Let's talk about stress (baby)
There seems to be an overwhelming trend these days, and not just in the tech universe, to work more hours than you are contracted to, to answer emails and respond to texts late at night, and always be ‘available’ y’know… just in case.
So you’re answering texts whilst ‘relaxing’ in front of Netflix when you get home, you’re planning your to-do list as you’re getting into bed that night, you’re already firing off emails on the train to work the next day, and then have to do a full day of work. And repeat. Repeat this around 260 times, give or take a couple of holidays (but let’s face it, you’ll ‘keep an eye’ on work emails then anyway).
But it’s okay right, because you want to be at the top of your game, outdo yourself and impress your employers. You could get a bonus if you keep pushing through, or maybe an increase in rate or salary, right? Nothing could get in the way of that.
Except, often these days you feel tired no matter how much sleep you get. You feel sluggish and can’t remember the last time you had a meal that wasn’t grabbed in a rush or came with chips down the pub. For some reason, it’s hard to concentrate, all you can think about is getting back in bed. And who do your managers think they are anyway, you work twice as hard as they do for less reward right!?
Welcome to burnout.
Feels pretty glum doesn’t it. And when you get there, you’re not always sure quite how it’s happened, or exactly how long you’ve been struggling. It doesn’t matter how much you love your job, or how committed you are, everyone has a breaking point. Your body starts waving a physiological and psychological white flag, telling you to slow down, take a breath, and start looking after yourself a bit better.
Research by BrightHR showed that 60% of workers in the tech sector reported currently feeling burnout. Be that down to tight deadlines, work piling up, projects that seem to be never ending, it’s hard to know. But it’s important, either for yourself or as an employer, to recognise the signs of burnout, and have some strategies in place to try and prevent it from happening.
The most common symptoms of burnout are fatigue or exhaustion, a level of disengagement or even cynicism about your work and the people around you, a lack of concentration, feeling anxious or depressed. So, the reality is that if you want to perform well in your work, you may need to take a step back and stop…strange as that sounds.
The tendency can be, if you’re feeling stressed at work or feel there is too much on your plate, to then give up the things you enjoy making more time for…yep…work! And that just isn’t the way to solve a problem.
If you are a contractor or employee, and you’re feeling the strain of burnout, it’s time to take a minute and think about exactly what it is that’s stressing you out. Is it your workload? Are you working longer hours than you should? Make a list and see what you can change.
Here are some top tips to help you make a change:
1. Go easy on yourself. This happens to everyone (no really, it does!!). It is not a sign of weakness, nor does it mean you aren’t good enough. There are just some tweaks that need to be made.
2. Prioritise things like healthier eating, fresh air, regular breaks and better sleeping habits. It sounds minimal, but you’ll be surprised how much this can affect your outlook.
3. Don’t be scared to say no. You need to set realistic expectations and boundaries at work, and they need to be openly communicated with your line manager or your team. Prioritise a conversation around where you feel things are getting too much and discuss potential solutions. If your employer wants you to keep performing to a high standard, they will make time for you.
4. Speak up. Don’t suffer in silence when you’re having a tough time. If not with the people you work with, then just someone you trust. It can make all the difference simply acknowledging something isn’t right.
5. You have annual leave – take it! It is everyone’s right to have a proper break, free of phone calls, emails, Slack’s or WhatsApps. Sometimes you need to literally switch off. Don’t feel guilty about leaving work for other people (you know you pick things up when the tables are turned). And if you don’t think Steve will do a good enough job, then that’s a problem for Steve to figure out!
6. No one is perfect. Striving for a constant state of perfection (as can be seemingly expected in today’s world run by social media) is enough to put anyone into a spin of anxiety and unreasonable expectation. Make a list of what the most important things are and do them. You can’t be everything to everyone, nor should you try.