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Opinion Editorials

Burnout is real, but so are these 8 solutions to combat it

(EDITORIAL) Use these 8 life-changing tips to avoid painful burnout by instead focusing on daily care so that you can be your best you.

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Woman with face on table suffering burnout in front of computer.

We’ve all heard about it and we all dread it. It’s like the blue screen of death but for humans and despite common misconceptions, has actually been around and studied for quite some time. Here I was thinking it was a relatively new phenomenon and that me burning out at 28 was almost unheard of! Boy was I wrong. Regardless of how long it’s been around; it doesn’t seem like we are any closer to finding the route cause or a solid fix. The guy who coined the term Dr. Herbert Freudenberger and some of his contemporaries came to the conclusion that burnout is caused by 6 elements:

“Workload, Control, Reward, Community, Fairness and Values, with burnout resulting when one or more of these elements do fit a worker’s needs.”

Thank you researchers and Dr. Freudenberger for all your hard work, but I respectfully disagree. All these reasons or causes seem to wrongly attribute burnout, solely to work as well as oversimplifying it.

I am living proof you can just be burned out on life. And that is very different from depression.

My burnout started at the tender age of 28 and peaked at 29. I was working 80-hour weeks at my job, volunteering and fostering dogs, and working on the weekends. My life had reached max capacity, and I was on overload to the point of system failure.

I didn’t recognize it at the time and therefore my methods of dealing with being pushed to my breaking point were less than healthy.

No, I went the opposite direction towards straight towards nuclear meltdown, because I couldn’t see what was happening and therefore couldn’t address it in a productive manner.

So, in order to know if you’re burning out or already burned out, take a step back and try to get a different perspective. Like a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on. Are you sick of the day-to-day grind? And the various pieces just not working together? Do you have more days where you want to “hulk smash” than not? If you said yes to any of these then you are probably on the burnout highway, headed straight for implosion.

But fear not, I have some tips for you:

Treat Yo’ Self- I have no idea who coined that but it couldn’t be more true. Give yourself a break, get a mani/pedi, have a night out with the boys. Do something you love that you don’t let yourself do often enough.

Hit the gym- It doesn’t really matter what gym you hit, hell it could even just be going for a run but get that blood pumping. As Elle Woods says, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands (or in this case lead to a total mental breakdown)”.

Put on some music– and dance like no one is watching. In the spirit of Tom Cruise in Risky Business, just let it all hang out.

Cuddle with your pet– your SO, a pillow, whatever. Hugging releases more endorphins!

Push back! If you are getting overloaded with work or school or anything, know your limits and learn to say no! And if “no” just isn’t in your vocabulary, at least learn to ask for help.

Turn off your damn electronics. Recently, France passed a law that said employees didn’t have to respond to their jobs during off-hours. We may not have that law here but make that a law for yourself. Unless World War 3 will start solely because you didn’t answer an email, then make sure you have a cut-off point and make sure your job is aware of it. I was “on” 24/7/365 and to say that led to a raging dumpster fire is putting it mildly.

Don’t overload yourself– but if you can, add in activities that relax you or give you “me time”. If you have an hour a week to spare on a dance class and it doesn’t stress you out, then do it! Same for any activity. If it makes you happy, doesn’t occupy too much of your time, or makes you more stressed than you already might be, then consider throwing it in.

Get rid of any and all extraneous crap (activities, etc.) that gives you a headache, heart palpitations, or nervous ticks. YOU DON’T NEED THEM!

But more importantly that throwing in a few of these tips, know yourself. Get in tune with how you operate and what you need to do and feel your best. You won’t know what burnout looks or feels like if you don’t know what a happy and healthy you looks or feels like.

Pam Garner is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas, currently pursuing her master's degree in graphic and web design. Pam is a multi-disciplined creative who hopes to one day actually finish her book on all of her crazy adventures.

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Opinion Editorials

Shady salary transparency is running rampant: What to look out for

(EDITORIAL) Employees currently have the upper hand in the market. Employers, you must be upfront about salary and approach it correctly.

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Man holding money in the dark representing false salary transparency.

It’s the wild wild west out there when it comes to job applications. Job descriptions often misrepresent remote work opportunities. Applicants have a difficult time telling job scams from real jobs. Job applicants get ghosted by employers, even after a long application process. Following the Great Resignation, many employers are scrambling for workers. Employees have the upper hand in the hiring process, and they’re no longer settling for interviews with employers that aren’t transparent, especially about salary.

Don’t be this employer

User ninetytwoturtles shared a post on Reddit in r/recruitinghell in which the employer listed the salary as $0 to $1,000,000 per year. Go through many listings on most job boards and you’ll find the same kind of tactics – no salary listed or too large of a wide range. In some places, it’s required to post salary information. In 2021, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act went into effect in Colorado. Colorado employers must list salary and benefits to give new hires more information about fair pay. Listing a broad salary range skirts the issue. It’s unfair to applicants, and in today’s climate, employers are going to get called out on it. Your brand will take a hit.

