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We could all take a leaf out of Jacinda Ardern’s book. Last month, the New Zealand pr...
We could all take a leaf out of Jacinda Ardern’s book.
Last month, the New Zealand prime minister left office because she no longer had ‘enough in the tank,’ which has got us (and many others) thinking about when the right time is to leave a job.
As one of the youngest-ever prime ministers, Ardern has become a heroic symbol of sorts. Throughout her time in office, she merged her work with her personal life (famously having her young daughter in tow while addressing the UN general assembly), changed gun laws in New Zealand, introduced an entire government budget to prioritise wellbeing, defended women’s rights in the workplace, and now, she’s choosing her health over leading her country.
Of course, we’re not oblivious to the fact that many people would prefer to prioritise their health over a paycheque but are not in the same privileged position where they can afford to leave their jobs. What’s more, Ardern was in a position where she would have had resources at her disposal – a thing many of us don’t have access to.
Naturally, this has raised concerns about how organisations have grown to treat their employees, with 75% of workers experiencing burnout at some point in time. With that in mind, today, we’re looking at what contributes to burnout and when we should start looking for new career opportunities.
Since being recognised as a worldwide phenomenon in 2019, the term ‘burnout’ has been thrown around a lot, but as hustle culture has grown, many people wear it like a badge of honour – evidence they work hard, go the extra mile, and are dedicated employees. But, in reality, burnout comes at a personal cost, resulting in physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, usually caused by prolonged and excessive stress.
It commonly occurs when you experience long-term stress in your job or if you’ve worked a physically or emotionally draining role for a lengthy period of time. A lot of workers believe it’s an inevitable part of success, with research showing that 67% of women and 59% of men suffer from burnout. The truth is burnout should not be an integral ingredient to success.
According to the WHO, burnout can be broken down into three categories, reinforcing one another and leading to a vicious cycle. One is feeling constant exhaustion, the second is being cynical about work, and lastly, feeling less capable than usual regarding our work performance.
Many of us can blame ourselves for these feelings, but frankly, burnout is maintained by unsound working conditions. Of course, there are things we can personally do for some respite, but that doesn’t address the organisational errors and dangerous narrative that employees need to be more resilient.
There are many factors that can cause burnout, and a whole host of them begin in the workplace.
That’s why it’s incredibly important both employers and employees recognise signs of burnout and take the correct steps to address them before they turn into a much more serious problem.
As an individual, this might involve seeking support from a mental health professional, making changes to one’s workload or schedule, or seeking out a new job role or career path.
But before we get into the signs that you should be looking for new opportunities, let’s look at the top five contributors to burnout in a little more detail…
For the majority of people, if we note down everything we stretch ourselves to do each week, it goes way beyond our job description.
How work culture has transformed means that it’s not unusual for employees to be delegated to take on more work than they can handle and have unreal expectations or deadlines for when that work can be produced.
When this happens, we’re much more susceptible to stress, exhaustion, illness, and mood disorders. We can end up feeling disengaged from our colleagues, see our high standards decline, and grow increasingly negative feelings about our circumstances.
In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, an excessive workload is top of the list when it comes to feeling stressed at work, but we (managers included) need to remember that we only have a certain number of hours in the day, and using our time wisely is one thing, but overextending ourselves is another thing altogether!
When we’re overwhelmed with our workload, we can feel like we no longer have control over our work.
On top of that, being micromanaged completely removes any autonomy and creativity we have over our roles. Together, these two things can bring on feelings of stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and fear.
If a lack of control over our work goes unaddressed, it can quickly turn into a lack of motivation, low energy, and reduced productivity, with various research studies showing that a lack of control is a key driver in contributing to burnout.
Of course, managers hold the responsibility to invest in our wellbeing, but to ensure we don’t fall victim to burnout, it’s also important we recognise what is in our circle of control that we can influence to uplift our sense of purpose.
When we focus on what we can control, we can work at maintaining, improving, or fixing that aspect. If something’s out of our control, we must work hard to move past it. This can be tough, but it’s necessary to maintain our mental health.
Work can become incredibly isolating when we no longer feel like we’re receiving adequate support from colleagues, superiors, and organisational structures.
A lack of support includes things like an absence of guidelines for tasks we’re entrusted with, being unfamiliar with what our goals and priorities are, as well as a lack of recognition for a job well done, and not being fairly compensated for our efforts.
After all, we’re human, and some positive reinforcement isn’t asking for the moon and stars, just some appreciation and gratitude for our hard work to keep morale high.
