Burning the Candle at Both Ends Equals Burnout
How to improve employee productivity.
Posted Nov 14, 2019
We are bombarded with conflicting messages about productivity and success in our culture.
On the one hand, we are taught that if we just work harder, success will come our way. We have learned that long hours, a sacrifice of time, energy, and joy are indicators of a person striving for success. On the other hand, we have been told to stop and smell the roses and we’re reminded “you only live once.”
It’s tricky to find a balance between these two important and distinctly different messages. It is important to work hard and strive for success, and it is equally as important to enjoy your life and attend to the personal experiences and relationships that matter. Too often, we lean toward the tendency to work too hard and push through the struggles of self-sacrifice, which can leave us depleted and burned out. Balance can be such a challenge.
How can you find a balance between work and personal life?
This is more important than ever. An estimated 75% of healthcare expenditures are stress-related. Higher stress results in greater health problems, which in turn results in higher expenses and a markedly diminished quality of life.
In a wisdom-filled Poppy Harlow podcast, Arianna Huffington shares her observation of this trend and offers tips for “disconnecting in a connected world.” Huffington links this trend to an underlying belief that in order to succeed we need to burnout. She connects this “deep delusion” to the industrial revolution and our efforts to minimize downtime, much like we do with the use of machinery.
Huffington emphasizes that taking care of oneself and one’s employees results in a more productive and purposeful workforce.
Corporate burnout costs companies more in recidivism, decreases in quality work, and a decline in productivity.
It’s quite a leap to move from a "burn-out to succeed" mentality to one of self-care and life balance. Huffington makes some valuable suggestions to help with this transition, including:
- Take a life-audit to determine the underlying factors in your emotional health and satisfaction
- Say no to requests that take you away from rest and getting recharged
- Let go of guilt about setting limits and valuing your personal time
- Put your phone to bed when you go to bed; resist the urge to stay connected to your devices at night
Don’t stick with something that doesn’t serve you. If you are doing something for the arbitrary reason “I said I would,” try to let that go. Life is too short to hold yourself to an expectation that is dreadful without a good reason.
Huffington also suggests that we disconnect from emails, texts, and other forms of contact with work while on vacation.
She even sets up a bounce-back email that asks the sender to contact another employee and alerts them that this email will be deleted. The message asks that they send an email after she returns from vacation instead. This simple limit-setting technique prevents her from returning to the office after a vacation and being swamped by an overflowing inbox.
The disconnection from work also reminds us that we are not that important; that other employees can take care of things while we are gone. This recognition is humbling and liberating; it frees us up to truly release the “work version” of ourselves for a bit. It is a necessary part of recharging the batteries and allowing oneself to truly rejuvenate.
In some ways, we have a love-hate relationship with our careers.
Even when we love what we’re doing. The ratio of work time and home time may play a part in this. In countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Korea, the division of work and home is quite drastic.
Mexico averages a 48-hour workweek, with Costa Rica and Korea coming in just under that rate. Germany is reported to have the lowest average number of hours worked out of the 38 countries studied, coming in at an average of 26 hours per week. The United States averages about 34 hours per week.
When work hours creep up over the average, life balance becomes negatively skewed.
Since the average CEO works over 58 hours per week and sleeps an average of six hours per night, it is easy to imagine how burnout can set in, even for the most seasoned professionals.
Part of the burnout culture we’ve fostered is this sense that those other aspects of our lives will still be there when we’re able to get to them. At the end of our lives, it won’t matter how much money we made or how productive we were.
Our legacy is interesting, but not the most important part of our existence. When we evaluate our time spent “earning” over our time spent living, that is an indicator of a culture with an upside-down values structure.
Take the Anti-Burnout Challenge
Burning the candle at both ends results in burnout. Try to create a better balance between work and personal life by taking this anti-burnout challenge.
For one week:
- Leave work on time, even if it means leaving mid-project.
- Do not answer work-related emails, phone calls or texts after work hours.
- Take your lunch break. Leave the building. Leave your computer and phones at the office. Sit and do nothing else but slowly eat your lunch and take in the sights and sounds around you. Don’t go back until the full lunch hour is over.
- Schedule a post-work self-care activity. Some ideas could be to sign up for a massage, go to the gym or take a walk with a friend.
- Get enough sleep. Abide by the sleep hygiene recommendations. Shut off blue-light emitting screens. Set up a dark, cool room to get optimal rest. If you prefer to read before bed, break out an old-fashioned book or magazine rather than using a device.
Track your feelings at the end of each day during the anti-burnout challenge. What do you notice? Do you feel less stressed? Are you more refreshed by taking the time during your day to attend to your needs?
Striving for work-life balance is an important way to show yourself respect and love. The secondary gain is how refreshed and productive you will be during work hours.
Itunes, Apple. “Boss Files with Poppy Harlow: Conversations about Business, Leadership and Innovation on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/boss-files-poppy-harlow-conversations-about-business/id1201282406.
Thibodeaux, Wanda. “Want to Be Happier? Answer These 34 Essential Life Audit Questions.” Inc.com, Inc., 21 July 2017, www.inc.com/wanda-thibodeaux/34-essential-life-audit-questions-you-cant-afford-.html.
McPhillips, Deidre. “This Labor Day Weekend, a Look at the Hardest-Working Countries.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 2016, www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2016-09-02/hardest-working-countries-ranked-by-hours-worked-per-year.
Pullen, John Patrick. “CEOs Get Less Sleep Than Employees, Study Finds.” Time, Time, 16 Oct. 2015, time.com/4076563/ceos-productivity/.