More and more, there seems to be pressure on individuals to be top performers at their jobs, in family contexts, and even in life in general. Particularly, in the United States, asking for a break or for time off is often frowned upon in many businesses. True, some more progressive firms have been experimenting with more flexible policies regarding employee leave – overall – it still remains difficult to take time off.
The core issue around taking time off from work centers on avoiding burnout.
Burnout occurs when an individual begins to feel overwhelmed, usually for an extended period of time. Anxiety can also co-occur with psychological burnout. In many cases, burnout can lead a person to leave his or her job, or, at a minimum, the burnt-out individual’s productivity and performance may decrease. Any way you look at it, experiencing burnout is not a pleasant experience.
Over the decades, there has been an entire cottage industry of books and seminars that have emerged in order to educate employees on how to avoid burning out at work. And although there is not magic spell or easy answers that apply to everyone, some common trends have emerged. For instance, common advice advises individuals to do things like taking breaks, pacing themselves, or attempting not to take on more than they can handle.
Taking breaks is important. In most cases it is advisable to build breaks into your work day. Small breaks can include getting a cup of coffee or tea or going to the bathroom, for instance. Although it doesn’t seem like a lot, taking a moment to stop what you’re working on is a healthy (and simple) way to take a short break.
Additionally, one piece of common advice to avoid burnout it pacing oneself. This, too, is sound advice. Rather than taking a break and stopping, pacing oneself means continuing to work but doing so at perhaps a slower pace, where the individual doesn’t feel overwhelmed but can still continue to be productive. The problem with pacing, of course, is that it may be subject to deadlines. To be clear, if you are facing a hard deadline at work, it may not be possible to set a slower pace due to the looming deadline.
But that is the exception and not the rule. It most cases where pacing yourself at a slower rate, do so.
Finally, not taking on too much at once – or simply just saying “No” – is also an important tool to use. This third piece of advice is really about setting boundaries. On the one hand, in the context of work, it is important to complete one’s job duties and be productive. On the other hand, however, it should fall within the sphere of the individual to set boundaries at work.
Finally, avoiding burnout is important for one’s mental health. Burnout can cause mental health problems for an individual and lower productivity for employers. It is therefore important for both workers and managers to recognize the importance of taking necessary breaks, pacing, and setting boundaries.