Mental Exhaustion at Work: How to Avoid It
When your business is a large part of your life, taking time for yourself might seem counterintuitive. But remember, a fresh and well-rested mind is much more conducive to productivity than an exhausted one. Even those who love their jobs can experience mental exhaustion, and often, it is caught too late.
What are the signs of mental exhaustion?
Mental exhaustion at work is commonly called burnout. According to Psychology Today, burnout refers to a state of complete mental, emotional and physical exhaustion most commonly caused by prolonged occupational stress. Everyone reaches burnout at a different rate, so paying attention to potential symptoms and then acting accordingly is essential.
Here are some signs to look out for if you catch yourself feeling not quite yourself:
A consistent state of feeling drained or tired
A sense of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
Feeling detached or alone
Adopting a negative attitude or outlook
In a 2023 Forbes article, burnout is described as both a people killer and a career killer. And, as it is now recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a medical diagnosis, don’t try and attempt to push through burnout as though it were stress. You should know that there isn’t an easy fix to tackling employee burnout or your own mental exhaustion. Once burnout is recognised, a simple break or reduced workload won’t help. Recovering from burnout takes time and includes steps like seeking professional help, establishing a support system and creating more long-term distance from stressors.
How to avoid mental exhaustion in employees
The best way to deal with burnout is to avoid it entirely. Forbes reveals that most of the causes of burnout can be mitigated through better management. These causes can include unfair time pressure, unclear understanding of job roles, unfair treatment and a lack of support. So how can these factors of working life be improved?
Adopt a workplace strategy that plays to your employee's strengths: Every last one of your employees will have something unique to offer for the betterment of your business. By taking time to recognise this and building a strategy based on individual strengths, you’re increasing the likelihood of long-term career fulfilment.
Prioritize the development of employees through a culture of learning and support: By empowering your managers with the skills to set meaningful goals and give helpful feedback to employees, you’ll communicate a strong commitment to the individual development and advancement of everyone in your business.
Learning should not stop at the onboarding process. You can create an atmosphere of continual positive change by introducing new ways to develop at each stage of a person's career. Introduce avenues for growth like regular talks, training sessions and coaching programs. If people feel that they aren’t trapped and that they haven’t stagnated, they are less likely to burn out.
Introduce regular mental health catchups: Mental health and wellbeing should become a keystone in career development conversations. Happiness surveys are a great way to understand attitudes around the workplace and receive anonymous feedback on how to improve culture. Another great way to prioritise employee wellbeing is to create quiet areas for reflection and breathing space, then encourage people to take time out should they need it.
Wellbeing coaching can help employees and managers beat burnout and find their meaning within the business. Skills like delegation and prioritization are key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, both of which can be learned through coaching.
Remove toxic managers and employees: Surveys naturally lead to feedback, which you should take into consideration. Sometimes this feedback may single out an individual, perhaps a senior member of the team. If you receive multiple instances of negative feedback or perhaps even one more serious allegation, you should act.
This doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate lay-off; first, assess whether this person is willing to change and learn. Of course, if you are receiving accusations that involve abuse, this should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Knowing when to let staff members go is a valuable skill and sometimes key to preserving a healthy culture at work.
How to avoid burnout as an executive
It goes without saying that CEOs can burn out too. Those higher up in the business hierarchy may encounter even more stress, feeling that the burden of the business is on their shoulders. There might be a tendency to prioritise work over virtually everything else in life, including your family and your own self-care.
If you feel yourself approaching burnout, remember that prevention is easier than curing. Reconsider your work boundaries and block some time out for yourself, this could be to pursue a hobby, learn a new skill, meditate, exercise – or do absolutely nothing! Additionally, get in touch with other business owners and CEOs to learn from them. In times of stress, it can be helpful to speak to someone who has had experience with what you’re going through. Finally, consider some executive coaching, this will help you refocus and gain a new perspective on your business.