Reduce Stress And Avoid Burnout Before It’s Too Late

On-the-job burnout is real, and learning to reduce stress is crucial to avoid burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout in its 2019 International Classification of Diseases.


Overwork is the leading cause of burnout. It results in the death of 2.8 million workers each year, the WHO says

“Burnout has been downplayed for decades despite the catastrophic effects it can have on our lives,” said Jennifer Moss, a Harvard Business Review contributor. She’s also a member of a group that informs the United Nations’ Annual Global Happiness Policy Report. “Good leaders know this, and companies do their best to offer services and perks to help employees lower their stress and improve their well-being,” she said.

“Self-care won’t fix broken organizational systems,” Moss said. “But it’s the part we can control in a world full of the uncontrollable.” Moss is also author of “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It.”

So, what are some ways you can reduce stress?

Talk to Your Boss To Reduce Stress

Address your workload with managers in a productive and nonthreatening way, Moss says. For two weeks, document your daily activities. Afterward, talk to your manager about setting priorities.

“At the very least you’re giving your manager a window into your workload, which has been shown to increase resourcing and support,” Moss said.

Erica Galos Alioto, head of people for Grammarly, a company that offers a digital writing assistant of the same name, agrees. “The best tip I can give to help employees manage their stress is communicate, communicate, communicate,” she said.

Change Virtual Meetings To Reduce Stress

Stanford University research found videoconference meetings put workers in a hyper-aroused state for long periods of time, Moss said. This creates stress.

Reduce virtual meetings to 30 minutes or less if possible. Ensure that only necessary attendees are joining and encourage people to keep their cameras on.

Try a walk-and-talk with a cellphone instead of prolonged sitting, Moss says. Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress.

Go Away To Reduce Stress

American workers left 768 million days of vacation time unused, the U.S. Travel Association found in a pre-pandemic study in 2019. That resulted in 236 million of those vacation days forfeited, totaling $65.5 billion in lost benefits.

Moss points to one study that found for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved eight percent.

“Not only do we need to take our vacation time, we need to turn off work,” she said. “Set out-of-office messages stating you’re away and won’t be responding to emails, texts or voicemails.”

Send an email to clients and peers a week before leaving to so you have no last-minute issues, she says. Schedule a buffer day without meetings upon returning to get caught up.

Stay True To Yourself

What gets you where you want to go in life — across the roughest stress and burnout terrain — “are your values, your integrity, your resilience, and your outlook,” said Ronda Beaman, Chief Creative Officer at Peak Learning, a consulting firm and author of “My Feats in These Shoes.”

Liz Kelly, a mental health care professional for Talkspace, a virtual health care company, said: “We often tie our sense of self-worth to our job and professional achievements. Acknowledge that your worth as a person is not based on what you do for a living or how productive you are.”

Take Small Steps To Generate Bold Strides

Emotions like apathy, indecision, helplessness and fear add to stress and job burnout.

To counter those emotions and reduce stress, “bust through the paralysis by taking even the smallest steps” toward what matters most, said Beaman, who holds a doctoral degree in leadership and policy studies. “Climbers have a plan, but they consistently reassess and reroute. Step-by-step is how everything is built, including companies, relationships and lives.”

Use Your Benefits To Reduce Stress

Up to 80% of companies reported employees don’t read their benefits materials, according to Erayna Sargent, CEO of Hooky Wellness, an employee burnout consulting firm.

Your benefits are a trove of wellness, health and financial resources, Sargent said. “They are best used ‘before things get bad enough.’ Your company intranet and unopened emails from the HR department are great places to start.”


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