With the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, and geopolitical conflict, the past 2 years have been an unusually stressful time for most of us. This upending of our daily lives has left many feeling additional stress in the workplace, where despite everything, our careful attention and decision-making skills are needed to navigate complex problems.
Few in the workplace know this pain more intimately than Human Resource Managers, who suddenly found themselves saddled with a variety of demanding organizational challenges, in addition to prior responsibilities. Most urgently, these same teams have been tasked with balancing the mental and emotional wellbeing of their entire company.
Across industries, HR leaders report that their current way of working is unsustainable. As both the front line of treating stress-related burnout at work and experiencers of its draining effects, many have expressed a dire need for change. Most urgently: Losing these individuals to stress-related illness poses a magnifying threat to businesses, whose entire company could suffer as a result.
How can overwhelmed individuals in leadership roles protect themselves from burnout while also providing support for those around them?
The Burnout Epidemic
Burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic stress at work. Its effects can vary, but often manifest as a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that leads sufferers to establish a reduced sense of accomplishment, loss of personal identity, waning productivity, feelings of hopelessness, and increased cynicism. This is bad news for business, and worse for long term health:
The Harvard Business Review reports that burnout adds between $125-190 billion each year in healthcare costs alone. In 2021, Gallup determined that $3,400 out of every $10,000 in lost salary could be attributed to disengagement from burned-out employees.
In 2021, nearly 3 in 5 adult workers reported an awareness of the negative impacts of work-related stress, with 26% citing a lack of interest, motivation, or energy and 44% suffering from physical fatigue, marking a 38% increase from prior years' surveys (Source: APA) In the same study, 32% of workers reported awareness of emotional exhaustion, the specific dimension of burnout most correlated with mental health, according to the NIH.
How can we beat burnout?
Often, burnout is difficult to identify and address because it is not a binary feeling. As Mindfulness Leader Laurie J. Cameron explains, burnout is a continuum—it happens over time. Individuals may experience a variety of symptoms at varying levels throughout their day or week when going through times of higher stress. Traditional solutions—including taking time away from work—can often fail to address the lingering feelings of burnout, but one fact remains: burnout relief comes from individual action.
As with most mental wellbeing solutions, there is no blanket application or cure-all for the different ways individuals experience burnout. However difficult, the simplest way to alleviate these symptoms often comes from taking positive steps on your own. This may include setting boundaries at work or practicing individual mindfulness in response to stressful situations.
Burnout Relief Kit
To support HR leaders and other workplace managers, we’ve collaborated with Laurie J. Cameron to create a set of free resources to alleviate personal burnout including:
- 3 audio mindfulness practices from Laurie’s Burnout to Balance series on the Wise@Work App, available to enjoy today in your web browser
- Access to a discussion on institutional burnout with Laurie + special guests (March 23, 2022)
- 90-days of premium Wise@Work App access to enjoy the entire Burnout to Balance learning series and over 1,100 additional practices from top mindfulness teachers, neuroscientists, researchers, business leaders, and DEI experts
Click here to gain access to these free materials from Wisdom Labs and Laurie J. Cameron: