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How to beat burnout

By Ami White

In this always-on age, it’s becoming harder than ever to switch off from work. Senior Account Manager, Ami White, looks at the resulting rise in employee burnout and what we can do to fire up a solution.


In many ways, summertime is great for both body and mind. A combination of warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours and an extra boost of vitamin D can have a hugely positive impact on our health. But for some people it can also mean the arrival of the dreaded mid-year burnout.



What is burnout?


Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”, referring to it as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. While The Guardian branded it a “state of vital exhaustion” and a “sinister and insidious epidemic”.


It’s around this time of the year when burnout in the workplace really begins to creep in. Deadlines that seemed so far away in January are suddenly here. The feelings of running on empty and being completely exhausted are starting to feel normal – as if they were always there. 


A UK Workplace Stress Survey conducted in 2018 found that stress induced by work causes sleep loss, anxiety, disrupted concentration, comfort eating and reduced productivity. 


But it’s not just in the workplace where these feelings may arise. When it comes to planning a social life, summer is a busy period for all of us. Trying to keep that work-life balance in check gets much harder and it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by it all. Enter: burnout.  



Can it be prevented?


Thankfully, burnout is starting to become recognised by employers as a contributing factor to poor mental health, and many are taking steps to help support employee well-being. Whether it’s appointing mental health officers, or allowing flexible working hours, small changes can make a big difference.


At Proximity, there are already lots of initiatives in place that help promote a healthy working environment, but it’s important that we don’t stand still. As our awareness and understanding grows, so too should the support we provide.


For instance, earlier this year, our Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee (DISCO) organised in-house talks with a range of inspirational speakers – all with their own stories of overcoming struggles in both their work and personal lives. As a result of the insights and perspective gained from these talks, various new training courses and workshops have been planned for the rest of the year to help improve employee wellness. Subjects covered include imposter syndrome, public speaking, unconscious bias and even how stress can be managed through breathing and meditation exercises.


Most recently, a sleep workshop was arranged to educate Proxers on how mental and physical health can be impacted by restless nights, and the knock-on effects on productivity at work. We learned that sleep quality can be improved through meditation and practical techniques – both of which can easily be applied to everyday life. Simple initiatives like this don’t take up much time, but can have a big impact in the long run.



The importance of speaking up


As employee mental health continues to rise up the list of priorities for employers, it’s becoming easier to identify the early signs of stress. This can really help to ease burnout before it becomes a serious problem.


That’s why it’s so important that the issue carries on getting recognition. If you ever feel overwhelmed at work, speaking up won’t just help take the pressure off – it will also help to keep stress on your organisation’s agenda and prevent burnout from becoming a widespread issue. 


And if you do find yourself struggling with burnout, the most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself. Self-acceptance can be just as daunting as admitting to those around you that you’re suffering, but remember – we’re all only human. 


Changes in the way mental health is recognised are already happening, so don’t be afraid to join the conversation.



Where to find further advice and support:


NABS is an employee-support organisation for the advertising and media industry offering a range of services. They include a confidential advice line, support on workplace or personal issues and career coaching. 


Mind is a mental health charity offering a range of support for those struggling with mental health issues. The charity provides a number of services, including an Infoline offering confidential help, various online publications and a network of around 130 ‘Minds’ based all over the UK. 


Time to Change is an organisation supporting the growing social movement of changing the way we all think and act about mental health. The group is made up of hundreds of hubs of people, schools, and employers. Charities like Mind work with them to help run campaigns and raise further awareness.