Don’t obfuscate wage information

Every employer likes to think that their employees work because they enjoy the job, but let’s face it, money is the biggest motivator. During the interview process, many a job has been lost over salary negotiations. Bringing up wages too early in the application process can be bad for a job applicant. On the other hand, avoiding the question can lead to disappointment when a job is offered, not to mention wasted time. In the past, employers held all the cards. Currently, it’s a worker’s market. If you want productive, quality workers, your business needs to be honest and transparent about wages.

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Opinion Editorials

3 reasons to motivate yourself to declutter your workspace (and mind)

(EDITORIAL) Making time to declutter saves time and money – all while reducing stress. Need a little boost to start? We all need motivation sometimes.

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Clean work desk representing the need to declutter.

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few years. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob, an un-alphabetized bookshelf, or that we’ve put off ‘declutter’ on our to-do list for too long.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, taking time to declutter can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those 3 things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to identify and minimize ‘invisible’ work in your organization

(EDITORIAL) Often meaningless, invisible tasks get passed down to interns and women. These go without appreciation or promotion. How can we change that?

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Women in a meeting around table, inclusion as a part of stopping gender discrimination representing invisible work.

Invisible work, non-promotable tasks, and “volunteer opportunities” (more often volun-told), are an unfortunate reality in the workforce. There are three things every employer should do in relation to these tasks: minimize them, acknowledge them, and distribute them equitably.

Unfortunately, the reality is pretty far from this ideal. Some estimates state up to 75% or more of these time-sucking, minimally career beneficial activities are typically foisted on women in the workplace and are a leading driver behind burnout in female employees. The sinister thing about this is most people are completely blind to these factors; it’s referred to as invisible work for a reason.

Research from Harvard Business Review* found that 44% more requests are presented to women as compared to men for “non-promotable” or volunteer tasks at work. Non-promotable tasks are activities such as planning holiday events, coordinating workplace social activities, and other ‘office housework’ style activities that benefit the office but typically don’t provide career returns on the time invested. The work of the ‘office mom’ often goes unacknowledged or, if she’s lucky, maybe garners some brief lip service. Don’t be that boss that gives someone a 50hr workload task for a 2-second dose of “oh yeah thanks for doing a bajillion hours of work on this thing I will never acknowledge again and won’t help your career.”  Yes, that’s a thing. Don’t do it. If you do it, don’t be surprised when you have more vacancies than staff. You brought that on yourself.

There is a lot of top-tier talent out there in the market right now. To be competitive, consider implementing some culture renovations so you can have a more equitable, and therefore more attractive, work culture to retain your top talent.

What we want to do:

  1. Identify and minimize invisible work in your organization
  2. Acknowledge the work that can’t be avoided. Get rid of the blind part.
  3. Distribute the work equitably.

Here is a simple example:

Step 1: Set up a way for staff to anonymously bring things to your attention. Perhaps a comment box. Encourage staff to bring unsung heroes in the office to your attention. Things they wish their peers or they themselves received acknowledgment for.

Step 2: Read them and actually take them seriously. Block out some time on your calendar and give it your full attention.

For the sake of demonstration, let’s say someone leaves a note about how Caroline always tidies up the breakroom at the end of the day and cleans the coffee pot with supplies Caroline brings from home. Now that we have identified a task, we are going to acknowledge it, minimize it, and consider the distribution of labor.

Step 3: Thank Caroline at the team meeting for scrubbing yesterday’s burnt coffee out of the bottom of the pot every day. Don’t gloss over it. Make the acknowledgment mean something. Buy her some chips out of the vending machine or something. The smallest gestures can have the biggest impact when coupled with actual change.

Step 4: Remind your staff to clean up after themselves. Caroline isn’t their mom. If you have to, enforce it.

Step 5: Put it in the office budget to provide adequate cleaning supplies for the break room and review your custodial needs. This isn’t part of Caroline’s job description and she could be putting that energy towards something else. Find the why of the situation and address it.

You might be rolling your eyes at me by now, but the toll of this unpaid invisible work has real costs.  According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace Report* the ladies are carrying the team, but getting little to none of the credit. Burnout is real and ringing in at an all-time high across every sector of the economy. To be short, women are sick and tired of getting the raw end of the deal, and after 2 years of pandemic life bringing it into ultra-sharp focus, are doing something about it. In the report, 40% of ladies were considering jumping ship. Data indicates that a lot of them not only manned the lifeboats but landed more lucrative positions than they left. Now is the time to score and then retain top talent. However, it is up to you to make sure you are offering an environment worth working in.

*Note: the studies cited here do not differentiate non-cis-identifying persons. It is usually worse for individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

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