Banishing Burnout

2 Jul


So has your experience of lockdown been one of under work and boredom, or over work and exhaustion?

Apparently both experiences can trigger burnout.

In the overworking arena, the dating app “Bumble” has recently told its employees to take a week off to fight stress and “soothe their collective burnout”. They have closed the offices and insisted that they have an offline holiday.

Other companies are giving employees half day Fridays and wondering how to ensure that their workers do not answer emails out of working hours when working from home.

Oh those blurred lines when your home is your office, and you can effectively nip in to work and do a bit more whenever you want…

How interesting that a general assumption that working from home during the pandemic was going to be a bad thing because people would “skive off” and sit around with a shirt on top, pyjamas on the bottom, doing a bit of online shopping in their company’s time!!

Instead, it seems people have been putting in extra.

Don’t let’s forget the army of parents who have in effect been working two all-consuming jobs (at least) through having to home school their children.

Sometimes, as a client told me, there seemed no option to the all-nighter, if your normal working hours were disrupted.

NOT working can be harder to enforce than one might think.

What is burnout?

Some of the describing words are:

  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Anxiety
  • Detachment
  • Feeling listless
  • Low mood
  • Lack of creativity
  • Fatigue

No wonder some employers are taking it seriously…

Those of us who employ ourselves also ought to take note. I can be a dreadful employer of myself, insisting on working hours that would be totally illegal for me to impose on anyone else. This isn’t a boast and seriously not a good thing… the irony is that I have found that when I push through tiredness and burn the candle at both ends… it takes me longer to complete work. So a vicious circle is set up.

What to do?  Some companies are looking at ways of checking that their employees do not answer the phone or emails after a certain time of day. People I know who work for themselves have advised me that I should set times for working and regularly stick to a prescribed pattern of working hours.

And yet, I don’t think that it is just a question of keeping your hours within a regular set framework,  for me that seems another sort of tyranny: ‘I must stop now because it is such and such o’clock’.

Sir Richard Branson, the serial entrepreneur, talks about not seeing the distinction between work and life. He gets up at 5.00am and keeps on going like tigger throughout the day. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that he can concentrate on the aspects of work he likes to do – he has the staff and support team – and also talks about swimming in the beautiful Caribbean Sea around his Island home of Necker every day, and playing tennis…  clearly part of the “work” is swimming free and playing hard.

However, I think there is a good learning point there.

One of my clients, who I was working with to help get back to work and find his managerial voice after illness, used to call our sessions the great escape. We used to do our coaching sessions in the local park – come rain or shine… we went into the café if it was wet. After we completed our work, he continued with “little escapes” throughout the day, and found that he could think, speak, and make decisions better and in the case to the latter, faster. The time out was returned to him.

His life is very different to Sir Richard Branson’s. But the principle is the same. And I can too.

I can keep the freedom to work when I like and put in the hours when I need to on a certain project, as long as a genuine part of that working day gives me time not only to exercise but to just ,”stop and stare”. Maybe watch the bees buzzing in the garden at this time of year and, me not living in the Caribbean, taking a dip at my local health centre, and this frees my head for thought, literally delivering space and exhilaration and importantly, keeping the debilitating effects of burnout at bay.

I just need to stop myself from saying “I will, after just one more email…”!

I am running my new interactive workshop Breath of Life, Joyful Voice, to help you re-learn how you were born to breathe, which you may be interested in, so if you would like to find out more, and know more about how I can help you to gain confidence (and actually enjoy) speaking, contact me, Fiona Whytehead, at fiona@locuscoaching.com.


Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching


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Fiona Whytehead
By Fiona Whytehead

Founder and Director, Locus Coaching


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