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Monday, May 21, 2012

Employee burnout, and how can you avoid it

 (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Employee burnout, look closely, it is surfacing underneath the hardwood desks or metal cubicles in your office.  I first encountered employee burnout during my undergraduate years at Tennessee State University.  I was working full-time at Asurion Insurance, a wireless device insurance company based in Nashville.  Within the technical support department, there was mandatory overtime.  Management would walk around our desks and get us to sign up for additional overtime.  If we refused to sign, we would be written up.  

The linchpin in me now would surely have handed in my walking papers immediately; instead, I promptly signed up as I was eager to milk them of the time-and-a-half they would have to pay me and my technical support cohorts.  Fast forward two weeks later, I was on a customer phone call early in the morning (I am not a morning person).  I usually worked afternoons and evenings, but since this new overtime became available, here I was, tired, cranky, and ready to go home.  I had been working 50 to 60 hours a week since the overtime policy began.  I snapped at the dissatisfied customer as I could barely understand his loud, obnoxious complaints.  After a meeting with my supervisor and his manager, I pretended everything was okay.  A few days after that meeting, I turned in my resignation letter.  I literally hated the sight of that building.  It affected my happiness outside of work; I experience a mini-breakdown.

Burnout is defined as a syndrome of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion coupled with feelings of low self-esteem or low self-efficacy, resulting from prolonged exposure to intense stress, and the strain reactions following from them.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost two percent of full-time workers quit their jobs in the private sector as of March 2012.  That number is gradually rising.  This hints at probable burnout as many Americans have had to reevaluate their priorities and values especially with the widespread job uncertainty.

According to the American Psychological Association, stress causes health-related consequences including heart disease, backaches, ulcers, headaches, cancer, diabetes, lung disease, appetite disorders, depression and more.  

The serious negative consequences of stress and burnout had prompted some companies to take action; however, if you do not work for a company that has organizational compassion, you should be proactive towards reducing stress and preventing potential burnout.  

Here are some suggestions of preventing burnout on the job:

  • Social support group: Being around people who genuinely care for you may boost your self-esteem, allow you to vent, and give you the necessary attention you may be psychologically starving for.  
  • Exercise:  Living a healthy lifestyle has an important impact on all factors of life.  
  • Manage time:  prioritizing your activities will relieve stress as you focus on urgent tasks.  Structuring your time to complete each activity should be followed by social interaction and rest periods.  Never try to work through a long task without taking multiple breaks and periods of relaxation.  
  • Sleep:  By allowing your body and mind the opportunity to recharge, you greatly reduce the probability of stress.  
  • Work-life balance:  Work should not be the most important factor in your life.  Work should not control the majority of your time.  It is important that you balance spirituality, physical fitness, mental wellness, family, hobbies, education, sleep, and work equally.  We are living organisms who need balance to maximize our abilities; we are not robots.  Work is a reflection of the life we choose to live, not the other way around.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been do; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

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