Altogether, a lack of recognition and support can lead to low self-esteem, insecurities, and stress. In fact, a study by Portland State University found that failure of employers to provide proper support and resources leads to higher stress levels in their teams.
In addition to an excessive workload and lack of autonomy and support, not knowing how to succeed makes it even harder for us to become confident in our roles and enjoy our work life.
Expectations of our roles generally become unclear when the requirements are constantly changing, or our job description isn’t explained clearly.
On top of that, if a job’s responsibilities exceed the amount of time given to complete them, I think we can agree that it’s not really possible to do the job well.
When this happens, and we’re putting in a lot of effort without feeling successful, we’re much more at risk of burnout. This point has even been reinforced by mental health charity, Mind, who conducted a study and found that 45% of workers cited unrealistic targets as a common cause of stress at work.
When our work schedules are overly demanding, and we feel like we have too much on our plate, we often feel like we have no choice but to forego pursuing our personal interests.
Don’t get me wrong; striking a balance is tough, particularly with growing demands and shifts in working environments. However, when we let essential life elements like family, friends, hobbies, and spirituality fall to the wayside, it can negatively affect both our work and personal life.
Many research studies have found that prioritising time for ourselves reduces stress and the risk of burnout, makes work more enjoyable, and can even help us feel more confident.
Without a healthy balance, we never truly have time to switch off and recharge, which naturally leads to an uptick in mental health struggles.
Research from Mind found that workplace stress significantly impacts other areas of people’s lives, with one in five saying it had put a strain on their marriage or relationship. The same study found that stress had a physical impact too, with 53% agreeing it affected their sleep, 22% their appetite, and 27% their physical health.
Making the decision to leave a job requires a lot of thought – especially in the current cost of living crisis.
For some of us, it can be clear when it’s time for a change, but for others, it might not be so obvious. We can be clouded by financial worries, doubts about our abilities, and anxiety about starting a new role.
But if truth be told, your life is in your own hands, and change is what keeps it fresh and exciting. So, if you resonate with the following points, it might be time to start looking for new opportunities (and we can help!).
Job satisfaction is one of the key players in why employees perform well and remain at the same company for extended periods of time. As you can guess, a lack of it results in resignations.
Determining whether you’re satisfied in your role looks different for everyone. For some, the right job involves communication, collaboration, and development. For others, it means job security, flexibility, and earning a certain salary.
We can generally establish how satisfied we are by understanding our psychological, physiological, and environmental circumstances and how they affect us.
So, if you notice that you no longer feel fulfilled in your work or are consistently feel unhappy, stressed, and anxious because of work, it might be time to look for a new opportunity.
Career progression is something we all strive for (no one wants to leave a job in the same position we started it!).
For most of us, having an individualised growth plan beyond the nature of appraisals is necessary for our roles to develop. That means if your management is not tapping into your skills, and you feel as though you’ve hit the ceiling in your current role, with no opportunities for growth and development, you’re probably ready to find a new challenge elsewhere.
On top of that, you might lack growth where you are because there’s nothing else to aspire to. If you’ve simply accomplished what you set out to achieve, remember that moving on to new challenges is completely okay.
A stressful and unhealthy work environment can take a serious toll on our mental and physical health.
If in your current role, you feel as though there’s no room for diverse ideas and opinions, honest and constructive feedback, or your responsibilities have grown but your paycheque hasn’t, it’s time to look for a new position in a place where you can thrive.
What’s more, if you find yourself behaving out of sorts and developing bad habits because of your working environment, it’s a sign you need to get out of your current situation.
On top of that, if you’re in a business where you’re experiencing verbal abuse, harassment, or discrimination, you should definitely be keeping an eye out for other positions, regardless of what other corrective measures you’re taking.
If your job is eating away at your personal life – and getting greedy in doing so – it needs to be addressed.
That means prioritising yourself as well as your work, and if that’s something that you’re struggling to change and you don’t feel like you have the support from senior leadership to do so, it looks like you should be seeking a job that offers more balance and structure.
Additionally, you might want to rethink your priorities if your daily commute is eating into your free time, meaning you have no time to unwind and relax.
The bottom line is that employers need to address burnout, but as individuals, we also need to remember that a career is a marathon, not a sprint. So, whether you’re in the midst of looking for a new job or you’re hoping to change how things are in your current role, look into how your employer approaches burnout and what ways they support their staff’s wellbeing – both when they’re doing well and when they’re suffering from the demands of their job.
If you are tired of your current position, we at Meet are the people who can help steer you in the right direction. Reach out to us and let us know what’s most important to you, and we’ll match you with an employer who supports and values you in return – we know the best in the business!