If 2020 was the year of remote working, 2021 is officially the year of burnout.
That’s according to a recent survey by Visier, which found that 89% of employees reported experiencing burnout over the past year due to layoffs, hiring freezes, and high resignation rates. For many employees, taking on an additional workload was the number one burnout contributor. Other significant contributions include being micromanaged, a toxic workplace culture, being asked to complete work at a faster rate, and a lack of control in the workplace.
In the same survey, 70% of employees say they would leave their current job for a different one that offered comprehensive resources, benefits, support, or policies intended to reduce burnout. Visier’s results are not unique to other recent studies. In fact, all point to one simple message: the American workforce isn’t just prioritizing money or promotions; they’re also looking at organizations to step up to help support their mental wellbeing.
It’s safe to say that their viewpoints are currently being felt within the economy as The Great Resignation has swept across America. For instance, a record breaking 4.2 million people handed in their two weeks’ notice in August alone.
So how did we get here and how can you overcome it in your professional career?
The Workplace Epidemic Inside of the Pandemic
Workplace burnout has been a growing problem across most professions even before the pandemic began. An early 2020 Gallup report found that 76% of employees experienced some level of burnout on the job. Burnout has become such a recent phenomenon that in 2019, the World Health Organization officially defined it as a syndrome associated with chronic workplace stress that goes unmanaged.
However, ever since COVID-19 put a strain on the American workforce, burnout has affected our ways of working by 10-fold, including federal workers. A recent survey, albeit from a small sample size, discovered that more than half of federal employees stated they were experiencing burnout.
This finding isn’t all that surprising either.
Although we can’t blame the pandemic as the sole catalyst, recent events have caused greater demand to the federal government and its services, whether from supporting small businesses through the CARES Act to providing stimulus checks to American families.
All that extra work has put a strain on federal agencies, who now have fewer people today than they did five years ago. The Agriculture Department, for instance, had 4,800 fewer people in September 2020 compared to September 2016, according to OPM’s FedScope database. The Department of Health and Human Services also saw a decrease of 3,000 people in September 2020 compared to 2016.
Taking action to overcome burnout
With burnout becoming 2021’s workplace epidemic, it’s important for employers and employees alike to combat chronic workplace stress and its effects on physical and mental health. For employees, it’s not just figuring out if you’re in a toxic environment, it’s also learning how to create healthy workplace boundaries.
If you are or are on the verge of experiencing burnout, here are some tips to help you recharge and recover.
1. Seek support from those who love you.
Bottling your feelings of burnout isn’t healthy, especially if it affects how you treat others. Allow time for your loved ones to invest in you by sharing your struggles with them. By doing so, you’ll likely be reminded of your value and discover who you can lean on during this time.
2. Take breaks.
It’s important to build breaks into your daily schedule (this includes blocking off time on your work calendar). Spend that time resting or doing something you enjoy, like reading a favorite book or going for a run. It’s also important to take advance of your work vacation days to disconnect. Don’t treat PTO as Phony Time Off. Instead, set up barriers to remove any distractions from work in your life and allow yourself to recharge.
3. Prioritize exercise for mental well-being.
Exercising is important from a physical health perspective, but its mental health benefits are also beneficial to combat burnout. Even 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can help your cognitive processes and nervous system to help your body function more effectively. The result can equate to a clearer mind and reduced stress.
4. Incorporate transitions between your day.
No matter if you’re working remote or in the office, it can be tempting to log in a few more hours of work if you have a long to-do list. But it’s also important to weigh that alongside your values in life, such as spending time with your kids. To have a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to build a routine that can help you transition your mindset from work to home mode. Whether if that’s walking a dog, completing a five-minute reflection, or jamming out to your favorite artist, it’s important to find a routine that reminds you of your values.
5. Do something meaningful and interesting.
If your job has become stale, it’s time to do an internal assessment of identifying the most fulfilling elements of your work and dedicate more time to those areas. If you are looking for additional excitement in your routine, ask your supervisor if you can re-prioritize your workload by taking on tasks more aligned with your strengths. Outside of work, figure out a passion project that interests you. Regardless if it’s starting a side business, writing a book, or redoing your bathroom, working on a passion project will help you pique your curiosity and spur your energy.
Sometimes the best course of action is to move on. If the recommendations above are not helping and you feel you are in that toxic workplace, it’s time for you to find a better job that brings you joy. Having a security clearance brings a plethora of career opportunities, and it’s not worth risking long-term effects from burnout. So, if this is you, take time this week to update your resume and begin applying to your next cleared position.