Self-care is not the solution for burnout

During the past two years we have been focusing a lot on self-care. Good. Tick. This was good and helpful but it’s no longer enough.

If we are still exhausted, overwhelmed and working long hours we have a problem. The rough period should be just that – a time. Not a permanent state.

If burnout was the result of insufficient self-care then the solution could be exercise more, drink water, get away from the computer, be with friends and talk it out. But it’s not. It’s a band aid for a serious issue.

I’m not saying self-care isn’t good. I am really committed to my own and prioritise it. It’s just not the solution to burnout.

You see we got really good at pivoting (geez I am sick of that word) but haven’t been as good at the second part. We’ve ended up piling more initiatives on top of ones that already exist and not created the time to work out what we keep, kill and tweak.

Trying to improve productivity by adding more projects and KPIs is like trying to satisfy hunger by strapping sandwiches all over your body.

In 2019, Harvard released a report urging governments, organisations, and stakeholders to address the alarming rates of burnout in physicians. This report was issued BEFORE the COVID-19 pandemic. The public are now fully alerted to just how overwhelmed healthcare workers are. But they are not alone. Many workplaces and industries are suffering too.

We are in sprint mode all the time. But for sprint training to work we need a surge, then rest to recover. I’m not seeing many workplaces nail the second bit and people are suffering. 

But we all play a role in the solution. Blaming leadership for the problem gets you nowhere. Blaming ‘I don’t have time’ to stop and re-assess is equally purposeless. It will keep you stuck. 

I love Steven Covey’s take on it; ‘The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities’.

Come on. It’s time. For you and your colleagues. Step up, speak up and do something about it.

In our Working as One program we run sessions on ‘Managing our priorities’. If you want to create a workplace where people love being at work, let’s talk.