Burnout has long been an issue for workers, but this reality has taken on a whole new dimension during the pandemic. A survey conducted by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org of 65,000 employees, found that 42% of women and 35% of men reported feelings of burnout in 2021. That’s an increase of 10% for women and 7% for men over the preceding year.
Other studies have indicated that between 25% and 40% of employees have contemplated leaving their current position in the past year. Whether workers have had more time to contemplate their work-life or the stress and demands of the pandemic led to introspection, the Great Resignation is real. So what can someone do to come back from burnout and ensure it doesn’t happen again?
What Is Burnout?
First, it’s essential to understand that burnout is real. While not considered a medical condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” to its latest revision of its International Classification of Diseases.
In an article, the organization describes how chronic stress can cause burnout and lists three ways it can manifest: low energy or exhaustion, increased feelings of mental distance or cynicism concerning your job, and “reduced professional efficacy.”
Even though burnout is not considered a medical issue, overwork can have profound health implications. The WHO reported in another study that “working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.”
As remote work led to the blurring of boundaries between work and home, the issue of burnout only intensified during the pandemic. When you work from the place you live, it can be hard to tell when work ends and living begins.
How can workers overcome burnout then? What exactly is the answer? As a popular quote goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This adage applies to the current crisis in the workforce. For many, the answer lies in trying something different.
Start by considering your options. Burnout can make you feel like you have no control. You can exert some control by prioritizing tasks and setting better boundaries — like choosing not to take your work home. Sometimes you have to learn to simply say no. Can you discuss your issues or concerns with a supervisor at your current job? It may be possible to change something or find a solution that will help this way.
If making changes at your current position isn’t an option or doesn’t work, it may be time for a bigger change. Talk over your options and your feelings with people that you trust. They may provide insights you haven’t thought of before.
Paying attention to your needs is not wrong or selfish. Practicing some self-compassion is critical for many, especially in the current environment. It is important to remember that burnout is not just about being tired. It is unmanaged chronic stress with serious health and quality of life consequences.
Three Paths To Build A Better Life After Burnout
There are options for someone experiencing burnout in their current job. Depending on your risk tolerance, you may decide to change jobs or careers, buy a business or start a business of your own.
• Changing jobs or careers: This option is the least risky, but first, you need to determine what caused your initial burnout. Only by identifying what is behind your current state of work-related exhaustion can you find a new role that doesn’t create the same results. If you are contemplating a total career change, consider why you want to leave your current field. Then do an honest assessment of yourself. Would you at 80 years old have more or less regret looking back at your choices?
• Buying a business: The next choice is to buy a business. Purchasing something like a franchise offers you the chance to explore an interest in entrepreneurship with the safety net of a proven brand supporting you. Franchise ownership is a great way to fight burnout by becoming your boss. It can be scary venturing out on your own, but with a franchise, you will have the guidance and help of the franchisor on everything from training to marketing your location.
• Starting a business: Got a side hustle you think you could pursue full time? Then starting your own business might be the right choice for you. If the idea of leaving your current job to explore opening your own business sounds more appealing than terrifying, then it’s time to consider the advantages of striking out on your own. Owning and running your own business will take more time and energy than you may realize, but the payoffs are worth it for many.
It is possible to triumph over burnout. The key lies in figuring out what success means for you and configuring your job to fit your life goals. After weighing your options, leaving your current job or career can be challenging, but it can also be worth it in the long term — especially if it translates to improved mental, physical and emotional well-being.