Acknowledging collective burnout
Last month Bumble employees were told to take a week off to recover from burnout. All across social media people were hailing Founder Whitney Wolfe Herd for being a forward thinking CEO, giving her employees time out on top of their allocated annual leave, myself included. This move seemed make up for the long, unsociable hours that employees have been working since the start of the pandemic, and many asked other organisations to follow suit.
Whilst this is a fantastic move by a female CEO, who has recognised the impact that working in a fast-growing company like Bumble (which went public earlier this year) can have on employees, it got me thinking… How has it gotten to a point where a company has to offer a collective week off? And will a circuit breaker really resolve the stress and strain our bodies and minds go through when we are experiencing burn out?
The past couple of years many of us have been working longer days than we’ve ever been used to. The blurred lines between work and home mean that meetings and work can start to creep into the early hours of the evening. Not only that, the inability to leave our ‘office space’ at the end of the day means that switching off from work-mode has become near to impossible. We’re lacking boundaries, our brains are full from the day and we then begin to reach the point of burnout.
Burnout comes with many physical and physiological symptoms such as headaches, stress, irritability, forgetfulness, heart palpitations and more. The idea that one week away from the screen is going to undo all of the build up to this moment feels like a short-term solution to raise morale within the company, encouraging this behaviour all over again. When those employees turn their laptops back on they’ll likely to be tackling double the workload and expectations will be just as high. Instead of giving an incentive and rewarding overworking, why aren’t companies putting realistic standards in place instead? For example, no calls between 3 to 5pm, giving you time to finish off your work before the end of the day, or making a weekend an actual weekend, instead of having emails pinging through. Setting daily standards and ensuring everyone in the company upholds them could go a long way.
So although Bumble’s announcement was a step to acknowledge burnout, and one I am sure employees will be thankful for, I feel that there is much bigger job needed to do culturally within companies and among ourselves to stop rewarding overworking and instead encourage productive days, time away and implementing boundaries.
Discovering your boundaries
Working long hours has always been part of my job. From starting off as a Social Media Manager who managed global channels, responding to comments at all hours of the day, 7-days a week, to working with clients in various time zones. I’ve been ‘on-the-go’ and had a pretty hefty workload for years. It’s something I’ve become accustomed to and over the years I’ve found a few ways to not only keep myself sane, but to also set boundaries when work becomes a bit overwhelming. Although where I work now is different to my previous roles, these reminders have set me up to keep setting standards for myself and my work/life balance.
Working longer doesn’t necessarily mean more productive
How many times have you felt guilty because of someone else saying how late they worked the day before when you had logged off? This doesn’t necessarily mean that person is working harder and better than you. Perhaps you work at a faster pace, are more efficient, know what to prioritise, or you just had a little less on your to-do list that day. Don’t get dragged into the habit of staying late just for the sake of it, it won’t get you anywhere in the long run. This leads nicely into my next point…
Find your optimal ‘working hours’
Everyone has different ways of working. Personally i’m a morning person and find myself most productive between the hours of 7.30-9 before everyone comes online. It gives me the time to get prepared, write briefs and organise my day. If I find myself staring blankly at my screen later on in the evening I find it best to log off for the day and re-visit the task first thing. Others find that they get a second wind later in the afternoon and well into the night. Find what works for you, whilst still being accommodating to your team.
Find the support when you need it
This one is tough to stick to as it really depends on your team and the network around you but when you’re tasked with something that is a little out of your comfort zone or you lack the knowledge and expertise, ask for help. There is nothing shameful about needing support and advice rather than sitting and stressing about an upcoming deadline and then not delivering and meeting expectations.
Take regular time out
In the UK the majority of us are entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave (including bank holidays). Whilst there’s the temptation to only take the time off if we’ve made plans, it’s worth setting aside the odd day to book off for when you have no commitments to just do something for yourself. Your brain and your body will thank you for a bit of extra downtime.
Like this article? Check out my post about why I think going to back to the office can help support a work / life balance.