be forced to develop more flexible measures to attract and retain their best employees. 

Try this: It’s easiest to flourish in your role when you know what’s expected of you. Reach out to me via email at jtorchiana@shiftthework.com if you’d like to understand Role Excellence Profiles and how conducting them on the critical roles within your organization can drive role clarity and business results. The Role Excellence Profile is our diagnostic that allows us to capture, codify and cascade the secret sauce of the top performers within your organization so that all employees in a given role can begin performing more like your stars.

3. Develop an interest in other activities.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your job when you love what you do. Be mindful of balance and commit to your life outside of work.

Try this: Join other activities or groups the demand your time. Whether they be exercise classes at the gym or workshops in the community. Volunteer for an effort or cause meaningful to you. Being others-focused may help you avoid burn-out and bump up the gratitude factor.

4. Hit “reset” and actually take time off.
Vacations for me, in the past, were not met with excitement. Rather, I’d feel a panic around all my impending work upon my return. It left me working even while away, albeit with beautiful beaches and mountains as my backdrop. But was that chipping away really worth it? In the end I came back unrefreshed and uninspired.

Try this: Schedule the time off – for the year. That’s what my current manager has requested of me and man, was it uncomfortable at first. SHIFT offers unlimited PTO and the irony is that it’s never abused. We respect one another’s time out of the office as an opportunity to nourish ourselves, refuel, recharge and return at the top of our game. If you were to reach out or email someone that is out of the office, it’s simply ignored until you get back. Nothing is more important than our employee’s well-being. In fact, “the more we prioritize our well-being, the more successful we become” (Dave Asprey, Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators and Mavericks Do to Win at Life).

Want even more? Try this: Practice saying No. Listen to Bulletproof Radio’s episode #577with Organizational Psychologist, Adam Grant, on “The Nuance of No.” Flex the “no” muscle and reclaim some of your time. 

 5. Finally, as a leader or team manager, set a good example.
I recently tried the Peak Time app to find the time of the day where I am most physically and cognitively productive. It just so happens that it’s from 5-8 am, which, I’m only guessing, probably does not align with some of my colleagues’ peak times. When I restructured my workday around this “peak time,” I let my colleagues know. I didn’t want this experiment to leave me with an “always on” impression or risk my team having a false sense of urgency on business-as-usual tasks.

Try this: Slack. We love this tool at SHIFT, which has reduced my emails to under 10 a day. Its “snooze notifications” feature allows you to silence incoming messages so you are alerted to them and can respond when it’s best for you.

Set The Right Pace of Your People

As leader, we’re tasked with keeping the right rhythm and routines for our people. We need to keep the pace competitive and push the performance; but without feeding into the growing troves of burnout employees. As with any good race — it’s about pace.

For a one-on-one intro session to SHIFT’s unique approach schedule an exploration session with me or a fellow SHIFT expert. We’ll work with you to create a work environment that champions sustainable performance.

Schedule an exploration session.

TOPICS: Employee Engagement