How many other brilliant Jacinda Arderns are we losing every day in the workplace due to unsustainable pressures?

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement this week that she will be stepping down, because she has “nothing left in the tank”, is a stark reminder to all employers that burnout is a serious issue – that can be prevented.

It also begs the question, how many other brilliant Jacinda Arderns are we losing every day in the workplace, more silently, to the unsustainable pressures? And what can employers do to tackle this ticking time bomb?

Heading off burnout

Here, from the range of articles we’ve published and webinars that we’ve on this topic on www.makeadifference.media, we’ve collated three key factors that can help to head off burnout.

1. Give back control

In her article “5 ways to help fatigued employees head off burnout” Louise Abbs, from PAM Wellbeing explains that Burnout is characterised by feelings of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion resulting from exposure to prolonged stress, so it’s important to reduce stress levels.

HSE’s management guidelines for reducing stress highlight the importance of giving people a sense of control over their workload, deadlines and how they get their work done. Similarly, flexible working isn’t just about allowing people to work from home, it’s also about giving them autonomy and trusting them to fit work around other commitments, and making time to look after themselves, so they can stay energised and reduce the pressure they’re under.

Allowing people to flex their day in this way, instead of expecting them to be behind a screen all day, can provide immense mental health benefits. It can also make people, more, rather than less productive, to shift the focus from the hours worked to results generated.

Important advice that is reiterated by Dr Stephen Bevan in this article advising how to encourage autonomy in your teams, and backed up by this case study from National Grid.

2. Recognise the perils of perfectionism

In this webinar which we ran in partnership with YuLife and in association with the Mindful Business Charter, we looked at what employers can do to head off burnout, from small behavioural changes to looking at job demands and client expectations. Sally Evans, who was then UK Wellbeing Lead with PwC explained that sometimes – particularly perfectionists – put more pressure on themselves than the organisation does. This can be unsustainable and lead to burnout. To tackle this, Evans calls for clarity on expectations and priorities both for teams and individuals, as “if people aren’t sure what’s expected, they make it up themselves”.
In this article, Kendelle Tekstar outlines the key characteristics of perfectionism and how you can help colleagues (and yourself) to head off this, and other, types of self-sabotaging behaviour.
Similarly, in this article, Katy Cullum from PAM Wellbeing, outlines three steps employers can take to help colleagues deal with imposter syndrome, which causes employees to experience the feeling of ‘not being enough’ and is contributing to high levels of burnout.

3. Set the example

In this article by Simon Blake, Chief Executive, Mental Health First Aid England, outlines his top ten tips for heading off burnout, gleaned from his own experiences. In this he makes the key point that it is incumbent on leaders to role model behaviours and to show colleagues that needing to rest and recharge is both normal and acceptable.
In her talk our free to attend sister event The Watercooler in April, consultant and author Petra Velzeboer will also be reminding us that, as a leader, burnout prevention is about starting with you and creating a ripple effect of culture change.
Ultimately, like so much of workplace wellbeing, heading off burnout boils down to both the organisation’s culture and the individual responsibility. We can guess at the stresses that Jacinda Ardern has endured. One thing is certain though, her resignation shows that burnout is real and is nothing to be ashamed of.

You can view Ardern’s full resignation speech here.

You might also like:

We need an honest conversation about female burnout: it starts here

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