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Monday, February 11, 2008

Burnt Out?

In my travels for both business and pleasure, I have often heard that Americans work too much.

The perception is that we are all about the money, work and ultimately success. Are we striving to become the most unhealthy burnout nation in the world?

As an ass-kicking business woman I will admit that I have put in a lot of hours over the years to get to this place in my career, but a few years ago I learned how to “turn it off.” You know, stop and smell the roses, because I was heading for a major burnout.

I believe we as Americans are soon to be a toasted society. Why is it that we feel compelled to do everything to extremes? We are the originators of super-sized meals, the X-Games and now 24/7 employees.

Perhaps people don’t know how to leave work in the office. We have become addicts of instant and constant communication, making it tough to compartmentalize the hours. I’m guilty of that, but I am trying to reform. It is a tough habit to break; I crave my “CrackBerry” and Bluetooth. I can’t go anywhere without them! Our escape is dictated by the battery recharger and dead zones, rather than what gives us true satisfaction.

There are companies that recognize that a burned-out employee is less productive, more prone to illness, and on the verge of dropping out…and taking their valuable and increasingly scarce labor talent with them. One of the biggest issues in human resources is RETENTION. So how are some trying to shift the burnout tide? Here’s three examples that range from major policy changes to holistic services:

  • Companies are instituting polices against business emails during weekends and holidays, unless absolutely urgent. Corporate culture has turned from admiring the weekend work warrior to respecting and protecting time away from the office.
  • I loved, loved, loved a front-page article in The New York Times Style section a few weeks ago about law firms that are rethinking the viability of an 80-hour work week now that attorneys are leaving the profession in droves. One firm took the courageous step of making a request that no court dates be set during the Christmas school break so its lawyers could spend time during the holidays with their families.
  • A super-charged Wall Street boutique alleviates the tremendous pressure its traders feel by having an in-office masseuse. The traders are expected to avail themselves of the perk; a type of shut-off valve during the week when body and soul get to relax and unwind.

If you have heard of other ways that companies are dealing with burnout, send them here. and I’ll post them.

So, are you burning dinner while multitasking emails and business calls (me), are you working on spreadsheets on your commute home, is it time to establish some boundaries? 9-5 is on life support and so are you!


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