Project Management Professional (PMP)® Articles - How to Burnout-Proof Your Work-Life Balance Plan

How to Burnout-Proof Your Work-Life Balance Plan

Burnout has become such a considerable problem in the workplace, that many companies have developed various surveys to track it. A Deloitte workplace burnout survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. professionals found that 77 percent of respondents have experienced employee burnout at their current job.

Regardless of your industry, burnout is a real thing. However, before we delve too deep, it's important to examine the definition of this concept.

So, what is burnout? Helpguide.org describes burnout as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.

For many of us, our jobs have contributed to this feeling. Maybe it's the increase in task responsibility, the need to make larger efforts to please changing consumer preferences, or an uptick in work hours. Nevertheless, as a project manager, you and your team have likely had to face this issue many times. So, what can you do to overcome it?

There are many ways that you can burnout-proof your work life so that you can enjoy balance in your schedule.

Take a breather from your workload and take a look at these tips:

Be Mindful Of Your Workplace Culture

Yes, we can talk about how employees don't take all their vacation days, or how people are working too much overtime. Nevertheless, we have to get to the root of what is causing this. The survey mentioned above by Deloitte found that one major thing that significantly contributed to burnout was a lack of support or recognition from leadership.

Consequently, the examples that are being shown to workers by managers and leadership are essential. For example, even if you offer unlimited vacation days, if no one in leadership makes work-life balance a priority, it is unlikely to be something that workers embrace. Ultimately, if your company displays a culture of overwork, it will be challenging for employees to feel like they can take a step back to take care of their lives outside of work.

Get Clear About Workplace Roles and Boundaries

According to Gallup, unmanageable workload and a lack of role clarity are among the top three reasons workers are experiencing burnout. A lack of clarity is a huge problem, mainly because it does two things: it causes confusion among your workers, which wastes time, and it can lead to an increase in workload as some employees may take on additional workloads that they shouldn't.

It is crucial that you look at your project's needs, and see how every position—including your own—fits into the system. It's essential that you are clear with what you need from your team members, and that their roles are organized to allow them to do what they are equipped to handle. The more employees stray into other territories regarding roles, then overwork can become an issue.

Acknowledge That There is Life Outside of Work

This step may seem counterintuitive, but one of the ways you can better handle work is to forget about it for a minute. There is life outside of work, and yourself and your team members will continuously have to handle other tasks that are not related to work.

The more you are worried about scheduling that doctor's appointment, making sure the kids get off to school or getting the plumber out for a repair, the more stress you will experience as you try to reach your project goals. Therefore, it is important that you ensure your team and yourself bring flexibility into the work schedule. Empower your team to schedule their workweek in a manner that suits their personal lives and allows them to get their work done.

Take a Break…From Everything

Contrary to popular belief, even work productivity can be subject to the principle of diminishing returns. This reason is why many of us receive our best ideas during times of rest (like in the shower.) Your mind is allowed to be creative when you take a break from the things that continuously occupy it.

Your next awesome idea for your project may be trying to get through, but working until 8:00 pm can stifle that creativity. Therefore, it is vital that you and your team members schedule vacations. This step means uninterrupted time away from the office. Doing this allows your mind to refresh and be open to creative thoughts.

Develop Relationships with Colleagues

One of the most challenging aspects of working is the feeling of being alone. Isolation can increase stress, which can, in turn, lead to more burnout. A great way to combat that is to increase socialization with colleagues. Surveymonkey found that among employees who didn't feel they have someone at work who cares about them, 72 percent felt burnout.

It is crucial that you work to develop relationships with your team members as this can increase your level of satisfaction, and even the trust you feel with other co-workers. Feeling like you can relate to those around you can diminish feelings of isolation and allow you and everyone else to truly feel they are a part of a team.

Find Ways to Make Work More Enjoyable

A lack of satisfaction can also lead to feelings that can transform into burnout. You and your colleagues spend most of the day working. Therefore, you want to make sure you are creating an environment that you all can enjoy.

For example, maybe you want to have a 15-minute coffee catch-up with colleagues (virtual or in-person) in the mornings before work, or you may even want to work in a different area or location to switch things up. Additionally, another great way to make work enjoyable is to change the types of projects you work on to add some variety to your day. Find the settings and processes that make you enjoy what you do. The more you like what you do, the better.

Burnout Doesn't Have to Be a Way of Life

Unfortunately, burnout is a reality of today's work culture. In a time when more people are working all hours of the day, and now have the opportunity to work from home, it is easy for professionals to experience times of extreme work stress. However, things don't have to be that way. Developing a strategy to solve burnout requires an examination of the factors that are contributing to it.

Start looking at your workday and see when periods of burnout are rising. If so, it is time to switch things up. It may mean cutting back on work hours or having an in-depth conversation with leadership about workload and responsibilities. Ultimately, burnout contributes to dips in productivity, high turnover, and a lack of job satisfaction.

You and your team need to identify the problems and work to develop solutions to manage your unique stressful situations. Burnout doesn't have to derail your work-life balance. It is possible to ensure you feel good about the work you do and feel that you have control over how much it plays a part in your life.

Sources:

5 ways to reduce job burnout among your employees, https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/reducing-employee-job-burnout/

Burnout Prevention and Treatment, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/237059/employee-burnout-part-main-causes.aspx

The risks of social isolation, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation

What Is The Law Of Diminishing Returns and Why Does It Matter?, https://www.thestreet.com/politics/law-of-diminishing-returns-14831243

Why We Have Our Best Ideas in the Shower: The Science of Creativity, https://buffer.com/resources/shower-thoughts-science-of-creativity/

Workplace Burnout Survey, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/burnout-survey.html