The Burnout Epidemic
It appears we have another epidemic on our hands and it’s called burnout. It is growing increasingly apparent that the workforce is becoming more and more fatigued, exhausted, and stressed. Just two years ago, the World Health Organization categorized burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress. Unfortunately, since then, the problem has only gotten worse. Workers are finding it harder and harder to find a balance between their work life and family life.
Is Work-Life Balance a Thing of the Past?
Recently in a Forbes article, Dr. Christopher Mullen, Ph.D. writes that the concept of work-life balance is no longer possible in today’s frenetic environment. He believes that the politically charged environment, the long-overdue reckoning with social injustice, and the global pandemic have forced workers to rethink every aspect of their lives—including hard choices, like whether to interact with extended family support systems.
He cites a recent study from The Workforce Institute at UKG that found that 43% of employees were concerned about burnout. This is backed up by research reported by LinkedIn that found a 33% jump in burnout risk over the last year.
According to Dr. Mullen, the work-life balance used to make sense. There was a time when we worked during the day and engaged in life's other fulfilling pursuits—whether it be raising a family, spending time with friends, or enjoying our hobbies and passion projects—outside of those typical 9-to-5 hours. It was a static relationship that was easier to balance.
The proliferation of mobile technologies in the 2000s threw this model entirely out of whack. Suddenly, our customers, colleagues, bosses, and others could call, email, and text at all hours. It wasn't static anymore. It became dynamic, with the power favoring the employer.
When it comes to balance, things are either balanced or unbalanced. This only adds to the anxiety that employees may feel. And how can we expect people to let go of the inevitable stress and anxiety that come along with work if they're engaged in a constant battle to balance two items that are constantly at odds with each other?
Enter Work-Life Negotiation.
What do you do when you have two dueling priorities that you need to satisfy simultaneously? You negotiate. Approaching work and life from the concept of negotiation allows you to take a long-term approach. It's hard to predict when the demands of work will impede on our personal time. This unpredictability allows us to negotiate work and life on a case-by-case basis and not need to worry about constantly finding balance. What remains unsaid through all of this is that the organization must also embrace the concept of work-life negotiation.
As Leaders, We Must Disrupt Ourselves.
If we are truly to embrace the idea of work-life negotiation as leaders, we must be willing to disrupt ourselves in order to overcome really basic obstacles that will unlock a world of possibilities for our workforces.
For employees who have the ability to work remotely, we must first stop thinking in terms of how much they work and instead focus on their output. Let's value employees based on their abilities to help the organization achieve its goals. For employees who must be physically present, let’s empower them to pick their own schedules, swap shifts in real-time, or utilize artificial intelligence to immediately approve time off.
We're on the cusp of a new chapter in the history of work, one that we're able to write together in real-time. Let's use this opportunity to retire the notion of work-life balance and instead focus on empowering everyone to negotiate the demands of their work and life in order to achieve the most fulfilling and satisfying existence possible.
Negotiating a work-life balance will also require a totally flexible and unpredictable employee recognition program. We've got this. Give us a call.