Why Are We Still Burned Out?

Last week, CNBC published an article with what I consider to be an interesting question as their headline – “Companies prioritize mental health during the pandemic, so why are we all still so burned out?” I thought this was interesting because the notion that just because companies prioritized mental health during this window of time, that all of a sudden everybody should be cured of their burnout is absolutely unrealistic, it is absurd! I suffered on an upward trajectory for 13 months, building to my absolute burnout. And on the other side of it, it took 12 months or more to recover.

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight; it is a result of chronic workplace stress. So we can’t cure it by just putting some initial priorities into place.

In addition, even though we may be kind of coming out of the pandemic, everyone is still faced with so much uncertainty. You know, is there going to be hybrid at my work? Will I ever be able to have flexibility to work from home again, and when are we returning to the office? What are my company’s vaccination or no vaccination policies?

And that’s just the work dynamics, take into consideration personal and family dynamics as well. Kids at school, or homeschool? Significant other, spouse, other family members working in the office or not? So to think that we could just, in this little window of time, prioritize mental health and now all of a sudden burnout is cured is ridiculous.

In fact, we saw at the beginning of the year, there was a 21% increase in burnout from the end through the first half of the pandemic. So this is not going away. Now in this article from CNBC, they shared some things that people could be doing. And one of the strategies was that leaders should model a better culture. I agree.

So whether you are a leader formally or informally, or you would like to share this with someone who is a leader, I wanted to offer how to think about that modeling in two different buckets. The first one is modeling south. So how are you as a leader, in your own day to day work and responsibility, showing up for your team? I know that when I was suffering for burnout those 13 months, nobody at work had a clue.

They had no idea I was only sleeping four hours a night, or that I was working these insane hours each week, or that I was being horrible to my family. I hid that from everyone, but I wasn’t modeling good behavior because I was doing them a disservice. I made it look like my role as a leader, as a group director, was a piece of cake; that I could do this with my eyes closed. That didn’t support people who wanted to move into leadership.

It also wasn’t modeling good behavior because I had zero boundaries. I was sending emails at 3:00 in the morning, I wasn’t taking any vacation time. So make sure that you as a leader are modeling that behavior of taking time away, taking the vacation, and setting those boundaries. And you know, if you have a rough day, it’s okay to share a piece of that. Not all of how you’re feeling, but let them see that you yourself are struggling.

When we’re all in it together, it makes it a little easier.

The second bucket that I offer for you to consider when it comes to modeling the good culture is to open the dialogue; have a communication with your direct reports about how their own health and well-being is doing, and how they are feeling. And I get it, this is a professional workplace, but work and life are blended. We just need to understand that. And these are people are human beings; they come into work with their own complex emotions and thoughts and feelings.

So you as a leader should be in touch with that, asking how they’re feeling. I have been doing this for a decade, either when I was a leader or training other leaders in this six step process. And one of the questions within the six steps is centered around how that person’s mental health is, how they’re feeling, what their well-being is like.

That shows that you care, it gives them a platform for their voice to be heard, it allows you to know where their mental space is and how you may want to support them, and again, it just models that good culture that you care about them as a human being and want to support them, both professionally and personally. If you’re interested in learning more about that six step process, please message me. But as you move into today, be thinking about how you model it yourself, and how you can start to open up the dialogue about how people are feeling.

Leave a Reply