How To Avoid Workplace Burnout

If you’re one of those workers who comes in early, skips lunch, and burns the midnight oil working overtime, you could be your own worst enemy. Consider this: in the article “The Top 5 New Rules of Productivity,” Alexander Kjerulf reveals that mistakes and errors rise 10% after an eight-hour day and 28% after a 10-hour day. In other words, all that overtime you’re putting in could be resulting in workplace burnout, and therefore making you worse at your job.

Unfortunately, the recent economic turmoil has created a situation where overtime, overwork, and burnout are practically a given. Most of us took paycuts, wage freezes, and extra work (often left behind by laid off co-workers) during the economy’s darkest moments, and as a result, productivity and profits are now skyrocketing. A study by Sirota examines this increase in productivity since the onset of the Great Recession. And although managers may seek to continue that upward trajectory, the study warns that resource reductions can lead to decreasing levels of employee commitment and performance over time.

While your manager should be cognizant of employee workloads, overtime, and burnout, it’s your responsibility too. Part of your career management strategy should focus on how to avoid burnout and stay effective in your position. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Unplug Yourself
Twitter, Facebook, Email, Foursquare, smart phones, lap tops: they’re all technological wonders of the 21st Century that allow us to increase our productivity, reach new clients around the globe, and better serve our companies. But they all have a dark side: they’re on all the time. No matter what time of the day or night it is, someone you know is posting on Twitter, uploading a new blog post, or writing reports on his or her lap top. As a result, we all feel the need to be online 24-7, especially when the economy and the stability of our jobs are still in question.

Regardless, you have to make time to unplug from the internet to avoid burn out. Set a time each night when you’ll turn your mobile devices and lap top off. Relax with movie, curl up with a good book, or take a walk after dinner. These activities will help your mind separate from the work day and relax before bed (which will keep you from waking up with work anxiety dreams in the middle of the night.) And I promise, all of your Facebook fans, Twitter follows, and LinkedIn connections will still be there tomorrow morning.

Invest in a Hobby
If you don’t have a hobby or something to look forward to at the end of the day, its’ really easy to start staying late at the office, checking your work email on the train, and brining projects home with you. And while of this might sound good for your career, in reality it can contribute to burnout.

You need to find something to stimulate the other parts of your brain after work, whether it’s taking a yoga class, joining a pick-up basketball league, or starting a book club. Whatever your interests are, you may be surprised how they can inspire you and help you bring a fresh mind to work the next day.

Use Your PTO
During the recession, there was a fear among employees of using vacation, sick, and personal time. (After all, who wants to take time off when management is looking for reasons to lay people off?) While it may have made sense a year ago, now’s the time to start using your personal time off if it’s accumulating. Vacation time isn’t a frivolous indulgence: it’s an important tool you can use to rest, recharge, and reboot, so that when you return to work, you’re full of fresh ideas that will knock the boss’s socks off. If you’re one of those people who just doesn’t want to take a two-week vacation, consider at least planning some long weekend getaways over the course of the year.

Ask For Help
A problem for many of us when it comes to burnout is that we aren’t always honest with ourselves until it is too late. When a co-worker asks for help with a project or management needs a new report ran, we often say yes without thinking about the other responsibilities on our plate. (Again, during the recession, many of us were afraid to say no for the fear of losing our jobs.) Then, before we know it, we’re in over our heads.

If you’ve been taking on extra responsibilities over the past 24 months, and as a result are starting to feel the wear and tear lead to burnout, talk to your supervisor. See if your company is in a position to hire someone to take on some of your workload, even if it’s just part time. Being over-worked can lead to errors and costly mistakes, so by taking on less, you might just be saving your job. – By Noël Rozny, MyFootpath Web Editor and Content Manager