I read an interesting article in The Collective magazine the other day titled ‘Before the burn’ which talked about a new phrase named the ‘Brownout’. It’s basically the step before someone goes into full blown burn out, and people who experience it often feel (but don’t show) overwhelm, disengagement and a loss of work mojo.
Unlike someone who suffers extreme burnout and reaches a point where they have no choice but to change, brownout is much more ‘silent’ – people seemingly perform well and act efficiently, yet feel a sense of unhappiness, tiredness and lethargy.
As stated in the article, if burn out is like the flu, then brownout is like a common cold. Both have similar symptoms but one is more crippling.
Here are a few example of how brownout can start to manifest:
- A passion or hobby you once had no longer gets any of your time or attention
- You constantly miss your kids milestones like first soccer matches and birthday parties
- You are going through the motions at work but your heart is not in it
- The idea of a deep, restful sleep is just that…an idea, but not your reality, as switching your mind off is impossible
- Challenges and pressure which you can normally handle feel harder to solve
- Takeaway dinner is your go most nights to even though you feel bloated and lethargic afterwards
- You use to love reading but feel guilty if you take the time these days
- You can ‘show up’ and perform at work but at home family demands are starting to frustrate you and your connection with loved ones is not how you would like it to be
- You can’t seem to hold a non-business conversations as well and would rather be left alone
- Taking a walk at lunch or after work seems impossible with deadlines and home commitments
All of these things can lead to a feeling of unhappiness, constant tiredness, disengagement, short temper and less tolerance, overwhelm, and feelings of depression or anxiety.
Whether this results in under performance at work, losing clients in your business, missing out on a job promotion, or simply feeling no drive or interest in your work, then it might be time to look at some simple strategies so that you don’t head further down the path towards burnout.
At Being More Human we are passionate about supporting great leadership because this ultimately creates a strong and resilient culture. We believe that the leaders in an organisation are in a prime position to become champions for identifying brownout. This means having self-awareness about whether they are personally experiencing brownout first, and then supporting their teams to identify whether brown out is effecting their ability to perform well and be happy at work.
It’s one thing to provide training, development and set KPI’s that focus on getting ‘more’ out of your teams…and an entirely different strategy to support your people to bring their best to work.
There is nothing wrong with having high expectations of those in your employment, however if the mentality is “I pay you well, so that’s a fair exchange”, then you might find some of your team feel unhappy, demotivated and disengaged – and that does affect your bottom line.
It’s estimated that untreated mental health, which can occur when someone is constantly feeling unhappy and disengaged, costs Australia workplaces approximately $10.9 billion a year.
If brownout is something you think may be effecting your workplace, here are some simple tips to help you (as a leader or manager) boost morale and create a better internal culture:
TIP 1: Provide flexible hours so that your people can balance work and life responsibilities better and come to work less stressed
TIP 2: Promote movement at work like walking meetings, standing desks, nano breaks and using the stairs because movement is the best way to get creative and solve problems
TIP 3: Set up regular low cost wellness lunch and learn sessions where an external provider comes in and gives simple tips on areas of wellness that your people have chosen (sleep, eating, exercise, stress management, meditation, yoga…)
TIP 4: Utilise your internal communication systems (or even a large pin board in the staff lunch room) and encourage people to post pictures of themselves doing activities they love on weekends. It’s a great way to start conversations and find common interests amongst your teams
TIP 5: Create a calendar of events that involved fun, team-oriented activities that can be done as a group one afternoon a month
TIP 6: Reward people for bringing positivity and happiness to work…it’s the new KPI!
TIP 7: Encourage ‘nano breaks’ which simply means getting up from your desk and moving around every hour for 5 minutes.
TIP 8: Set a time of the day where people down tools and meditate for 5 minutes (ok so this is a long shot, but some business set ups could do this!)
TIP 9: Have more in depth conversations with your people about their roles – what they love and what frustrates them. Often just feeling heard and seeing some action taken has a big impact on someone’s mental state.
TIP 10: Play music at work more often, or allow people to listen to their own at certain times of the day. Music is one of the most powerful ways to change someone’s state (behaviour).
The most important thing as a leader is to walk the talk and share your own experiences. Your teams want to know you are ‘human’ like them. A leader who is enthusiastic about a hobby, talks about his or her family, is seen to be using the stairs, only has meetings walking outside, chooses the healthy option at a business lunch…will create the sense that they value these things in their employees as well.
When a culture shifts from ‘get the most out of us’ to ‘bring your best to work’, this leads to happier, healthier, more engaged people who want to stay with you for the long term…and that in itself is a huge cost saver!
If this post resonated with you and you want to connect for a coffee and chat about how the team at Being More Human can support your organisation to bring the best out in your people, contact *protected email* for further information