Burnout is a hot topic. GOOD. Its time burnout gets a more sustained lens on it, empowering everyone to know the risks, and step out of the burnout cycle.
When you pay attention to your risk factors, you can mitigate your burnout risk BEFORE you have the excruciating conversation with your doctor.
You know, the conversation where they encourage you to take 6-8 weeks off work, and the thought of leaving your team in the lurch, or the e-mail that will pile up while you’re gone, makes you feel like throwing up.
There’s a reason you resist making changes, even when you know your health is getting dangerously close to the edge.
It’s called ‘status-quo bias’.
As beautiful human beings, we love the familiar. We work very hard to keep things on-track. We like to keep things going as predictably and as smoothly as possible. AND, (as the behavioural science highlights) we will strive to keep things as they are, even when doing so impacts our own welfare. Yes, I see you.
You are not alone. So many professionals are out there trying to keep all the plates spinning.
Did you know a healthy work week consists of working less than 40 hours a week (30-35 is optimal), and includes structured and predictable start and stop times? Additionally, we should be taking ALL our vacation time each year, and using those weeks of vacation consecutively; not a whole summer of long weekends… which (let’s be honest) doesn’t happen even when you’ve booked those Fridays off.
Oh, and that optimal work week isn’t just the time you spend at work, but also includes time spent on the labour you perform at home (meal prep, groceries, laundry, etc.).
I didn’t have that kind of work week until I was 6 years into the best and most time consuming position I’ve ever held… and had a family wake-up call. A very disappointed little boy (my son) burst into frustrated tears at the sight of me on my laptop one Saturday. He rightly assumed I was working that day. What he really needed was a mom who could fully participate in the kind of family activities that support the healthy development of growing humans. He did not need yet another Saturday of being beached in front of the TV.
At 10 years old my son could apply a better sense of propriety than I – and I was a coach. And this was after I’d already been down the burnout path, and recovered from it once before. I knew better and still didn’t listen… until it impacted someone I loved. Things changed after that ugly realization (I now walk the talk).
Never again. AND, having made the change I can attest it had no negative impact on my earnings (in fact, they went up). Work less, earn more. It’s ABSOLUTELY possible.
The collateral damage to working the North American norm of 50-70 hours a week impacts a lot of things; our health, our loved ones and the fabric of our communities (volunteerism is in year-over-year decline, in direct relation to the increased number of hours we work). We’re getting IRATE – with each other (look at the airline stats on altercations). We also SUCK (and that is not too strong a word) at taking all our vacation in North America. We need to be way angrier about this then we are. Eff the “status-quo”.
Do you know who is living their best lives? People on the World Health Organizations’ list of happiest countries. Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) consistently rank high on this list, and for good reason. They have 5-6 weeks of vacation, taken consecutively during company shut-downs (no e-mail back-log to come back to). They also finish work predictably, shutting down work between 4 and 5 o’clock (after an 8-hour day).
I’ve worked in Sweden. This is the norm. This is not some selective window into an unrealistic ideal. It’s cultural.
And culture is what is holding us back here. A culture of busy-ness. The culture of hustle. Thing is, whole other populations have figured out to be productive AND have a successful career without endangering their health, happiness, communities or earning potential. Look at the GDP for Scandinavian countries – they are pulling their weight in productivity and doing it without burning people out.
AND we can too. A successful career does not mean working punishing hours. A demanding job does not mean you have to never take your vacation. Burning out is not a badge you earn on the way to 6 figures.
Please get angry. Get INCENSED. Look at what’s happening to you and around you. It shouldn’t be this way.
Want to be a part of the change? Start with assessing your working life wellbeing, and let’s talk about how you can create a work life you can love.
A work life that doesn’t disappoint your kids, or cost you your physical/mental health. These are the best years of your life; how do you want to live them?
Carleen opened up an entire world that I never knew existed. She helped me see how important it is to live and work while fulfilling every part of what makes you your own person. She helped me shape a new perspective on life and made me realize that it’s okay to be happy, whatever that means to me.