Common Purpose / 18 January 2024

Feeling Burnt Out At Work? Here's 3 Simple Things To Remind Yourself When The Going Gets Tough

Take back control of your day in the right way.


The last few years in our ever-changing world have presented some pretty difficult and unforeseen challenges, but there is a silver lining; using more of (and in some instances, making up!) words that embody some of the common issues many of us will face in the workplace. Think ‘Quiet Quitting’, ‘Resenteeism’ and ‘Burnout’. By acknowledging these words and phrases, and speaking openly and honestly about them to others, we are breaking down barriers and giving people more power to advocate for their mental wellbeing in their place of work.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the latter of these aforementioned trends, burnout, reached a peak. As many people were forced to work from home, a new way of working was forced upon us - we were confined within our own four walls, and as a result taking holidays and sick days, the things that would usually give us much needed mental space from our work, felt a little redundant.

But here’s the issue: Despite lockdowns having now ended, and the world now returning to (somewhat) normal, the aftermath of this culture – to forgo sick days, or even annual leave to the detriment of our wellbeing - remains prevalent.

And while those in leadership roles might appear to have more autonomy to manage their day-to-day, managers are actually more prone to falling prey to burnout – data from Microsoft’s Work Trend Index revealed more than half of managers (53 per cent) reported feeling burnout at work, higher than employees in general.

Because of this, we thought it might be a good time to remind anyone in a leadership position of three simple things to consider when you are feeling burnt out – or stressed in any capacity – at work. We hope this helps to shift your perspective and to unlock your potential to make the best of your workday, in a way that feels right for you.

1. The oxygen mask theory is no theory

Airline safety videos will tell us time and time again: Fasten YOUR oxygen mask before helping others if the plane encounters an emergency. The reason why goes without saying: If you are unable to help yourself, how can you be expected to help others?

In a leadership context, the same principle applies. If you are feeling burnt out with the workload and responsibility you are carrying, you will not be able to support your team effectively. You team relies on you to steer them in the right direction, and in order to do this, you need to look after yourself so your capabilities to do this are not impaired.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, run down or simply in need of some headspace from all things work, take the time you need to slow down – whether that’s using your sick leave, asking for the help of others in your circle who can lessen your load, or even making time to exercise, take a bath or read a book – anything that gives you the mental space to de-stress!

2. Build a support system of like-minded individuals – and they don’t have to be workmates!

Leadership can be lonely, but with the right people around you, it doesn’t always have to be. By connecting with, and sharing your experiences with other leaders who also have big responsibilities and expectations, you might find it much easier to put things in your own world into perspective.

A significant outcome for participants on our programmes is the experience of connecting with people from different backgrounds, industries and geographies. This is incredibly important, because they all have one major thing in common – leadership. No matter your job, there will always be common ground, and new things to learn about from other people in leadership positions. So go forth and take their advice, and be open to new perspectives. You might just find a whole new support system that will readily remind you of what’s most important as you continue your leadership journey.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate

In your own workplace, communication can serve as a vital lifeline for support and understanding. Burnout can feel isolating and exhausting, but it’s even harder when you are dealing with it alone.

Try to be open about how you are feeling with trusted colleagues – those who understand your line of work best – so that they can support you and alleviate the burden if they can. This will also alert them to the fact that at this point in time, your output might not be what it has been before – and that’s okay.

An additional bonus to communicating how you are feeling with colleagues is in the boundaries you will be setting for the future. If your colleagues are aware that the amount of work, or the form of work isn’t working for you, it’s less likely to occur again in future.  


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