Burnout – are you on your way there?

In our article “Cash isn’t always king” we took you though the recent survey results Remuneration Survey undertaken by Chartered Accountants (CA) of their members in Australia and New Zealand.  In that article, we went through key drivers for employee satisfaction with lifestyle, wellness programs and engaging and variety in work the leading priorities.

The same report found that 36% of employees who felt overworked were highly likely to seek out new employment. In this group, where they did not have flexible working arrangements, 41% said that they would consider new opportunities.  Of course, finding new opportunities which offer those lifestyle work options is the key here.  Unfortunately, those jobs are not always available and what tends to happen is that we stay in those roles, continue to feel overworked and ultimately overwhelmed.

So what is the cost of a professional career?

There is an unwritten expectation when you finish your study that you will find a job that will require you to put in long hours.  It’s the norm.  Some wear it like a badge, posting on social media when they are finishing up work at 10pm or 1am.  It is not, in our view, something to be proud of.

There will be deadlines in any professional role. Be that whether that’s ATO deadlines or whether that’s core deadlines, and whenever those deadlines come up, things are always hectic at the pointy end. With that hectic period comes stress. When we have ATO deadlines, that is all in one hit, and you have every entity needing to have their tax lodged at that point in the year. There is no give and take.  Your clients are relying on you to ensure they comply with their obligations. Obviously you can apply for special consideration and adjournments and everything like that. However, it can cause an innate amount of stress and insomnia and all sorts of things, which ultimately leads us to burnout if left unmanaged.

What is burnout?

It’s a syndrome that is combined from chronic exhaustion and a disconnection with your work. Those that are more likely to suffer burnout are the perfectionists and the workaholics. These are the Type A personalities. We know that we’re going to have to put in the work now to get to the career advancements. We know that there are going to be deadlines. We know that’s going to cause added work that we’re going to need to adhere to. We also know that if we’re not perfectionists, if we don’t put in a hundred percent effort, if we don’t double check, if we don’t triple check, if every i is not dotted, every t is not crossed, if a six is confused for a nine, we know that we are the ones that are going to wear the brunt of that. That is such a conducive environment to build stress. While some of us have personalities that can deal with different levels of stress, consistent stress, it will wear you down.

Burnout can also build over time, not at peak stress periods but in a prolonged period of ongoing work without sensible breaks and holidays.  You just keep going.  You keep working.  Elizabeth, one of our founding partners, suffered from burnout in around 2016 after a prolonged period of just working and no sensible holidays.  She had made partner within 4 years and after 11 years in the firm, whilst other employees will have taken their long service options, Elizabeth didn’t have that option and just kept working.  Burnt out.  Lost all desire to work at all.

Now, some people thrive under stress. It can enhance them. It can motivate them. And in short bursts it can cause focus and give people that little burst to get over that little hurdle that they have. However, when it’s consistent, when it’s day after day, week after week, month after month, and you can’t take a holiday because you have deadline after deadline after deadline, and you feel that at the end of the day, you go to bed and you haven’t been able to do any exercise for yourself. You haven’t been able to stop properly for lunch, so you ate something on the go. You had a packet of chippies out of the junk food box. And you go to bed and you’re kicking yourself because all day you’ve run around and dealt with other people’s problems.

So what’s the solution?

Following some simple steps to make sure that you’re looking after yourself will help you to handle your stress before it becomes burnout.

Prioritising sleep and getting regular exercise. Eat properly, good nourishing meals that energise you.

Turn your notifications off on your email, on your phone. Avoid having your work emails on your phone, work happens in the office, not at any other time.

Limiting any distractions so that during the time that you actually need to work, that you actually can manage to get that done without distractions.

Working out what time of the day works best for you.  When do you do your best work?.  Look at your to do list and get the hardest, most annoying, things you have been putting off tasks done then, and then map out the rest of your day.

If these times have taught us anything its that life is too short to be overworked, stressed and burnt out and while employment allows us to be remunerated so that we can pay rent, mortgages, buy food, the cost that comes with the wrong job, or the wrong work style is not worth it.  Try these simple steps and see what works for you.

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