Perhaps at first there seemed to be some magic happening. You were working hard, feeling inspired and rising up through the ranks at work. Ideas were flowing, you looked forward to going to the office because it felt like a place where you were valued; where your energy was rewarded and recognized as a gift to the company’s mission. Then, it stopped. Something changed.
It was probably a gradual shift away from the magic and positive vibes. Maybe you can even identify some of the precipitating factors that made the shift happen for you. A change in supervisors? Transfer to a new department? Increase in workplace demands? Changes in your personal life that impacted your work life? Whatever it was, the positive feelings about work went up in smoke. You’re left feeling burned out. Toasted. Crispy at the edges.
Corporate burnout is a real phenomenon that occurs when, for a variety of reasons, work has become a big, dreadful, hellish nightmare. In his eloquent article on the topic, Eric Garton writes about the underlying realities of corporate burnout, which often reflects problems within the company rather than the individual.
How can you tell if you’re suffering from corporate burnout?
Symptoms often include fatigue, cynicism and loss of motivation. If you’ve noticed an increasing sense of dread when facing a new work week, this is a likely cause. Maybe you have manifested physical ailments due to stress, such as digestive issues, high blood pressure, acid reflux, tension headaches or jaw clenching. Often our bodies tell the story of what our emotions are experiencing.
Life is too short to stay in a situation that is costing you physically and emotionally. In a perfect world, we could step back from a job like this, fix the problem directly or quit if it weren’t being addressed properly by the company. In fact, this may be one of your favorite daydreams during soul-crushing conference calls.
Often reality tethers us to these careers and jobs that we’ve built over many years of hard work. We can’t just leave. Financial responsibilities, family reliance, and even just a sense of “what else would I do?” keeps us stuck in situations that may not feel satisfying.
Tips for Managing Burnout
Tend to your body first:
Listen to what your body needs first and foremost. Are you dealing with any chronic health conditions that have surfaced because of your stress? The most important first step in self-care is getting your physical health stable. A routine physical can help determine whether you are on track with your health. Be sure to pay close attention to your blood pressure, weight, cardiac health and pulmonary functions.
Eat like a boss:
When stress is high, it is tempting to snack out on all the wrong things. Comfort foods are often our go-to because they offer short-term rewards of being super delicious. Treating yourself is great, as long as your primary source of nutrition is a base of healthy, whole-foods. Avoid overly processed, pre-packaged foods that lack nutritional value. If you do eat these foods, be sure to limit the quantity so that your body has a chance to absorb the needed calories and vitamins from vegetables, fruits and proteins.
Corporate burnout is often a reflection of a life out of balance. This may mean that you are spending far too much time behind a desk. Even those fancy stand-up desks don’t offer enough of a variety of movement in an average day.
Think of some ways to build exercise into your regular routine, whether it is going to the gym or walking during lunch break (which requires you to actually take a lunch break). You don’t need to train for a triathlon or anything, just moving more will help improve the way you feel.
Set workplace limits:
Perhaps you have been too sacrificial with your time and energy. It may have served you well in the past, but maybe it’s time to wind it back and scale your efforts to a more manageable level.
Consider some of the ways you’ve pushed yourself a little too far for the company line; are there areas you can delegate to others? Can you prioritize the tasks that matter so you are staying focused on the areas that matter most to you? Say no. Make your own wellness a priority.
Make time for silliness:
Make room in your life for frivolity, at work and at home. When you’re hip-deep in work and there seems to be no end in sight, having fun and being silly may feel like a waste of time. It is usually at those stressful times that we need to release tension and be a goofball more than ever. Keep some quirky, fun items nearby.
Do you love Silly Putty? Whirligigs? How about starting an office dance party just before you go into a major conference call? No one can hold onto tension after having done the Macarena down the hallway.
Address the elephant in the staff room:
If you’re feeling burned out, you probably know five other people who are feeling the same way. Maybe it’s time to unify as a team and talk openly about your feelings. Perhaps you can brainstorm some ideas of what will help reduce the workplace stress and create a more satisfying environment.
Involve Human Resources in the conversation and let them know that your intention is to help reduce burnout and workplace turnover. This conversation that is in everyone’s best interest. The company will benefit from satisfied employees, and employees will give more of themselves to a company that honors their needs.
Corporate burnout is a manageable, avoidable situation. If you’ve attempted to resolve the issue with self care and advocacy and your efforts are met with apathy in the workplace, it may be time to take your skills elsewhere. You deserve a work environment that respects you and prioritizes your wellbeing in addition to the company’s mission.