The Latest Burnout Technology at Work.

What is know about Burnout at work is that job burnout can result from various factors, including:

  • Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work.
  • Unclear job expectations. If you’re unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you’re not likely to feel comfortable at work.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Perhaps you work with an office bully, or you feel undermined by colleagues or your boss micromanages your work. This can contribute to job stress.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed.
  • Work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly.

When trying to understand how to address burnout in the workplace there must be an audit done of the company to obtain organisational insights about what the company’s people is causing the problem. From there a solution can be built with the people and their views as key influencers in the solution. In the webinar myself and my business partner Mark are running we will review how how companies can address work place burnout culturally and clinically and also we will feature our partners, Healthy Places to Work who audit companies then gather the data so the data can lead the strategy.

Recognising Burnout

There is an urgent need for research into burnout as Gallup (2021) collected data that showed over a third of all employees are chronically stressed out or burned out at any one time but unaware of it.

This ignorance of the effect too much stress is having on employees must be addressed. In 2017, a study commissioned by the UK Prime Minister’s office found that a sixth of the UK workforce (circa 32million) were suffering from ill health, mental difficulties, and long-term absences caused by the lack of ability to bounce back from an adversity such as burnout (Mafabi et al., 2015). Moreover, in 2008, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the UK’s biggest and oldest HRM and HRD professional association, founded in 1913 and with over 100,000 international members, conducted a survey on why individual employees were absent from work. It was found that over thirteen million days were lost between 2007 and 2008 highlighting (Dello Rosso & Stoykova, 2015).

Maslach and Jackson (1981) define burnout in terms of 3 dimensions. These are emotional physical exhaustion (EE), depersonalization (DP) and loss of purpose in job or life resulting in reduced desire for personal accomplishment (PA). Often executives have all these symptoms but feeling so bad becomes just a way of life which means those people also don’t realise how ill they are before it is too late. Deloitte (2021) reports over fifty per-cent of employers being unaware of what the components of burnout are which makes it hard for employers to diagnose burnout and offer appropriate treatment (Leiter et al., 2014). Research conducted by Williams (2017) demonstrated that even when employees were diagnosed with burnout, they had been unaware they had been chronically stressed leading up to their breakdown. Clough et al. (2012) claim that when a person is chronically stressed, they no longer are able to distinguish the distressed state from a healthy homeostatic state. It is thought that energy management is the best form for treatment to help a person return to their natural homeostatic state and rehabilitate from burnout (Maslach et al., 1996).

This led Loehr and Schwartz (2005) to create the full engagement grid which is a system of four energy zones (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) a person needs to work with to avoid burnout. Contrary to the popularity and success of the energy grid (Loehr and Schwartz 2005) did not provide specific practices participants could do to help their energy zones if they were burned out so their capacity to affect burnout was limited to prevention rather than cure. Loehr (1995) describe the need for physical exercise as being vital to any work that involves recovering from stress. More recently, Gardener (2021) has modernised the energy concept. Professor Gardener claims that focussing on being aware and reporting on mental, emotional, and physical states builds quotients in these areas that lead to better recognition of imbalance and improved usage of these areas (Marenus 2020). Gardener (2021) refers to three energy zones being relevant when working on burnout – mental (IQ), emotional (EQ), and physical (PQ). Here, IQ relates to intellect quotient, EQ refers to emotional quotient and PQ is the Physical Quotient.

The current data surrounding work into workplace stress programmes centres around mindfulness. These mindfulness based programmes (MBP) have empirically demonstrated that MBP’s that have a focus on IQ, EQ and PQ are more effective at managing stress and improving resilience than traditional MBSR or MBCT courses (West, Dyrbye, Erwin and Shanafelt, 2016). Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have concluded that organizational interventions have reduced cases of burnout effectively when they not only run MBP’s but also by educating workers how to develop IQ, EQ and PQ strategies for themselves (Smith, 2014). Smith (2014) promotes the use of MBP’s that include physical exercise as a primary option to teach employees to manage their own mental and physical state. It is vital that executives become accustomed to understanding and recognising their own physical states so they can start to recognise when there might be an issue sooner. The need for workplaces to educate their staff in how to understand physical health will be made even easier when this is linked to devices such as wearable HRV monitors (West, Dyrbye, Erwin and Shanafelt 2016). Indeed, Gardener (2021) can see a very near future where executives monitor their stress levels through HRV device like Garmin which will improve performance because they will feel physical better but it might also save lives.

