Care.com

Patrick Ball @PatrickBall

recovering journalist. content and strategy at Care.com. writing about policies, problems and benefits affecting working families.

11 Ways to Prevent Burnout at Work

Fast-paced companies can be fantastic – challenging work, a dynamic company culture and smart, engaging colleagues. On the flip side, it can be crazy stressful.

Long hours. Shifting deadlines. Strategic pivots. Stratospheric goals. That’s workplace stress aplenty; add in stiff competition for advancement opportunities and you’ve got a recipe for burnout – the kind of recurring exhaustion, palpable dread and that builds into bad decisions and can sidetrack careers.

Stress happens, but burnout isn’t an unavoidable job hazard. It is possible to have a long, successful career in a high-stress corporate environment. You just have to work at it.

Here are some ideas to get you started on the right track.

  1. Know Your Limits   
    This isn’t elementary school – you’re not going to be dismissed when the bell rings, and your boss isn’t going to kick you out of the office, even if you’ve been there for 12 hours. You have to know your own limits. The first step to avoiding burnout is accepting that there’s always going to be more work to do, and realizing that it’s going to be there tomorrow.
     
  2. Find a Work-Life Mentor
    The same way you’d find a mentor whose career you’d like to emulate, look for someone whose work-life fit you admire. Ask him or her for advice, and model his or her behavior.
     
  3. Pull the Plug
    It’s a common assumption that co-workers and employees are “always on,” so it’s important to set boundaries and manage expectations around them.  Be bold and pull the plug once in a while. Let your team know when you’re going to be out of pocket, like during vacation or your kid’s soccer game, and chances are they’ll get by just fine. (And if you’re a manager, respect their boundaries as well.)
  1. Take Advantage of Work Perks
    If your company offers work-life benefits, like laundry services or help finding a dog-walker, that’s one less thing you have to stress about in your free time. If you’ve got a gym or yoga room, use it. And, regarding the Foosball table, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.  
     
  2. Socialize
    Lean on your trusted work friends when you feel like you’re about to burst. Getting out of the office for lunch or a quick trip to a local coffee shop could be just the jolt you need to keep you from being Debbie Downer all day – and taking work stress home with you at night.
     
  3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
    One of the major health impacts of stress is what it does to our sleep habits. When you feel workplace stress getting the best of you, make sure you’re getting to bed early and limiting your caffeine intake.
     
  4. Forget About Balance
    Don’t let the fact that you don’t have balance add to your stress level. We don’t leave the work at the office and home at home. Strive for a well-managed work-life integration instead.
     
  5. Check Yourself
    Look at what behaviors are setting you up for overwork and burnout. Have a hard time putting your phone down on weekends? Never say no? Evaluate your own behaviors and then create an action plan to stop stressing yourself out and improve your work-life fit. Track your work-life successes, like when you’ve been able to unplug for a whole weekend. This will help build confidence and identify ways you can repeat those behaviors.f
     
  6. Practice Self Care
    When we’re burning the candle at both ends, it’s easy to let our bad habits lead to fatigue. Even though you’re crazy busy, build self-care into your routine so that fatigue doesn’t get the best of you. Prioritize diet and exercise, schedule a massage and make time for an activity that will help you unwind. 
     
  7. Commit
    Find a passion project outside of the workplace, like volunteering at a local charity, joining a golf league or learning Italian. Committing yourself to a group or rewarding activity outside of the work will help you set boundaries around how much your professional life bleeds into your personal time.
     
  8. Just Do It
    Having all of the right plans in place won’t mean a thing if you don’t follow them.  Try to choose at least 3 of these tips and work up to more, as you get slowly adjusted.