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Do you know what Burnout really is?  It’s worse than you think…
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Do you know what Burnout really is? It’s worse than you think…

We are coming towards the end of the holidays and I’ve already seen some of the ‘first day at school’ photos on Facebook.  Before you went on holiday, did you feel ‘burnt out’ as you would call it?

In my blog this week I’m reflecting back on the 1hr to Change webinar I hosted recently with Anna Pinkerton from Kindness Incorporated about the 5 signs of burnout, and how to avoid it.  Anna is a Psychotherapist who works with business leaders and entrepreneurs who have broken down or are close to it.  She is also passionate about raising awareness to make sure they don’t get to that stage in the first place.

When I was a Project Manager I remember working on a really stressful project that required me to do a lot of travelling around the country.  I recall sitting at my kitchen table at 6am on a Saturday on the day I was going on holiday trying to clear e mails and I hadn’t event packed.  For the first time I took my laptop away with me.  In my mind I felt ‘burnt out’ but I wasn’t in the truest sense, although if I’d continued at that pace, I could have been.

Burnout isn’t about getting tired and needing a holiday,  it’s a traumatic event, when all of your senses and defence mechanisms are overwhelmed in 1 moment.  Prevention is simple as Anna talks about in the webinar but recovery is difficult.  Burnout can take up to 2 years to recover from.

So, how do you get to that stage?  Only the most hardworking, strong and dedicated people burnout.  They are the ones that can extend themselves beyond their limits, regularly, until they can’t.  They are phenomenal in their ability to put their work and other people above themselves.  They are the people that rarely say, ‘what do I need’?

Before the webinar, Anna told me a story about one of her Clients who was a Project Manager in construction.  He was responsible for delivering a complicated project and he made the decision to do it a certain way.  He was so constantly stressed throughout the project he literally felt like he was carrying the weight of the building on his shoulders and when the project was finished he broke down and had that ‘sliding down the back of the door’ moment.  Has this ever happened to you?  Can you see it happening to someone you are working with?

One of the standout quotes for me on this webinar is:

“An industry that is all about constructing stuff that is great, solid and robust is requiring its people to deconstruct themselves”.

Anna also talks about the macho culture in our industry, as if we say that rest, sleep, reducing adrenalin, being looked after, basic needs,  “that’s all good for other humans but not us, we are the Construction Industry”!  “Does the Construction Industry have special powers to avoid burn out?”

The answer is no!

So, what can be done to prevent it?  There are some great tips in the webinar but the key message is, you have to look after yourself which starts with, not skipping lunch, getting away from your desk at lunchtime, taking regular breaks to have a cuppa.   Simple things that collectively make a massive difference.

A ‘top down’ approach is also needed from business owners and managers.  It’s all well and good saying that you care about the wellbeing of your employees but it’s about what you do, not what you say.  If you are brutalising yourself as Anna calls it, not taking breaks, continually working late, e mailing at midnight then what message is that giving to your employees?

I asked the question, what should an employee do if their bosses aren’t looking after themselves and expect the same from them?  You have to be companionable to your yourself and set your own boundaries.  Going back to the Project Manager earlier who had the breakdown.  He’s back at work and is setting boundaries for himself.  He was recently asked to attend a lunchtime meeting and said no, that he doesn’t attend meetings at lunchtimes because he needs to take a break to recharge and eat his lunch.  Sounds fair enough, right?  His boss accepted it.

I could go on and on about the golden nuggets that came out of this webinar but it’s probably easier if you just watch it yourself, access is free when you sign up to the 1hr to Change website.  If you don’t want to do that, then at least listen to the podcast Anna recorded with a Director from the industry to get his perspective including the role Clients could play in burnout prevention..

One final thing, something great has come out of this webinar.  One of the attendees is implementing a new initiative in their organisation and myself and Anna are going to help promote this in our industry.  It’s being launched at an industry Wellbeing in Construction Summit, so watch this space!

Click HERE to access Anna’s page on 1hr to Change.