I left you in my last article with the burning question (pun intended) of how to detect the signs of potential burnout. As I mentioned last time, once in burnout, it takes 12 months to recover enough to be able to get back to work so this is no idle question. If detected beforehand, it is not just the person’s life that could feel a lot different but the whole bottom line of the company that will be affected, especially if that person is key personnel.
So keep an eye out for these profiles:
The ‘super-busy’ person: Now that would seem to be your ideal employee and it could very well be but be mindful of the following: if they have been working for more than 60 hours a week consistently over many months or even years, without many holidays (or what I call ‘fake’ holidays as in being on the computer and/or mobile phone constantly). These are the potential candidates. If their brain is always busy, if they get up early and constantly think about work then keep an eye out for any additional pressure that could come their way, it could be all it takes.
The “pressure-driven” person: Here we are going up one notch, that same profile we have just described who could be staying simply super-busy is entering the danger zone. This is where you need to be at your most watchful. Typically, someone in the zone will start feeling a bit overwhelmed and possibly frustrated or anxious. They keep going and push even harder but find it difficult to focus as their attention span is diminishing. They usually need some kind of stimulant to keep them going: numerous cups of coffee or black tea or sweet snacks. If they consistently bite people’s heads off, do not snap back, think long and hard how to help, they could be inches away from hitting the wall and the next few weeks could make a huge difference in whether or not they are available to the company for the next 12 months. If their sleep is very disrupted as well, it is time to act. Added pressures such as a highly demanding position with little latitude in decision-making, conflicts at work or between their values and that of the company or harassment can make things worse and push them into burnout quicker.
Not everyone is the same, levels of resistance vary enormously from one person to the next but spotting these attitudes over several months should always alert you.
Then what next you will ask? Well, recognising the danger and detecting the signs is a first step but there is much to be done in the form or prevention, training and team management in order to avoid having to do too much damage control. I will give you my take on this in my next column.