I was honored to participate and speak at the Hire Women Week this week organized by Lady Bird Talent, a recruiting firm focused on finding leadership roles for women in tech. The event was attended by employers and over 1000 women who are on the hunt for work. Hello economic uncertainty, and layoffs!
My talk was titled Protecting Our Physical & Mental Health Amidst Our Hustle Culture, and was aimed at employers who are building out employee wellbeing programs and for women who are interested in finding a culture that is supportive for their phase of life/needs.
I led off with a poll asking everyone on the call to answer, "have you experienced high levels of chronic stress and/or have burned out at some point in your career and lives?" 100% responded YES.
100% as in EVERYONE on the zoom had experienced burnout in their careers thus far. The statistics show that 75% of workers (male or female) will burnout at some point in their careers. And the data also shows that women tend to burnout at higher rates then men. So if the sample size of women on the line is any indication of the trends happening in our workforce then this issue IS MORE IMPORTANT than ever. In fact, the surgeon general has even gone so far in providing workplaces with guidance on how to handle the mental health crisis that the US is currently experiencing. And a 2022 Workplace Wellbeing survey repots that 81% of employees will be looking for a workplace that better supports their mental health.
So what can we do at the individual level to protect our physical and mental health in the workplace? First and foremost having the knowledge that burnout is a cultural problem is a good starting point. Working in our fast paced modern world with the constant multi tasking we are required to do throughout the day is taxing our brains and naturally raising our cortisol levels (the stress hormone). In fact, a recent study highlighted by HBR of over 20 teams across 3 big employers found that employees toggled between different apps and websites, 1200 times each day leading to “toggling tax” that can cost workers time, productivity, and peace of mind.
Employers need to be mindful of these issues as they implement employee wellbeing programs. Senior executives and leaders need to be trained up on identifying burnout on their teams, leading with empathy after its identified, and being able to provide tangible solutions to employees before it gets to crisis mode. Left unchecked burnout can lead to mental health struggles like anxiety and depression which is costing US companies over $75 billion a year to treat. Although costly to implement, especially in our challenging economic environment, creating preventative employee wellbeing programs will actually SAVE a company money on the backend and increase productivity across its workforce. Being more intentional about boundaries around work life integration is a start--being transparent on your calendar about personal appointments, mental health days, brain breaks, gym time, etc should be encouraged. Or just entering "block time" on your calendar is a way to be more vague. Try minimizing the apps/tabs that you have open at once and work on one task at a time. Block out "focus time" on your calendar where you can shut down email/notifications and put your phone away. Aim to get into an uninterrupted "flow state" for an hour or two a day.
Outside of work--identify small things that bring you joy and make time to do them, connect in person with friends/family that make you laugh, and being intentional about disconnecting and finding ways to actively relax (not staring at social media) is also really important and will help you to feel reenergized. The biggest question I get during my workshops is what if I don't work in a culture where I can bring this up to my manager? What if after I tell my manager I get backlash?
Arming yourself with all the data on this topic is a good strategy if you plan to approach your manager about this. And there is lots of it which I can provide out to anyone that needs it! Using a data centric approach works best in my experience vs making the conversation all about you. Try using some of these open ended questions to generate some discussion around this topic and sending over your manager articles and other studies around burnout and workplace productivity can also help convince a him/her that this is an important topic to focus on.
What can we do as a team to ensure we don't burnout as we try to reach our goal?
What are the steps you take personally to ensure you don't burnout because being a middle manager is hard!?
What are your top 3 productivity strategies?
What benefits do employees have if they are experiencing high stress levels?
What are your thoughts about giving our team access to an executive coach who can help us reach our team goals? Or does the company provide us access to coaching?
At our next offsite would it make sense to bring in a speaker on workplace wellbeing and productivity?
What are your thoughts about doing some team building activities outside of work to promote connection and community?
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