Ever since I suffered from burnout two years ago, I realised the true worth of being healthy. When I started my career as a political consultant, I was one of those yuppy-type consultants: young, hungry for success, and all about business 24/7. I didn’t really take care of my private life at this point but spent every spare minute on working on my craft.
While attending multiple webinars, watching hundreds of videos by Gary Vaynerchuk and Grant Cardone, and reading thousands of pages related to my working field – I was all in for success, expecting to figure out everything there was to know as soon as possible in order to become a rock star in my field.
While actually seeing success after just two years of laser focusing on my career and being offered a job at one of the most successful PR consulting firms worldwide, I started experiencing a feeling of fatigue. Soon after, I felt a mix between emptiness, anger and sadness, and soon lost my motivation.
Never before in my career had I felt unmotivated and slacking. And I wondered what was wrong with me but decided to stick through and try to feel better and get my motivation back. After a few weeks I finally got better. But only a shortly after I changed jobs, these feelings would return in full effect. Not only did I feel the emptiness return but also did I lose my motivation and my ability to perform easier tasks at work.
Working for one of the biggest consulting firms in the world, the external pressure to bring in high quality results was already huge. But the pressure I put on myself was even bigger and grew bigger with every second I did not live up to my own standards.
During this phase I barely got any sleep at night because I constantly dealt with my thoughts of fearing failure and how I would get back to be the successful person I always strived to be. In my mind, there was no way I could reach my full potential ever again, life seemed to be something I could not handle. Besides the job situation, my private life wasn’t doing too well either and I felt that I was failing as a human being. Suicide would be the answer to all of my problems.
It took months of therapy and lots of antidepressants until I finally returned back into life. And it took even more time until I was healthy enough to restart my career.
Mental Health in the workplace is still underestimated
My story is not a unique story. A Gallup study in 2018 suggested, that 23% of employees in the US feel burned out at work very often or always. The meltdown accounts for an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion in healthcare spending each year.
Burnout is also driven by the always-on digital workplace, too many priorities, and the expectation that employees can use their digital tools to multitask and power through their workloads. In fact, multitasking is exhausting and the switching between tasks is not effective.
According to one study, it takes people an average of 15 minutes to return to an important project after an e-mail interruption. Switching to a new task while still in the middle of another increases the time it takes you to finish both tasks by 25%.
This automatically leads to increased stress for employees and also increases the risk of them burning out. While the numbers of employees being absent due to mental illnesses rises each year, most companies haven’t seemed to address the issue seriously yet.
How can company leaders prevent employees from burning out?
Mental health-related problems can affect anyone. Building awareness is a great start to understanding mental health in the workplace, but it is not enough. Prevention is the key to keeping employees healthy.
In order to develop prevention strategies, companies first need to understand the factors that are contributive to mental health problems at work. Once organisations they have been figured out, it’s easier to implement mental health strategies that also support the business.
Some of the main contributory factors to mental health problems include:
- Feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you’re not achieving anything
- Not feeling capable or able to resolve problems
- Fear of failure
- Negative or unhelpful attitudes towards other people
- Problems with emotional regulation
Also, companies should offer time management programmes for their employees. While the rise of technology brought many tools to work more efficiently, the pressure to do as many tasks at possible and to perfect them has increased dramatically.
Most employees have no problems in using all these new digital tools and finishing their tasks successfully, but struggle with using their time efficiently.
Another important factor in keeping employees from burning out is empathy. Company leaders need to have a strong sense of empathy and be able to read their employees. Why are employees not able to bring excellent results suddenly? Do they have too much work on their plate but won’t tell anybody due to personal characteristics like shyness? Great leaders will try to figure out how they can help their employees to reach their full potential by helping them feel well and respected.
Christian Krohne is a communications consultant and writer based in Germany. He works with clients in the healthcare field, especially e-mental-health. Having suffered from burnout himself, his mission is to raise awareness for mental health in the workplace. Christian is a member of Hashtag Gesundheit, an association dedicated to connecting young healthcare professionals in Germany. You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram and on his website.