References

Deloitte United Kingdom (2021) Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion a year. [online] Available at: <https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/press-releases/articles/poor-mental-health-costs-uk-employers-up-to-pound-45-billion-a-year.html> [Accessed 4 February 2021]

Gallup, I. (2021) Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: <https://www.gallup.com/workplace/288539/employee-burnout-biggest-myth.aspx> [Accessed 17 January 2021]

Lboro.ac.uk. (2021) | PQ one of three University spinouts | School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences | Loughborough University. [online] Available at: <https://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ssehs/news/2020/pq-one-of-three-university-spinouts.html> [Accessed 16 April 2021]

Leiter, M., Bakker, A. and Maslach, C. (2014) Burnout at Work. London and New York: Psychology Press. Taylor and Francis Group

Loehr, J.E. (1995) The New Toughness Training for Sports, New York: Plume Publishers

Loehr, J & Schwartz, T (2005) The power of full engagement, New York: Free Press

Maslach,C., Jackson, SE., Leiter, M.P., (Eds.) (1996)The Maslach Burnout Inventory-Test Manual, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA, pp. 19-26

Marenus, M. (2020) Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligencesy. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html

Smith, S. (2014) Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: An Intervention to Enhance the Effectiveness of Nurses’ Coping with Work-Related Stress. International Journal of Nursing Knowledge, 25(2), pp.119-130

 

 

The Hundred Year Life Work Balance

Only recently Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott (The 100-Year Life – a gift few of us are prepared for | London Business School, 2021) claim that babies born today have an average life expectancy of 100 years.

This means that the education that is taught will evolve to providing the tools we need to stay healthier for longer because our working life will be extending beyond the retirement age of previous generations. The thinking now is that wellbeing will be taught as part of the national curriculum to equip the future workforce with life skills that will enable them to perform throughout the whole of their extended careers.

It is recognised globally that current workplaces have a long way to go to provide an environment for employees to ensure they remain physically and mentally healthy. The increased focus on stress-related burnout has led to burnout now being classified by the WHA (Home 2021) as a recognised medical syndrome for the first time.

The concerns mainly concern the psychological safety of employees with stress-related health concerns topping nearly all lists citing burnout (a syndrome that results from chronic stress) in most cases. Burnout is at the end of the stress spectrum and is typified, according to Maslach & Jackson (1982), by mental and physical exhaustion, lack of engagement at work and reduced passion for life. The global pandemic has increased the spotlight more on the area of psychological safety surrounding stress with Gallup (Gallup 2021) reporting that 23% of employees are feeling burned out and 44% are feeling burned out sometimes. Burnout is serious as it can lead to physical consequences muscular/skeletal pain, heart attacks and cancer. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it’s linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Source: Gallup

The best way to reduce stress in the workplace is to ensure that the career an employee has formed part of their work/life balance. Effectively, work should meet their goals, values and aspirations in life which can be achieved by employers displaying emotional intelligence by listening to what their employees want from their jobs.

A recent article by Dawkins and Kendall (2019) commented that Covid-19 has highlighted the need for jobs to have flexibility in terms of hours and where the job is done. The report claimed that due to many socioeconomic factors modern workplaces were an extension of the family where a person seeks help and support as much as they want a paycheck. Therefore, prioritising a healthy culture where the needs of the people on a personal level are promoted as much as career progression helps to create an environment that people are passionate about.

Indeed, as part of the UK Government driven Farmer and Stevenson (2017) report into wellbeing in the workplace confirmed that a healthy work culture that is supportive and nurturing is the single biggest factor in reducing workplace distress and can produce a return on investment of well over 1000%. It does this by developing positivity about the job and the workload whereby employees relish the stress that is placed upon them as they want to work hard to make the company successful. This positive form of stress is known as Eustress (Farmer and Stevenson, 2017) and has been shown to reduce distress dramatically and at the same time increases the discretionary effort (extra effort an employee does not need to use) an employee puts in.

It seems then the key to increasing the length, the quality and the profitability of employees’ careers is to do with the culture of the company. A culture that is supportive as well as flexible and considers meeting the emotional needs of its people meets the needs of the modern generation and will help keep those in the 100-year life cycle happier and healthier for longer.

 

References

Dawkins, M. and Kendall, J., 2019. Burnout Prevention & Education. Oncology Issues, 34(4), pp.56-61.

Jackson, S. and Maslach, C., 1982. After-effects of job-related stress: Families as victims. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 3(1), pp.63-77.

