The internet’s comprehensive reach has steadily blurred the lines between ‘work’, ‘fun’, and ‘home’, recasting the geography of an individual’s personal and professional lives. Disparate activities like social networking, sending work e-mails, and skyping with out-of-town relatives often occur on the same device, be it a smartphone or a laptop. Today’s working professional is always ‘on’; she is accessible around the clock to her employer, regardless of her actual physical location.
Overworked + Underplayed= Very Stressed Research shows that because of this unhindered connectivity, today’s employees are more likely to work over the weekend, whether it’s responding to work e-mails or continuing to service clients. When they should be relaxing and spending time with family and friends, employees are finding it harder than ever before to resist the gravitational pull of the workplace. As a result of these developments, stress levels and stress-related ailments—like burnout—have skyrocketed.
Burning…Burning…Burned-out The experience of being burned-out has many similarities with conditions like depression and other anxiety disorders. The employee feels emotionally and physically drained, like they don’t have the energy to do even the simplest of tasks, resulting in greater workplace inefficiency. Mood swings and irritability are also common, as is a greater sense of pessimism (no matter what I do, it won’t be enough). There is also a rise in absenteeism: a lack of motivation and energy makes it seem pointless to go to work.
Tackling Burnout: A Joint Exercise Employee burnout is a problem that needs a two-pronged approach, and requires both employer and employee to work together. The employer might need to transform unfriendly workplace norms, while the worker might have to make lifestyle changes that will help her cope better with work-related stress.
“Help me, help you”: Negative workplace factors include a lack of recognition for hard work, inadequate compensation in return for high-quality work, inferior leadership, and poor communication. Recognition, both financial and social, can make a huge difference to an employee’s outlook. Employers must ensure that they give praise where praise is due, openly acknowledging an employee’s contribution to a particular project or
programme. They must also be willing to compensate high-quality work, especially in a high-pressure work setting. A good leader works with her employees, as opposed to having them work for her. Listening to employee concerns, communicating programme goals and objectives clearly, and giving employees greater control of their schedules and deliverables are key ‘best practices’.
Self-care: From the employee’s standpoint, learning to manage stress and asking for what you want are two factors that can foster a greater sense of personal and professional well-being. Whether it’s a game of basketball or badminton, zumba classes or yoga, physical exercise can help employees de-stress and detox. Research shows that one can literally ‘sweat’ the stress ‘out’ of one’s body.
Learning to become an advocate for your own interests is also something that can help an embattled employee. Setting clear boundaries, and clarifying project goals and deliverables can go a long way towards making work less stressful.