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Webinar Recap: Part 1 Beating Burnout in the Modern Workplace

Network Leader
December 19, 2023
minute read

Network Leader’s Nick Petrie recently hosted an interactive webinar on workplace burnout. This is a summary of the webinar, the full recording can be watched and accessed at any time here

Individual causes of burnout

In the wake of the pandemic, Nick and his team discovered that intense workloads led individuals to sacrifice their well-being for productivity, resulting in burnout due to longer hours, skipped breaks, and neglected self-care. They interviewed diverse professionals, including Navy SEALs, CIA agents, athletes, coaches, surgeons, yoga instructors, priests, and business leaders in search of commonalities and patterns. Specifically, the goal was to understand why individuals entered and remained in an “energy debt.” Individual contributors:

  • Extreme work ethic
  • Lack of recovery outlets, e.g., hobbies
  • Lack of boundaries 
  • Feeling of deep responsibility
  • Personal or family issue

Organizational causes of burnout

The interviews also revealed many organizational factors leading to burnout, debunking the simplistic idea of one cause and one solution. With an endless workload and a culture rewarding relentless work ethic, employees often unknowingly slide into burnout. The constant demand for more work overshadows signals of burnout, like hair loss or detachment. The body signals warning signs continuously, but leaders, driven by a relentless mindset, ignore them. In a counterproductive cycle, decreased productivity prompts employees to work harder, leading to a critical burnout point. Organizational level causes include:

  • Unsupportive or bad/bullying boss
  • Unrealistic workload
  • Toxic culture, bullying colleagues
  • Lack of resources
  • Feeling unvalued by the company
  • PM system creates insecurity
  • Lack of autonomy or control
  • Lack of psychological safety
  • Uncaring work environment

Setting boundaries to reduce burnout

Establishing boundaries is crucial for team well-being and productivity. Encouraging conversations about work boundaries at team, department, or organizational levels is vital, ensuring individuals can defend their calendars and balance productivity and personal well-being. The first focus is on work-life balance, with teams assessing their ability to manage boundaries effectively. Teams experimented with offline time and recognizing the challenge of constant connectivity. Some organizations introduced core hours and fostered collaboration during specified times while enabling uninterrupted deep work outside these hours. 

The three stages of burnout

The three stages of burnout illustrate a continuum from manageable stress to severe physical and emotional exhaustion. These include:

  • 1st Degree Burn is marked by heavy stress and overwhelming pressure while maintaining effectiveness.
  • 2nd Degree Burn is characterized by chronic stress, fatigue, declining motivation, and a shift into survival mode. 
  • 3rd Degree Burn, where the whole experience of burnout occurs; the mind and body start shutting down, simple tasks become overwhelming, and emotions become unpredictable and challenging to control. 

Solutions for individuals suffering from one of the above burnout stages

For individuals experiencing burnout at different stages, Nick recommended the following:

1st Degree Burn - Self-care:

  • Establish habitual breaks to disconnect from work.
  • Implement device-free time in the evenings to facilitate mental rest.
  • Avoid work during specific evening hours.

2nd Degree Burn - Mindset/Behavior Change:

  • Prioritize self without consistently putting oneself last.
  • Set firmer boundaries between work and home life.
  • Develop the ability to say no when necessary, without guilt.

3rd Degree Burn - Deep Life Changes:

  • Consider a complete break from work.
  • Seek support from a coach, counselor, or group for guidance.
  • Engage in deep reflection on the root causes of burnout.
  • Formulate a new vision for living and working going forward.

The Burnout Growth Curve

Nick emphasized that the solution to burnout is not rest but growth. In answer to an often-asked question, Nick said it is possible, even advisable, to short circuit this Burnout Growth-Curve before descending to The Breakdown phase.

On the importance of personal networks

Nick reiterated the importance of “who” is in your personal network by explaining that most networks are built for your past but not your future. He reviewed the roles your top 15 contacts influence and contribute to your performance and growth. As a part of this discussion, he demonstrated the Growth-Perform-Sustain Dashboard, which maps individual inputs to assess how much time you spend on growth-centric work vs. performance-centric work and the relative risk score of burnout. 

The 1/1/1 prescription

To avoid burnout Nick explained how one client working in a particularly stressful company managed to avoid burnout by scheduling: 

  • One long vacation every year
  • One short vacation every quarter
  • One day off every month

Finding your opposite world

Nick explained how vital it is to switch your mind off work matters to focus elsewhere for recovery. These recovery elements can take the form of:

  • Passive engagement, e.g., watching TV
  • Learning engagement, e.g., reading or taking classes
  • Active engagement, e.g., physical or creative activities

He described these elements as integral to finding your “opposite world,” a place where you are free from work concerns and can let go completely. 

Interested in reading more? Check out Part II of this series as we dive a little deeper and feature a very special guest.

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