Relighting the Fire

In our last couple of installments, we’ve been talking about one of the most underrated threats to organizational productivity in American business today: employee burnout.

We’ve discussed its causes, how to recognize the signs, and how to take steps to respond, whether it’s a member of your team, a co-worker, or you.

But what if your pilot light’s already gone out? What if you’re simply no longer able to muster up the energy, desire, and motivation to get the job done?

If you feel yourself just going through the motions, you don’t have to accept it as your new normal. There still are steps you can take to revitalize, renew, restore, and relight your fire. Here are a few….

Call a time out. This is sometimes the hardest thing to do when you are burned out, because your inbox is over full. But in this situation, you HAVE to take a time out—even if it’s just a day off.

And you need to truly take that day OFF… errands, no cleaning the house, fixing the garage door, or any other little household task that comes to mind. This is not a day to fix up the house…it’s a day to fix up YOU. Relax, and just BE.

Talk it out. Request a meeting with your supervisor and honestly share your situation. No supervisor wants to be coaching and prodding an employee who is truly running on “E,” and a good manager will proactively take steps to explore options that might help.

Even if you work with someone who’s not necessarily empathetic or gifted in human relations, don’t let that stop you. They might not be a great source of emotional support, but still might be able to address the situation in a way that benefits both of you.

Lobby for a new assignment. Granted, many of us are not in a position from which we can call our own shots, but in the course of discussing your situation with a supervisor or trusted colleague, explore ways to revitalize your work environment by branching into a new activity, or even a modified role.

A change of assignment can be a truly refreshing shift, and looking at your job—or your organization—from a new vantage point can stimulate new ideas, new energy, and new enthusiasm.

Make the most of your off-hours. Your work is not your life, but if it’s got you down, you can improve your outlook by maximizing your time away from the office. Consider a new hobby, an exercise program, or a new family ritual—weekly game nights, or regular trips to the park.

Lifting your spirits in your off hours will go miles toward creating a healthier and more well-rounded lifestyle that can’t help but spill over into your office life.

Consider a bigger change. If you’re truly burned out at your job—don’t be afraid to explore the Big Question: “should I leave?” It may well be time. But that’s never a decision to be taken lightly, or made hastily. Once again, talking through your issues with friends, colleagues, and family members should be a part of the plan.

And sometimes that’s a decision that some folks simply can’t make on their own. Sometimes it may have to come from a manager, for the good of all parties concerned.

Walking away can at once be the simplest, yet most difficult decision to reach. If you are managing a burned-out employee, it may end up as the only viable option, and if so, it’s one you have to address.

But if you’re the employee, regardless of whether it’s a change of employers, industry, or even retirement, that burned-out feeling could be a sign that a chapter of your work life is drawing to a close.

Whichever route you choose, my biggest piece of advice is—do something!

Simply going through the motions serves nobody’s best interest—especially yours.

After all, we spend a third of our lives at work—and that’s way too much to let slip away.

Grow Big or Go Home!