How to Prevent Overwork and Burnout

by DailyBriefers
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“Health is certainly more valuable than money, because it is by health that money is procured.”
—Samuel Johnson

Overwork and burnout contributed to more than 745,000 deaths worldwide in just one year, according to a recent study from the World Health Organization. People working 55 or more hours per week have an estimated 35 percent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who work 35-40 hours a week. The good news is there are things you can do to prioritize your mental and physical health without sacrificing your professional success.

In my clinical practice, I deal with clients with burnout regularly. Burnout is serious and can disrupt your life. In fact, it’s a clinical diagnosis that puts us at risk for anxiety, fatigue, apathy, making mistakes, memory problems, and sleep deprivation. When you are burnt out, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. As a result, self-care goes out the window.

Work induced stress doesn’t just hurt the person dealing with it. When employees struggle with low energy, negative feelings about their job, and reduced workplace efficacy, it also directly impacts the bottom line for employers. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 61 percent of employees say they suffer from workplace stress1. That comes with a hefty price tag of $190 billion annually in associated health care costs.

How Business Leaders Can Prevent Stress and Burnout


Source: Credit: thodonal/Adobe

  • Focus on health and wellness training to facilitate a compassionate and collaborative culture through corporate wellness programming. Training sessions could include mental health awareness, time management, effective communication, conflict resolution, and conscious leadership training for management.
  • Incorporate mindfulness into the workplace. Companies like Google, Nike, Nokia and Johnson & Johnson are incorporating mindfulness clubs, meditation rooms, and yoga into the workplace. Offering corporate subscriptions to mindfulness apps can also be extremely helpful for the mental health and wellness of employees and their families.
  • Encourage employees to use their vacation time and their health benefits, including EAP benefits, health savings or flex spending accounts, and teletherapy. Employees need to take care of their mental and physical health, or they will not be able to be productive at work.
  • Create a culture that facilitates psychological safety. Employees should feel safe talking to leadership about what changes need to be made to support the wellbeing of their staff—their greatest asset—without fear of retaliation.

The Pandemic Has Blurred Boundary Lines

About 70 percent of people who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before, according to a survey of 2,800 workers by Los Angeles-based staffing firm Robert Half2.

Remote work has blurred the line between personal and professional lives making it easier to work longer hours. To be successful at maintaining work-life balance, try the following:

  • Set time limits when you start and end your day and stick to those. Ideally, don’t work on weekends or at least limit your work to a couple of hours on one weekend day but not the other. Use office automatic email responses. Don’t respond to work emails outside of office hours, period.
  • Use assertive communication with supervisors to set boundaries with workload and expectations. Assertive communication shows respect for self and others. It is clear, direct and diplomatic (not passive, aggressive, or passive aggressive). Learn to say no.
  • Create a life vision or career plan that includes work-life balance. Your career and financial success should be harmonious with your personal life, including your health, relationships, hobbies, and more. Plan your career in the context of your life, not the other way around.
  • Be your own good parent and prioritize your self-care. Care enough about yourself to want the best for yourself not only in your career, but in your health and wellness. When you get adequate sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, and allow time for hobbies, you will be more productive at work.
  • Recover from the disease of being busy. Use mindfulness practices to reboot your mind, body, and spirit. By doing so, expect higher productivity, fewer errors, more creative thinking, improved problem-solving and collaboration, and higher emotional intelligence at work.
  • Delegate and access support. Look at your to-do list and ask yourself, “Am I the best person to do this? Am I the only person who can do this? Do I enjoy doing this? Is this worth my time?” Outsource tasks you don’t enjoy, when possible. Identify where you need help and ask for it.
  • Start your day right. Establish a morning routine that works for you and starts your day on the right foot. If you are a planner, plan your outfit, a nutritious breakfast, and set the coffee maker the night before. If not, leave yourself time in the morning for self-care. Practice a morning meditation or set intentions for the day.

By incorporating these strategies in your life, you can conquer deadly overwork and burnout without sacrificing your professional success. As a culture, we need to change our definition of what success means. Many think success is about career and financial achievement alone. We need a holistic definition of success that includes positive mental and physical health, connected relationships, and work-life balance. The consequences of not incorporating work-life balance into your life may be deadly.

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