Burnout is its own kind of stress and exhaustion – and it’s overwhelming. It can have dire consequences for our physical health, mental wellbeing and business success. Although burnout is not a medical condition, it is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a worrying 'occupational phenomenon’, and we need to take heed to beat it.
Burnout is not something that will go away by itself. In fact, ignoring it can deplete you of the energy and clarity you need for your business and personal life. Prioritising your own self-care is critical. In this blog, we look at how to identify burnout, address its causes and build resilience in yourself and your team.
Spot burnout early
Business owners are used to carrying heavy responsibilities and juggling a lot – downtime can be rare. It means it can be difficult to spot when ‘burning the candle at both ends’ is becoming dangerous. If your normal feeling of busy is giving way to a sense of hopelessness and lack of motivation, pay attention.
Signs that you’re going from hustling to husk include fatigue and sleep disruption, losing interest in things that you usually enjoy, and feeling inadequate or numb. If you ignore these clues, you may suddenly go from being tired to completely unable to function.
Noticing burnout within your team requires vigilance. People may worry about telling their boss how they’re feeling – especially if it’s around performance at work. People who are burned out can feel trapped, helpless, and isolated. This can show up as uncharacteristic bitterness, cynicism, or withdrawal. People might procrastinate, miss deadlines, or even lash out.
It’s vital to address the causes rather than only the symptoms. In business, three factors can be major drivers of burnout – balance of workload, unclear expectations, and poor workplace culture.
Putting in long hours to manage an unrealistic workload has consequences – especially when your downtime is affected. Emma Salmon of Physio Pilates says, “It's easy to keep giving more and more of yourself.” Her Business Mentor helped her understand where she wanted to spend her time to achieve her dreams — in business and beyond.
Business Mentors seem to have a special gift for helping business owners reduce their overtime, delegate well and find ways for teams to operate more efficiently. Dave and Keren Kurth of Serial Griller are delighted with the help they received from their Mentor to improve their work-life balance.
“Chris has encouraged us to spend time on the business rather than in it. It’s made us aware that we shouldn't always just be in the kitchen, cooking. Otherwise, over time, nothing's going to change,” says Keren.
Keep expectations clear
Unclear expectations or ambiguity in workplace roles can be a huge source of stress; if people are unclear about what they’re aiming for, then it’s impossible to know when they’ve done ‘enough’. Setting up easy-to-follow processes and policies allows you to remove ambiguity. It can also help lift efficiency.
Romi Dexter of Hype & Dexter is a business transformation expert. She says that one of the greatest benefits of a good process is that it spreads control and decision-making. In turn, this reduces risks and bottlenecks while allowing people to take ownership and feel empowered.”
Foster a resilient team
Creating a culture of care and resilience helps prevent burnout from taking hold within your team. It all starts with having good lines of communication. This can be as simple as protecting a routine of team meetings and ‘one-on-ones’ in busy times. It means people know they'll have an opportunity to offer updates or ask for support.
Flexible working arrangements can help your team members balance their work and stay productive. The important thing is to safeguard some ‘off-line time’; an expectation of 24/7 availability can prevent people from recharging themselves emotionally and physically.
Support to manage stress is also something you can build into your business. It might be as simple as keeping wellbeing visible, or you may wish to investigate an employee assistance service. Remember, you set an example for your team in how you care for yourself.
As business owners, recognising the signs is the first step to helping ourselves and our teams keep burnout in check. Understanding the root causes means you can take positive steps to create well-balanced workloads, expectations and team culture. You don't have to do all this alone!
A Business Mentor can help you figure out where to start. They’ll support you to discover time and space to stand back and recalibrate. Protecting your own wellbeing allows you to do the same for your team. And in turn, you'll be nurturing your business.
Visit www.businessmentors.org.nz to find your Mentor.