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By Jean Chatzky

If work has felt like a drag or been stressful these last few months, we feel your pain. The end of the year, and the beginning of a new one, can bring on a heavy workload as projects are wrapped up, and additional responsibilities when fellow team members are on holiday vacations. If you’re feeling burnout (and/or cursing your boss when you leave work and it’s already pitch black outside) it’s tempting to want to chuck your job right out the window. According to new research from staffing firm Randstad, 30 percent of employees are considering leaving their current positions due to burnout, and 41 percent of us believe that leaving a job is the only way to deal with it. It’s not.

Understanding The Issue

Folks in the thick of the struggle may hear a common refrain when venting to friends and family: “Just take a vacation.” And that’s something that most (52 percent) work-weary folks try, according to Randstad. But vacations only represent a short-term solution to a bigger problem, explains Jim Link, chief human resources officer for staffing firm Randstad North America. “Plus, when out of office workers return, they'll likely discover a workload that's piled up in their absence,” he says.

The thing to understand is that burnout doesn’t typically come from one particular project, person or stressful situation. Rather, it’s a culmination of all the emotions you’re feeling at work, explains Dave Denaro, vice president of career management consultancy Keystone Associates. “Boredom, not caring and stress are all feelings,” he says. “Maybe the job you were excited to do a while ago has morphed over time into a Frankenstein-like collection of tasks and responsibilities that don’t play to your strengths or your interests anymore, and most of the people you liked have moved on. Misalignment has crept in little by little, and the total of those little things are adding up to be a big, stressful, thing. It’s now a toxin. It’s painful.”

According to Randstad, two of the more common causes of burnout include not feeling appreciated by your boss, and not having any room for professional growth. “It goes beyond just being tired of your job,” Link says. “Employees have to ask themselves some tough questions to understand why they’re feeling burned out to help find a solution.”

Not Talking Is Not The Answer

Employees should start by having an honest conversation with their boss about their long-term career goals, positive aspects of their work performance, and future at the company, Link says. If an employee’s source of burnout comes from feeling overworked, priority number one should be discussing their schedule and workload with upper management and seeing if there’s something that can be done. “Communication is key. The holiday season can be an extremely stressful time of year as workers try to meet every end-of-year deadline, but staying silent if you’re struggling doesn’t help at all,” he says. Employees need to share how they are feeling with upper management for support and to collaboratively work on a solution to prevent further burnout.” Workers need to make it clear to managers when their workload is not realistic before it impacts their performance, and being supported by a team of people — or even just one person — can eliminate many day-to-day bottlenecks that cause stress and burnout.

Employees have to ask themselves some tough questions to understand why they’re feeling burned out to help find a solution.

If discussing these issues with management seems intimidating, employees can start these conversations by reaching out to trusted peers in their network for frank professional discussions first, Link suggests. Addie Swartz, CEO of reacHIRE, a company that works with organizations to promote a gender diverse workforce and bring women back to work after a career break, agrees. She says that “going it alone” is one of the worst things you can do. Instead, arrange a time to get together with colleagues to talk about the pressures you’re facing and discuss how others are handling it. “Most people are relieved to find another outlet for sharing beyond their immediate circle, and derive great value from talking honestly to professionals facing similar challenges.”

If you’re new in your career and still seeking to find your sounding board, check to see if your company offers any online tools or employee resource groups you can tap into, Swartz suggests. “The power of peers is the ultimate balm for workplace burnout — delivering camaraderie, empathy, conversation and ideas when you need it most.”

Leaving Burnout Behind In 2019

Once you speak to your manager and trusted colleagues, plan to start 2019 off with some small, attainable goals to increase both your productivity and happiness at work, Link suggests. And don’t focus all your energy on work — even something as simple as getting a good night’s sleep (typically seven to nine hours) is critical to your overall health and performance on the job. “Also, while at work, don’t forget to take small, 10-minute breaks to help recharge throughout the day.”

Cultivating happiness and satisfaction at work is key to avoiding burnout, Swartz says. “Consider starting a journal for 2019 that lists your professional goals and commit to keeping score of all of your personal victories, no matter how big or small — positive praise from your boss, colleagues or clients, a great idea at a meeting, a big sales win, or a mentee you are helping grow in their career.” Having a designated place to celebrate your success will give you something to lean on when you hit a tough time, she says. It will also give you ammunition to advocate for your professional growth in 2019 — like a raise, promotion or exciting new assignment.

With Kathryn Tuggle

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