Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Burnout – Work-Life Balance – Negative Consequences

Burnout – Work-Life Balance. Employees have used or heard these terms. 

They are two different things. However, they are closely related. They both leave a person with less energy: their common denominator is negative consequences.

Let’s start with work-life balance. It’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” work-life balance. Some people who have the expectations to achieve this elusive perfect balance lead themselves to burnout and a loss of energy. 

Life comes in phases. When in school there is little balance due to the academic demands. You join the workforce? Then you have the pressure of a new job and building a career. Family usually follows. Show me any parent with perfect work-life balance. Heck, there may not be balance with retirement because someone goes from a hectic work schedule to no work at all. There can be a deep sense of loss. 

Overall, looking back, one’s life is balanced. It just isn’t when it is being lived. Life is a period of phases and change. 

How do we navigate our careers and lives? Here are a few tips:

1.   Life is an inside job. The better a person takes care of themselves, the better work-life balance will seem. That means burnout is less likely. This area includes mental health, not just physical health. The better a person feels on the inside, the better things are on the outside. Think about the last time you heard the safety instructions on an airplane. The attendant reminds people sitting next to children to first put their own oxygen mask on, then the child’s mask. Are adults more important than children? No. The message is that you must help yourself to best help others.

2.   It is ok to say no to the many requests you may get. You don't have to have an explanation each time. While it’s great to be a servant leader, to help others, it is vital that you are healthy. Then you can be a much greater you for a much longer time.

3.   Remind yourself of the why. Particularly in the workplace, remind yourself why you are doing what you do. Even those jobs where the “why” is obvious to others, sometimes the person is so close and buried in their day-to-day activities that they miss it. For physicians, their “why” is easy, right? They save lives. Yet they have one of the higher suicide rates. It’s hard to believe because we all know what a positive difference they make. So why? It appears with the many changes from electronic medical records, to spending too much time in with documentation, to different employment (many physicians are employed by healthcare systems) to wages staying flat, these life savers lose the passion that brought them to medicine. There is even a tool to measure physician burn out called a misery scale.

Everyone does a job that is important. Take time to reflect on the difference you make.

4.   Build your skill. Skill breeds effectiveness. When you’re new at something, it may take longer or seem difficult. Don’t project it will be this way forever. This projection leads to that loss of energy and feeling a bit hopeless on the way to burnout. Because the job or role takes longer until skill is improved, it can impact work-life balance. Be kind to yourself when in a new situation while committing to build your skill set.

5.   Hold up the mirror. To have the best possible work-life balance it takes putting some things on hold.

I met with a person who wanted my input on a job decision. He left his last job due to his desire to not travel and to spend more time with his wife and three children. However, a job offer had appeared that was quite exciting. He shared with me why he had left the last job, then described what it would take for him to be successful in this new job: to build a team, travel and put in lots of hours.

The payoff was a great title, good pay and upside.

I asked him how old his children were. They ranged from about 8 to 13. He then looked at me and said, “I think I can answer my own question. The timing is not right for this job.”

There are times when the balance is not there more due to our own decisions than someone else's. 

Burnout statistics show that fewer hours worked does not equal less burnout. Take the time to connect your work back to purpose.

For work-life balance, be realistic. The more real the expectations, the more serenity you will have. Build skills and know this takes time.

Hold up the mirror and be kind to yourself. We’re looking for progress, not perfection. 

Quint Studer is the "founder and faculty" of the STUDER Community Institute. Quint can be reached at quint@quintstuder.com

Image added by the Observer

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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