Burnout. Stress. Anxiety. Panic. Depression.
These words became standard in the world over the past two years for obvious reasons. But these are not new words and these are not new experiences. People have worked hard forever. People have toiled, struggled, suffered and endured burnout for literal ages. Yet we push on, push through and trample over the concept of burnout and how it impacts our lives and businesses.
It’s not enough to tell a firecracker founder that their staff is burned out. Talking about burnout and fatigue is especially useless when the founder, manager, owner or boss believes that burnout is made up by the weak and if they can work 18 hour days then everyone in their team should too.
Burnout is expensive. Whether you care to admit it or not, burnout costs you time, money, energy, enthusiasm, focus and more.
That’s why I’d like to propose that businesses add burnout to their budgets.
Because burnout is an expense. It’s also an expense you can and should budget for. It’s something that impacts your bottom line, that causes your business to lose money, lose talent, lose clients and generally just lose.
The goal is twofold:
- By making burnout an official line item to be budgeted for the hope is that you begin to plan for it by either hiring more people to do the work required or by giving the people that you do employ more of a chance to take a break, gain perspective and do their best work.
- By acknowledging the cost of burnout leaders will be held accountable for changes required to lower the cost of burnout (and therefore burnout itself).
I believe that the solution to this problem is not magical, ethereal or up to the individual. The solution to burnout is a systemic shift. It is a fundamental shift in the way we approach human capital, creativity, brilliant work and workloads in our organisations.
Solving for burnout is not about reacting to it it’s about planning for it, acknowledging that there are times when harder than normal work is required but that there is an end in sight.
That’s really what most people are looking for; an end in sight.
I love the work that I do, I enjoy it and I like working hard but when abnormally long hours become my norm I freak out, I lose control, I panic and I spiral. It’s when I can see the end that I don’t particularly mind the hard work. Book deadlines are a great example of this. I spend months researching, reading, planning and thinking and then I have a deadline to hit. So I grind. I sit down and every day bash out 1000 words so that I can hit my deadline. I work out how many words I need to write each day to make sure I don’t miss my deadline and then I grind. But I am happy grinding because I know there is an immovable end in sight - a deadline.
If burnout becomes a budgetary issue then it’s very unlikely that the problem of burnout will continue on indefinitely.
If your staff are leaving, resigning, falling by the wayside due to exhaustion and continued illness then come quarterly budget reviews your chief financial officer will have to start asking difficult questions of your human resource executives, CEO, project managers and key leaders. The more you push your people, the more people you’ll lose along the way without respite.
Making burnout a “soft” issue isn’t working and won't work into the future. If we make it a money issue, I believe we’ll start to see real change.
What do you think?