Gallup, I., 2021. Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: <https://www.gallup.com/workplace/288539/employee-burnout-biggest-myth.aspx>

London Business School. 2021. The 100-Year Life – a gift few of us are prepared for | London Business School. [online] Available at: <https://www.london.edu/news/the-100-year-life-a-gift-few-of-us-are-prepared-for>

Farmer, P. and Stevenson, D., 2017. Thriving at Work: The Independent Review of Mental Health and Employers. [online] Thriving at Work, p.5. Available at: <https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658145/thriving-at-work-stevenson-farmer-review.pdf>

Who.int. 2021. Home. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/>

The Future of Work is Emotional Intelligence

In a report by the World Economic Forum (2018), it is predicted that by 2022 employers will look for emotional intelligence (EQ) even more than traditional measures of intelligence like IQ. This is not only in the recruitment drive but also in the teams, managers and boards that are already in employment. This is particularly interesting given that my research into how to create a high performance professional centres around being emotionally agile.

So what is EQ? Effectively it is emotional agility which is the skill of being able to be aware of the emotions that are present, the presence of mind to choose to engage and then the inner confidence to act if necessary (David 2016). Dr David confirms that those who are emotionally agile have far higher levels of EQ than your average person. Positive psychologists such as Shawn Achor (2016) have likened EQ to social intelligence the ability to understand theirs and others emotions and the ability to use this information to connect and communicate effectively. In fact, Shawn says that higher levels of EQ indicate a better predictor of success than high levels of IQ. If you are emotionally aware you can build strong teams who, Shawn’s research has shown, are 50% more likely to achieve their goals than individuals working in siloes. My own studies have revealed that those leaders who are compassionate have far more resilience in themselves and their teams.

It is commonly known that IQ is limiting when it comes to performance. IQ, which means intelligence quotient, is a measure of a person’s reasoning ability. In short, it is supposed to gauge how well someone can use information and logic to answer questions or make predictions. IQ tests begin to assess this by measuring short- and long-term memory. IQ is a useful measure of logical reasoning and memory however it is not going to enable employees to build relationships and powerful teams. However, IQ is important and when looking at the overall productivity, success and wellbeing of an individual Gallup (2021) advises that individuals are multi-faceted therefore its better to consider IQ and EQ in combination.

Despite its obvious benefits, my investigations into workplace emotional intelligence have revealed that not a lot is known about how to develop EQ in organisations. This can have a dramatic effect on personal and organisational resiliency levels as higher EQ helps to connect with the emotion that is being felt and provides a source of answers to help resolve any conflict. Due to the pandemic there has been an epidemic of stress and burnout. One of the key interventions used in burnout treatment is compassion because this enables a person to come to full experience their emotions, this develops awareness of actually how they are feeling which leads into acceptance of their present state. There is a framework I like to use when working with leaders of organisation called the conscious leader. This system equips leaders with all the emotional intelligence tools they need lead their organisations from a connected and kind place as well as one that has a key business logic and direction.

There are some steps that you can take now to improve your EQ.  Leading expert in compassion Dr Kristin Neff (2018) advocates the three below exercises and having practiced them myself I can confirm my EQ has increased over a short time.

  1. If you experience an emotion take a second before you react. This is a mindfulness practice that allows us the power of choice about how we react to a feeling.
  2. Be present with your feelings. Get used to feeling them and allow them to come. Don’t push them away with distractions. The purpose of this is to understand how our emotions are affecting us and, in turn, affecting our actions and behaviours. You might find your communication is affected heavily by your emotional state at work.
  3. Give yourself the permission to accept how you feel. Through acceptance comes resolution and through resolution we can choose to take action.

 

References

Achor, S (2016) A Joosr guide to The happiness advantage by Shawn Achor. Clitheroe, United Kingdom: Joosr Ltd.

David, S. (2016) Emotional agility. Clitheroe: Joosr Ltd.

Gallup, I (2021) Why Performance Development Shouldn’t Rely on EQ. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: <https://www.gallup.com/workplace/259496/why-performance-development-shouldn-rely.aspx> [Accessed 24 February 2021].

Neff, K., 2018. Setting the Record Straight About the Self-Compassion Scale. Mindfulness, 10(1), pp.200-202.

World Economic Forum, 2018. The Future of Jobs. [online] Available at: <http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf> [Accessed 24 February 2021].

What Is Burnout And What Can You Do About It?

