Beating the Burnout

Large paper brain outline with red arrows on blue background

By Paul Weakley

A few weeks ago, a handful of technologists at PhoenixTeam came together to discuss the meaning of “burnout.” Burnout means something different to everyone as it is not unique to any job, industry, or workload. True burnout occurs when we lose the excitement and drive for our work and the ‘why’ that pushes us to give the best of ourselves. Burnout can turn ordinary tasks into obstacles that are difficult to overcome. While we feel successful when we are productive, we must remember that true success comes from so much more than what we produce at work.

Our company conversation about burnout never addressed working too much. It was focused on our desire to see positive changes from the effort we put in every day. One team member said that burnout is “when you can no longer see the positive alongside the negative.” Without recognition and positive change, the work we do turns into outputs and not outcomes.

November 3rd marks National Stress Awareness Day, and we encourage everyone their colleagues in these important conversations. Burnout can be pervasive. Without adequate work boundaries, burnout can spread like wildfire if left unchecked. When people say, “I need a vacation,” folks should be alarmed. If you have already reached the point of needing a vacation, then you are trying to pour from an empty cup. Vacations don’t fix burnout. In fact, taking vacations can cause stress when we have to consider the workload we are leaving behind, and the workload waiting for us when we return. If we constantly work with the thought of the next getaway in mind, then burnout is inevitable. To mitigate burnout, we need to rekindle the passion for work life.

Burnout cannot be eradicated, only mitigated. As a company, our culture should be supportive and compassionate. Great organizations encourage team members to take mental health days and share their concerns with confidence that they are heard. So often we hear about team members, our most valued asset, being more concerned with missing out on work than tending to their emotional and mental needs.  Burnout is also not an end-all. Burnout is a teaching tool so that team members can understand what they can and cannot handle and make appropriate boundaries to enable them to be their best selves while doing their best work. So next time you feel burnt out, re-evaluate your surroundings and see how you can implement joy back into your work life. Reach out, ask for help, say you need to move that meeting so that when you log off for the day, you know that everything you did was worth it for yourself, and your team.

The best advice I can give is to find daily routines that bring you joy and peace. For me, it might be taking the kids to school, taking my wife out to lunch, or a walk outside for a conference call. Sometimes it can be as simple as taking two minutes to lay down next to my lazy pup and pet her. The grunts of content from the dog, the smiles and hugs from the kids, the wind in my face listening to the birds are all things that bring me to a place of content. It brings some perspective to my daily challenges so that I can see the good beyond the difficult challenges and struggles during the day. So that when I lay my head down at night I know, without a doubt, I did something that mattered.