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With COVID-19 still full steam ahead, burnout is on the increase. Under COVID-19, a recent study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that 62% are struggling to meet their workload and balance their work with other responsibilities, 85% of employee’s well-being has declined in the last year, people are exhausted and are finding it difficult to maintain their relationships with others, and burnout levels are highest among millennials.

Furthermore, a 2018 Gallup poll investigated why employees felt workplace burnout, which is a great place to start when thinking about what you can do to avoid full-blown burnout and having to leave your current position. 

They found that employee burnout is primarily due to how they are managed, rather than the expectations placed on them for hard work and high performance. 

Specifically, five factors were highly correlated with burnout:

Unfair treatment at work - “from bias, favouritism and mistreatment by a coworker to unfair compensation or corporate policies.” The issue is that if “employees do not trust their manager, teammates or executive leadership, it breaks the psychological bond that makes work meaningful.”

Unmanageable workload - with too much to do, you can quickly feel overwhelmed and unable to know where to start to get on with your job. This can quickly lead from an employees who’s excited to get on with the job to poor performance, a lack of motivation and damage to their confidence. Furthermore, if they feel as though they are being unfairly treated, they are less likely to discuss their problems with their line managers and as a result, the issues become even more entrenched. 

Lack of clarity in the role - Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report found that only 60% of workers strongly agree that they know what is expected of them at work. With changing expectations, employees find it difficult to know what’s necessary, may focus at the wrong task at the wrong time. This may lead to frustrations about company goals and how well aligned they are with their goals - a misalignment can lead to them asking themselves why they took this job. 

Lack of communication and managerial support - employees who strongly agree that they feel supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout. On the other hand, an inattentive manger will leave employees feeling “ uninformed, alone and defensive.” However, we’ve found during COVID-19 that  the communication issues often stem from the top. You might well be asking your line manager to clarify, but he or she might equally not be in the know and equally as frustrated!

Unreasonable time pressure - according to the Gallup report, when employees have enough time to do all of their work, they are 70% less likely to experience high burnout. Unfortunately, these time constraints are often arbitrary numbers placed on then by managers with no experience delivering that piece of work. Furthermore, once you’ve fallen behind on a task, you’ve less time to complete the rest of your allocated work, which can lead to a spiral in how you are able to manage your work, and in time, burnout. 

How to get your work-life balance under control to avoid burnout

Luckily for you, burnout is avoidable if you stop it in its tracks before it overwhelms you and takes over your life. 

Here are a few top tips to get your burnout under control before it’s too late:

Identify your sources of stress - are there one of two things from the above list that are especially causing you stress? Identifying these and taking these issues to your line manager is a great place to start to help you relieve some of that overwhelm. 

Speak to colleagues at work - as burnout is a peculiarly workplace phenomenon - you can only get it through the issues you are having at work - others might be in the same boat as you. Rally round and find out how others are feeling. If you are experiencing similar problems, how can you improve the situation together? Who do you need to consult? What do you want to change? Furthermore, isolation is a big part of burnout, so the ability to feel less isolated is also a great place to start. 

Plan - now that some lockdown restrictions have been lifted, make the most of being able to see friends and family, and get some dates in the diary!

Set boundaries - it can be difficult working from home, but try to make sure that there’s a separation between your work life and your home life. Perhaps you could add in a fake commute, or if your company is starting to go back to the office, ask to return, at least a couple of days a week. 

Tell your friends and family - let your significant others know that you are struggling in the workplace. They might be able to offer support - they might well be in the same boat and it could be a great way for you both to let off steam - or they could have been in the same position at another time and have some great advice. Failing that, they will offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or be more patient and understanding with you if you are having a bad day. 

Delve into your own projects - having something to look forward to on an evening is so much more pleasurable than aimlessly watching TV with a big bowl of ice cream, which you’ll regret the next day. Especially if you are on your own, activities where you can see where you’ve progressed, from puzzles, to knitting to running are a great way to spend an evening that will give you that achievement high. 

Feed your energy - keep a diary of activities and habits that make your feel energised and do more of these. If possible (work permitting), try to do the opposite as well, and do less of what makes you feel demotivated and unhappy. 

What change are you going to make to ensure you don't reach career burnout? Let us know in the comments below.

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