In May 2013 Harvard Business Review published an article titled Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, in which it investigated what it would be like to work for the best company on earth - this is the result: They found that "In a nutshell, it’s a company where:
1. individual differences are nurtured;
2. information is not suppressed or spun;
3. the company adds value to employees, rather than merely extracting it from them;
4. the organization stands for something meaningful;
5. the work itself is intrinsically rewarding; and
6. there are no stupid rules.
Of course we would all like to work for an organisation like that but what does this mean for you in the reality your work life and in regards to burnout? Especially when your organisation is under pressure, and looks nothing like the above list.
As humans in our own environments we thrive when we are allowed to be autonomous (having the freedom to govern oneself or control one's own affairs)- to have agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices) and to make decisions regarding their own future, their values, choices, workloads etc.
Unless we are the business owner, this can be difficult, but there are ways in which we can create that sense of autonomy within an organisation.
Even when we are not "the boss" we can find ways in which to BE ourselves within our workplaces, be treated like grown adults who are trusted with information, have our strengths valued, find meaning and reward in our daily work and find the freedom in which to thrive not just survive. Find the power to say NO and bring balance and order to our lives.
Where do we start in combating burnout and living our best life?
1. Reflect on your Values and Goals. Are you where you want to be or where you need to be? Write out a one year dream plan - where do you want to be, how do you want your life to look. What are your core values and are you in the right place. Are you in a place of learning right now, is this place preparing you for your future or is it just a frustrating dead end? Be very specific when you write out your goals and dreams, then break them down into smaller parts - what do I need to do or change in order to reach my goals. This is always a good place to start. From here you can make decisions - to stay, to leave, to move sideways.
2. Bring about a sense of Agency in the smaller decisions that you make. Become an expert at setting and tracking your own goals. Can you ask for more autonomy in your current role. Are you able to make decisions around the amount of work you accept, the order in which you do it, the type of clients you see, the hours you work? Gaining a small amount of control over decision making can be a valuable step.
3. Reconnect to your WHY. Why did you first do what you are doing now? Reconnect with your values and steer yourself back on track this year. Your WHY is your core motivation, your WHY is your PURPOSE, your WHY carries you thru the hard days and allows you to connect with yourself and others. When you connect to your WHY you can find out what challenges you, what motivates you, what your passions are and why you stay (and whether you should leave to pursue your WHY). When your WHY conflicts with where you are at you can either attempt to bring your personal values in line with those of the organization, or leave the organization and look for a more meaningful job.
4. Clarify the expectations. Yours, your boss's, the company's, the industry's, if you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you're not likely to feel comfortable at work.
5. Bring back the balance. Bring back some Boundaries. My mum used to say all the time "hard work never killed anyone", but literally hard work kills hundreds if not thousands every year. Just look at the Japanese, they call it "Karoshi" and you can read just one report here. Working harder and working smarter are two different things. Learn how to say NO this year. Learn your limits and put in strong boundaries about what you will and wont accept. Is unpaid overtime on offer? Then NO. Does it clash with one of your children's school concerts? Then NO. It is a one off and the money is worth it? Then maybe. Enjoying life, switching off from work, not taking work home are all boundaries that will help protect you from burnout.
6. Be a part of the solution and bring back the Team Spirit. Create the community that you need at work. Take work lunch time out of the office and take your colleagues. Start a social club. Do something that makes you and others feel included to break down the isolation that is felt by many at work.
7. Lack Fairness at work is a Deal Breaker. Inequity in workload or pay, cheating in the workplace, inappropriate handling of promotions or evaluations, poor dispute resolution practices are all examples of unfairness. If this is your workplace, seriously consider your options. Can you address these issues or is it time to look elsewhere for work.
Finally - go have some fun! There is nothing like laughter to boost the mood, boost immunity and combat depression. Find something you love to do and go do it. Alone, with a friend or with a group. And if you feel like you could be headed for burnout or are in the midst of it, make an appointment to see a therapist as soon as you can to get back on track to living your best life.