In May of this year, the World Health Organization recognized ‘burnout’ as an occupational phenomenon.
Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
“…Make the most of each day by approaching every task with energy, focus, purpose, enthusiasm, and a smile.”
Can anyone really ‘bring it’ all the time? Be fully engaged, approach every task with energy, focus, purpose, enthusiasm, and… a smile?
As a true extrovert and someone with generally higher than average energy levels, this isn’t too difficult for me most days. While I’m a coffee drinker, my “Coffee before talkie” mug is more joke than an actual warning.
There are also days when this is HARD. Not just one bad night of sleep hard, but “my family is in Puerto Rico and it’s been 4 days since the hurricane hit and I still haven’t been able to confirm they are ok and I’m being told to start checking with the Red Cross” hard. Or – relevant to right now, a “my home is in a state of serious civil unrest with wide-spread strikes, protests, and government upheaval” hard.*
Here are some other “hards” that I hear often that stand between a “can-do attitude” and unflappable smile:
Taking Fundamental #11 at face value, it almost necessitates shutting out the outside world, and directing one’s full energy, emotional, and mental resources to the work. Sometimes, that is exactly what we need, that push to compartmentalize, focus on the task, and let that success fuel a positive feedback loop to help us shake off the jujus that are holding us back from being our best selves.
Sometimes, it isn’t enough.
While I find WHO’s definition of burn-out lacks the acknowledgment of external factors and/or changing parameters of the workplace that can contribute to heightened anxiety, it does point at the fact that it is the lack of success in managing that stress that results in burn-out, not just the stressors themselves.
This is where IC’s Fundamental #17 Maintain a Healthy Work Life Balance comes into play. Despite how at the surface level the two seem diametrically opposed, leaning on #17 is how we use our tools in order to be able to “bring it”.
This fundamental actually gives us someplace to start when putting our head down and just focusing on the work isn’t enough. Check it out:
And when that is still not enough, when the days turn into a week, then two or more: When the stressors can’t be shaken off or left on a treadmill:
Ask for help.
What I love most about Fundamental #17 is that it ends in both:
The open door to lean on each other, and the accountability to be a team when it really matters.
We do not do this alone. This life we live-work or otherwise is not in a vacuum. The chronic stress is real. The consequences are real, and they include low performance, diminished satisfaction, and fulfillment.
We are all struggling, at different times in our day, weeks, and lives. For some of us, it lives beneath the surface, every day; Diaspora, breaking cycles of poverty, illness and medical struggles, the loneliness of relocation. I’m glad that mental health is becoming a more commonplace discussion in the workplace and that a spotlight is being shone on areas relevant to the changing worker face to raise awareness of how different minority groups experience this in what has largely been a cone of silence in the professional world.
Lean on your resources to make space for creating the balance that will allow you to be your best, to bring it, every day that you can. Take 15 minutes today and walk outside if you can. Reunite with your breath and see if you find a little more room to bring it. If you know that your struggle today needs more than that, look for your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or reach out to a trusted manager or HR professional and ask for more tools/resources/options.
The only way to give the best of yourself is to give the best to yourself. From there, you can bring all of it, including the smile.
When a workplace goes beyond the expectation of high performance and provides tools and accountability that support a healthy lifestyle and mental wellness, the change isn’t just in performance and productivity. It is a change that we carry home to our families and friends. It changes our communities.
*Managers and Leaders: Your underrepresented team members struggle in a world that might be different from yours. When you scan the headlines, pause and think- who should I check in with that might really be struggling because of this news? The compassion of a quick 5-minute catch-up or text goes a long way in helping people feel like there is room for their experience in a workplace that they don’t always see themselves represented in.
Something the leader of my department, Glen Wilson, says that I think walks a perfect line between support/acknowledgment and privacy/respect is, “Let [me/us] know what you need, be it support or space.”
July was designated as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008 to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States (US). #depthofmyidentity
More About Internet Creations’ Weekly Fundamentals – The IC Way
Each week, a different team member at IC circulates an internal email or a piece of content that brings life to one of our 29 fundamentals (The IC Way) from their perspective. This provides our team with a unique lens to view the weekly fundamental – through a co-worker’s eyes. These internal messages have made a significant impact on our workplace culture, and in an effort to spread this impact around to our customers and our community, we’re sharing more of The IC Way with you.