As a HR and Recruitment consultancy we find that we often have conversations with clients and candidates regarding their wellbeing and a topic which often gets mentioned is ‘Burnout’. Therefore, todays blog topic will be focusing on burnout, and we have reached out to Marina Sabolova (the founder of OK Talk) to ask her some questions and to get her expert advice and opinion. But before we get into the Q&A with Marina, we wanted to include some information on what exactly burnout is and the signs associated with it.
The World Health Organisation devised the following description:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.”
The Charity, Mental Health UK highlighted common signs of burnout: Feeling tired or drained most of the time, feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated, feeling detached/alone in the world, self-doubt, procrastinating and taking longer to get things done and feeling overwhelmed. They also conducted a study and found that 1/5 workers have experienced burnout.
So, a little bit about Marina:
Marina Sabolova is a counsellor and psychotherapist, who heads OK Talk counselling. She provides comprehensive therapeutic support to both children and adults. She helps clients deal with anxiety, depression, anger, abuse, bereavement, trauma and work-related concerns, among other issues. She uses a range of approaches, including solution-focused and cognitive behavioural therapy, to help her clients develop resilience, make lasting changes and boost their productivity.
Now, onto the Q&A..
- Have you ever experienced burnout before? And if yes, how did it manifest?
While at university, I experienced strong pains in my body, along with physical and emotional exhaustion. I felt sick and weak. The sensation crept up slowly, then to the point that I thought I was seriously ill. I did not know what or why it was happening to me, which was terrifying. I had many medical investigations, but no physical illness was diagnosed. Instead, the doctor said I needed a holiday – but I laughed, saying I didn’t have time for it! I was too busy with work, studies and bringing up a young child. I thought the answer was to keep working hard, but in fact I became less productive. The doctor’s conclusion was that it was brought on stress. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. I learned then that stress and burnout can manifest itself in the body. Left untreated, it can make a person very ill and even lead to premature death.
- What advice would you give to those who are currently experiencing burnout?
After my personal experience, I learned it wasn’t a case of taking medication but rather to learn to put myself first. At first it was a challenge to say no to others and yes to myself, but I recognised it was necessary for my wellbeing. Burnout can include work overload, lack of control and conflict in the workplace. But burnout does not just relate to our professional lives; it’s unhealed trauma, life changes and life difficulties. It can leave you emotionally and physically withdrawing from the workplace and social situations. We all go through various life changes, such as divorce and bereavement, and everyone deals with difficulties in different ways. When you have coping strategies in place, you are better equipped to deal with life’s challenges.
My advice would be to recognise and explore if something does not feel right. Do not ignore or fight it, as it is unlikely to resolve itself. Be aware of your stressors and start with small changes, observing how it feels when you implement them. It’s vital that you learn to set boundaries and focus on your own needs. It’s also important to ground yourself, along with questioning unhelpful thoughts. Perhaps most importantly, know that you do not have to go through it alone. Ask for help from friends, family, employers and professionals. Together, they can help you to develop healthy coping strategies and better mange the challenges you are facing.
- How can businesses and HR professionals better support employees experiencing burnout?
I think it’s important to educate employees around burnout so that they can recognise it if they experience it themselves or understand if someone else may be going through it. I believe it’s important to have open conversations around stress and burnout at work so that it does not become stigmatised. It helps to have regular check-ins with your employees – listening to their challenges and needs – as well as developing a culture which encourages a work-life balance. It also helps to bring in a professional to teach healthy and effective coping strategies to deal with stress, as well as offering confidential support. We work with companies to help them to understand and recognise the symptoms of burnout, as well as providing ongoing access to advice and best practices. Education, awareness and support can help to prevent burnout in the first place, or at the very least reduce its impact should someone experience it.
- In your opinion, has remote working impacted burnout positively or negatively?
Different people prefer different ways of working. Working from home may be a dream to some employees, whereas others prefer in-person interaction. Remote working is still relatively new and its long-term impact is unclear. I believe there are advantages, such as cutting out the commute and associated cost, which allows employees to spend more time with their family. But there are also disadvantages, such as employees left feeling isolated. It really depends on the individual and their circumstances. We are not designed to live in isolation or deal with our problems at alone. The workplace may be a place where people can connect, relate and support others. I believe it still holds value.
- Anything else you would like to add or feel is important?
Burnout is a serious issue, which affects many people. It’s bad for the individual and it’s bad for the company. Research shows stress and burnout effects productivity and profitability. Unfortunately, employees may feel pressured to take on too much work due to staff shortage or a culture of working long hours. An employee can feel guilty if they take much-needed time off to recuperate, which increases the likelihood of suffering burnout. It’s important to remember that everyone is different, in both their circumstances and coping mechanisms. It’s important to create a safe environment where staff members can speak out if they are struggling and know they can get the support they need.
A big thank you to Marina for speaking so openly and candidly about her experience with burnout and for the helpful advice she provided as well. If anyone would like to get in touch with Marina her website is: www.oktalk.co.uk or you can find her on LinkedIn here: Marina Sabolova.
If any HR Managers or Businesses would like to get in touch to see how we can best support your staff and employee wellbeing you can contact us on: 01172141550 or reach out to Richard directly via LinkedIn: Richard Freke.