What is Burnout?

I have been fascinated with the Burnout syndrome for many years now since having my own episode of Burnout.

The symptoms of burnout are; feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. This came after years of working long hours in a stressful role as director building my first company with hardly any sleep. The result was a crash! I was in mess physically, mentally and socially.

It was not until I was recommended to try yoga, cardiovascular exercises and mindfulness that I made any improvements. Then after a few weeks of getting some running in followed by yoga and mindfulness, I felt like my symptoms had all but gone. The fact was that those symptoms had not actually gone so quickly but I felt so much better so quickly it felt like I had made a full recovery.

It took a few weeks of regular mindfulness and yoga practice before I felt stable enough to go into work. When I did finally go back, I had a clarity of mind and renewed energy. In fact, I drove the company so positively that I sold it for a massive profit. What has followed since selling that business has been an insatiable desire to understand what variables within the yoga and mindfulness helped my recovery.

Even more interesting than this was to understand what about those practices had led me to perform to a better performance than I had been able to achieve previously. This pursuit of answers led me to study an MSc and then go onto a PHD researching the efficacy of mindfulness and yoga in the treatment of burnout in the corporate workplace.

There are many ingredients that make mindfulness and yoga so successful in treating stress but it’s not yet understood how these two tools also develop resiliency needed for performance. At the time of burnout, I did not appreciate how important energy was. I have always had a strong mindset. If you were to use the paradigms that Dr Peter Clough (mental toughness) or Dr Carol Dweck (GRIT) use to define resiliency as having a strong growth mind that perseveres when all else would fail I had it. What I did not have was an understanding of how much impact energy had on those levels of resiliency and what aspects of yoga and mindfulness were responsible for such quick rehabilitation.

Replenishing our Energy

After initial research into this area, it became clear that the outcomes of interventions using yoga and mindfulness had a common theme.

The interventions affected the energetic state of the individual, so they felt physically, emotionally and mentally better and found their purpose again which is something that is lost during the burnout phase. Participants mentioned feeling like they had energy again, so I looked at what research there was into energy management in the workplace. This is when I came across Tony Schwartz’s Energy Project. One of Tony’s most famous statements is -“We’re not meant to run at high speeds, continuously, for long periods of time.

Science tells us we’re at our best when we move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy — a reality that companies must embrace to fuel sustainable engagement and high performance.” Tony boldly suggests that in order to keep employees working in “Performance Zone”, we should be sprinters rather than marathoners – taking rests regularly to recovery our physical, psychological and emotional energy.

There are four energy zones, according to Tony, which are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. If any one of these four is out of kilter we run the risk of unbalancing our whole performance and with too much unbalance we might face burnout.

Recovery

It was after understanding the four pillars of the energy paradigm that I came to realise how impactful exercise, mindfulness and yoga were in the recovery from and then the resiliency to not to return to burnout.

The combination of both mindfulness and yoga affects our physical, mental and emotional states. This is well documented. However, in burnout, a person can become detached from the world and themselves. They have lost connection, purpose and a sense of who they are. Ton calls this spiritual energy. I prefer emotional energy as this is the energy that drives and connects us to our purpose in life.

Both mindfulness and yoga help to bring a person to a place of purpose by looking inwardly into who we are and accepting how we feel. Tony’s model also has similar comparisons in that he promotes the use of practices like yoga that combine physical and mental exercises in short bursts meaning those in the workplace have a method to quickly recharge to give 100% of their energy to projects they are working on.

Once we finish one sprint or goal, we renew ourselves and prepare for the next sprint, where we can also give 100% of our energy. With this theory of rhythmic energy output and renewal, there is always 100% effort given to any given project or goal. This contrasts with the model I used to live my working life by where I would effectively run a marathon by working hard for long periods without breaks which ultimately led to my burnout.

Conclusion

Humans work more naturally and rhythmically needing to constantly balance the spending and renewal of energy. We can learn to do this by connecting with how we use and replenish energy and have an understanding of what exercises work the best to help us. If we are tight and tired in our bodies, we need a stretch and to move. If we are mentally stressed, we need to stop thinking and disconnect from the computer. It’s no good all these interventions in the workplace continually focussing on the mind. We must understand a person is a system of many different energy zones and if we are not addressing all of these then we will continue to be running a race without every fully recharging.

