How to Avoid Burnout

Two years into the pandemic and the consequences of it on employees’ health and well-being are staggering. And, it’s not just workers, managers and leaders are feeling the stress as well. Managers and execs alike are especially worn out, struggling with increased workloads, and bearing the brunt of employee stress.

HR Morning shared the following sobering stats on manager and executive-level burnout:

  • 66% suffer from burnout.
  • 76% are overwhelmed.
  • 59% feel overworked.
  • 72% feel increased pressure to deliver.
  • 59% are working longer hours.
  • 84% internalize fault for high employee burnout.
  • 91% are having trouble working remotely, compared to individuals and executives.
  • 89% of HR executives agree managers must lead with empathy in a hybrid model, but investments in managers are floundering.
  • 68% of HR leaders agree the hybrid work model responsibilities are overwhelming for managers, but only 14% of companies took action to reduce manager responsibilities.
  • Although more junior and senior managers felt more productive working remotely, only 60% felt they could manage their workload.

This probably comes as no surprise to HR pros. They are witnessing the effects of burnout and deteriorating mental health in their daily work lives, as employees quit, take a leave of absence or ask for resources to help them cope.

Recent research that probed how executive-level healthcare leaders deal with chronic and acute work stress, showed that 91% of the study’s executives described how expressing empathy allows them to stop focusing on themselves and connect with others on a much deeper level. Empathy produces physiological effects that help to calm us in the moment and bolsters our long-term resilience. So not only do others benefit from our empathy, but we benefit, too.

Here are some ways to conquer stress, build empathy and encourage self-compassion at both an individual level and an organizational level.

Individuals

Drs. Emily and Amelia Nagoski, co-authors of the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle explore what causes burnout, what it does to our bodies, and how we can move through the emotional exhaustion to complete the stress cycle. They had 6 evidence-based strategies to reduce stress.

1) Breathing

A simple, practical exercise is to breathe in to a slow count of 5, hold that breath for 5, then exhale for a slow count of 10, and pause for another count of 5. Do that three times — for one minute and 15 seconds of breathing — and then see how you feel.

2) Positive Social Interaction

Reassure your brain that the world is a safe, sane place by having a positive social interaction. It can be as easy as complimenting a colleague or wishing someone a nice day.

3) Laughter

Laughing together, and even just reminiscing about the times we’ve laughed together, helps to maintain social bonds and regulate our emotions.

4) Affection

A warm 20-second hug in a safe and trusting context can do as much to help your body feel like it has escaped a threat as jogging a couple of miles! (And, it’s easier on your knees.) Of course, affection doesn’t stop with other human beings. Just petting a cat or dog for a few minutes can help complete the cycle too.

5) A Big Ol’ Cry

A big ol’ cry can relieve the weight of stress and help prevent burnout. You may not have changed the situation that caused the stress, but you completed the cycle.

6) Creative Expression

Engaging in creative activities today leads to more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm tomorrow. From painting to storytelling, it give us the chance to move through our big emotions.

 

Building Empathetic Leaders & Organizations

I think the pandemic has put into sharp focus the imperative for leaders to re-balance our organizations drive for productivity and profits with the needs of our people. Empathetic leadership can go a long way in reconciling those two key issues.

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of creating strong relationships, reducing stress, and enhancing emotional intelligence and self-awareness. When we can be empathetic humans, it allows us to step outside ourselves and see a situation from a different point of view. It elevates the human experience.

When empathy becomes part of the organizational culture it creates a safe, non-judgemental space where diverse perspectives are valued, and disputes are more easily resolved and meaningful connections are more deeply forged.

If you’re curious about how The Roundtable group coaching approach can help you take the concept of empathy and move into action in your organization, let’s start a conversation.  And, be sure to download our 2022 L&D Trends Report for more insights into the issues affecting L&D professionals in the year ahead.

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