We started this year with the expectation of a return to the office, with the distance that brings between work and personal life. The year is starting very differently to what we all hoped, and with the situation feeling more overwhelming than ever burnout is still a very real risk for those working through the pandemic. As Jennifer Moss wrote in the Harvard Business Review, we didn’t help ourselves when “we misdiagnosed the resulting stress as acute rather than chronic”.
Burnout originated as a term in the 1970s and, in 2019, the World Health Organisation described it as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” According to researchers, there are six main causes of burnout: unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, lack of fairness, lack of a supportive community, mismatched values and skills, and insufficient rewards for effort.
As the shine of a New Year wears off and COVID case numbers rise, the fatigue of having spent two years working from home is fully setting in. It is therefore crucial for every one of us to implement the right strategies now that will allow us to avoid further wear on our wellbeing. Just as we continue to challenge workplaces to put care and compassion at the heart of the way they treat people, we also need to put care and compassion at the heart of the way we treat ourselves.
So how do we do this? While self-care may feel like a flimsy answer to chronic overwork and emotional fatigue, the most effective form of self-care lies in evidence-based strategies to prevent burnout. Not the face masks and yoga poses that frequent social media. Here, we’ve included the tools and strategies to implement into your workweek. They are proven forms of prevention, tools our own staff love to lean on, and strategies frequently featured in the Grace Papers platform.
Strategies to help you avoid burnout in 2022:
Streamline, and reduce, your workload: Overwork is one of the biggest contributors to burnout and it is also proven to be ineffective beyond a certain point. Research shows that working more than 55 hours a week doesn’t improve your job performance. The most effective way to reduce workload and prevent overwork is by Marie Kondo-ing your role. This tool is promoted on our platform and is another firm favourite of Grace Papers’ founder, Prue Gilbert. Marie Kondo-ing your role is all about ruthless prioritisation; this allows you to deliver on your outputs, but decrease the time you spend doing it. Identify the parts of your job that don’t spark joy, don’t impact your measures of success, and that attribute to dead-end work. Work out what can be delegated or dropped and go about doing so – whether that means booking in a meeting with your boss to seek approval, or not.
Mark the beginning and end of your day: Small rituals and routines build our resilience muscle more than we think. Just as we like to celebrate our birthdays every year, it’s important to mark the beginning and end of our days. These markers become a recognition of the work that has been done, and also serve as a reward for doing the work. For example, Grace Papers’ head of flexibility and coaching, Amanda Meehan loves to play music on a Friday afternoon and dances her way out of the office. While Grace Papers’ head of client strategy, Kate Gilson, consciously makes time for breaks in her day with a ‘Wello’ – like a smoko, but with a walk or workout instead.
Create team rituals that practice gratitude: Lack of a supportive community is one of the six causes of burnout, so working within a supportive environment is vital. Practising gratitude in your morning standup meeting is a great way to cultivate a supportive and positive environment. Grace Papers’ morning standup meetings include a daily gratitude practice, where each team member recalls one thing they’re grateful for. It is a firm favourite of Grace Papers’ software developer Cooper Viktor.
Connect to your purpose: Finding meaning and mastery in your day-to-day is proven to build resilience and prevent burnout. In short, having a purpose helps us get through difficult days. If you have not defined your purpose, or need to reconnect to it, we recommend using our Professional Vision tool in the platform. It provides a framework for you to develop an overarching vision for your career, and becomes a rudder guiding you through challenges and big choices. It’s a firm favourite of, well, every Grace Papers client and a ‘can’t live without’ for the team.