Mindfulness For Men

This technique is essential for all human beings and should not be limited to one gender. However, the Mindful practice, in some circles, has been associated with a system that is not based on substantive results. It has been dubbed by some as a hippy idea that is a bit wishy-washy. This may be why some males do not engage well with it.

 

According to Dr Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, men prefer to speak in the language of logic which tends to be fact-driven and results-based. That is why Dr Davidson’s research has done wonders to win hearts and minds as he has proven that even short-term meditation training (30 minutes a day for eight weeks) alters the brain activity leading to long-lasting changes.

Kozo Hattori wrote an article entitled how to make Mindfulness more manly which followed on from the above research. Kozo described ways this practice could be made more appealing to men.

He highlighted that even with current scientific evidence for using mindfulness two-thirds of classes are made up of females. The interesting approach taken by Zozo was to show that although group meditation sessions have connotations for men that push them away there are many practising mindfulness in other forms. A great example used is how in some sports athletes are taught to clear their mind by going through a routine of their sports like hitting a golf swing. This helps them get into the zone regularly so their performance is increased.

The Kozo article is helpful because it highlights how important positioning is when we are trying to engage with our audience. Mindfulness needs to be positioned in a way that it appeals to the male audience and it can be done by changing the terminology used. A great example of that was given by The Prison-Ashram project, started in 1975 by Bo and Sita Lozoff with Ram Dass. This project spoke to prisoners by using their language and removing the “fluffy” “emotional” language the prisoners did not want to hear. The result was that over fifty per cent of male prisoners were open to trying the intervention than a year previously.

Kozo also said that Mindfulness has to be adapted for the environment of the audience. For instance, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been used in the US military’s Marine Corps. This has massively helped the marines focus on their jobs, become more resilient in the line of fire and had helped manage anxiety and stress brought on by military duties. The courses have helped so much that Major Jeff Davis cannot think of an area that it hasn’t helped to improve and the effects have been dramatic.

Mindfulness is a mindset practice that can help a person develop resilience, focus and manage their stress. Now that it is being normalised in the school system more males will use it but for older men, it may have negative associations. For this group, it has been shown that focusing on the evidential outcomes, using the right language and meeting the men where they are is the best method to get them into this amazing practice.

The Benefits of Yoga & Mindfulness

Whether you define yoga and mindfulness as movements, hobbies, trends, disciplines or something else, what is irrefutable is they are about as mainstream, popular and influential as they come right now.

Everyone who practices yoga and engages in some form of mindfulness meditation is unique and will have a different outcome or goal in mind they get onto the mat or cushion. That being said, this brief article is going to specifically look at how mindfulness and yoga can have a positive impact on mental health.

While yoga and mindfulness are nothing new they both have rich and intricate histories that span thousands of years, in the past few years their popularity has skyrocketed.

Data from search giant Google suggests that searches for “mindfulness apps” and “yoga for beginners” grew by 65% year-on-year (2016 – 2017) and the volume continues to increase. On a similar note, since 2015 over 2,500 meditation apps alone have since 2015. It just goes to show how large our collective appetite for holistic wellness has become.

Now, in terms of the benefits of both practices, many studies have been conducted with a view to gauge their impact on mental health. This particular study concluded that “both yoga and mindfulness have demonstrated significant benefit in reducing the severity of depressive symptoms”.

A piece published in The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice concluded that: “There is growing research evidence supporting the use of yoga as an adjunct or combination therapy for the management of stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness has been indicated as a potential mechanism of change…”

Alongside the growing body of scientific evidence, there is also plenty of anecdotal evidence as to the effectiveness of mindfulness and yoga in positively impacting mental health.

One such example is Scott Robinson, an experienced finance professional in London who turned to yoga and meditation as a means of dealing with his stressful job. Now under the moniker of Yogibanker, he uses his yoga teacher training to help fellow professionals in high-pressure jobs deal with anxiety and stress. In an interview for the HFE blog, he says: “For me, yoga was all about creating a good ‘space’ during stressful times… I was in the City, a new institution, I was managing a team for the first time, and yoga was really there to help me get through that period. It was almost like my refuge or sanctuary which I could go to regularly – just to create a little bit of space to take the edge off the day. As a result, I’d sleep better and go back to work the next day and be in a better space mentally.”

If you’re keen to learn more about yoga and mindfulness, there is no shortage of resources and training out there. One particular place you could start, if you’re keen to help others, is by enrolling onto a yoga instructor course and becoming a fully qualified yogi. For more about the intricacies about mindfulness, right here on the Satis site would be a great place to start.

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