Recovering from burnout is a major challenge. In my conversations with people who have experienced burnout, many have changed jobs or even abandoned their previous career in their efforts to restore balance in their lives.
The evidence indicates that critical mismatches of people with their work context as drive burnout. When the workplace remains constant or even becomes even more incompatible with employees’ aspirations or values, it makes sense to explore strategies for coping more effectively with the situation.
In a recent article with Eva Demerouti and Arnold Bakker, we explored three general strategies.
• Selection: Prioritizing your responsibilities, dropping those with lower urgency.
• Optimization: Focus your efforts on enjoyable parts of the job with the hope of energizing your efforts for tackling the drudgery.
• Compensation: Find ways to delegate some tasks. The criterion here is not so much whether the tasks are enjoyable or urgent, rather it is the availability of someone capable of doing those tasks.
Our research indicated that selection has the potential for causing trouble when you neglect necessary tasks. Optimization often requires effortful activity or even learning new skills, both of which are a strain for people already experiencing burnout.
The bottom line, as we noted in our article and emphasized by an article in Fast Company is that compensation is the strategy with the best chance for success. Delegating tasks or learning to say no while directing new, interesting tasks to colleagues can reduce demands, giving people an opportunity to restore their energy while remaining in the same job.
Does this fit with your experience or observations?