Jane doesn’t feel the same about work anymore. Something’s changed. She can’t put her finger on when it changed - it didn’t happen overnight - more like a gradual slow burn. She use to approach work with commitment and drive, happily doing extra hours, taking on more work, juggling more balls as she believed in and was passionate about her job, where the company were going and what they were aiming for. They were in this together.
But now things are different. The extra hours, the extra work, the constant juggling and reprioritizing have become the norm, the expected. The compromises she is making are affecting her home life and her family life. Jane is starting to question her decisions: ‘Have I missed one too many bedtime stories?’, ‘When was the last time I sat at home still and peaceful, without checking my emails or preparing for the next big meeting’ or ‘when do I not think about work?’
This hypothetical example describes a common and real scenario in businesses all around the world today, and worryingly for many it may be considered the norm. You may not even realize, but the chances are high that you know at least one Jane, perhaps even more.
The UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) define work-related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. In 2016, 11.7 million days working days were lost due to this condition alone, with the main work factors cited by respondents were workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.
Burnout at work is gradual and preventable. Here are my top tips to help you navigate those workload pressures before they spiral out of control;
#1 Speak Up
Sounds obvious, I know. If you continue as you are, nothing with change. Your leaders or manager will think you are OK with the set-up. You’re not! The conversation will take you one of two ways. Your manager not realizing you are under pressure and take steps and actions to resolve this or your manager in-overtly explaining this is the norm and get on with it. You have now realized maybe this job/company is not a cultural fit with you and it’s time to go.
#2 Delegate or ask for help
Are you doing too much because you’re not delegating or simply not asking for help? You may not have a challenge with overseeing the work but do you physically have to do it all? Is there someone in the team who could take their share of the workload? Again, if you don’t ask you won’t get.
#3 Prioritize, Prioritize and Prioritize again!
Another obvious one, I know. But how many times do we look at our to-do list and think ‘I’ve got so much to do, I just haven’t got the time to do it all’. Whilst that might be true, the question to ask is; ‘what have I got to do today, tomorrow, by the end of the week’ Chunk up your work into manageable daily tasks. Close out each day with a new task list for the next day based on what you achieved that day and what you hope to achieve tomorrow. You will see the progress and more importantly will feel in control.
#4 Say No or reprioritize.
This may be easier said than done, but sometimes you may have to kick back with a no. Or, if that feels impossible, another approach you could take is to share the impact of you accepting that additional piece of work. For example; ‘To deliver XYX by Friday, will mean I will get ABC to you next week’. You are not saying no, but you are re-aligning new deliverable dates for existing pieces of work.
#5 Switch OFF
When you’re not working and when it’s your ‘downtime’ switch of phones, tablets, laptops. Seeing a flashing red light on your phone saying new email message is not going to help you switch off. Your natural curiosity will want to see who it is from and what it is about. And guess what, once you’ve had a look your mind is now switched into work world.
We all recognize there will be times when the extra hard yards are asked of us – new product launch, new system deployment, a relocation – and we all put the hours in to make it a success, no questions asked.
But start to recognize or look out for the warning signs; are you working later, longer hours all the time? Is this becoming the norm? Has your workload significantly increased and it’s not due to a BIG event? Do you feel you’ve crossed the line between being positively challenged and productive to being overwhelmed and stressed? If any of these bells are ringing, take action now before it’s too late.
Royston Guest is a global authority on growing businesses and unlocking people potential. He is CEO of Pti-Worldwide, author of #1 best-selling business growth book, Built to Grow and founder of livingyourfuture™. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. Connect with him on LinkedIn or check out his weekly blog at https://www.roystonguest.com/