Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 49 total)
  • Professional burnout – how to recover whilst still working?
  • 13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    It just dawned on me on the drive home this evening that my mental state at work has gone beyond normal stress and definitely feels like something more chronic.

    I find it very easy to relate it to training stress on the bike, I’ve basically been building up volume AND intensity over the last few years, to the point where I just can’t achieve the necessary performance when it’s required (which sadly in my job appears to be ‘all the time’).

    I’m also conscious that despite my experience and the projects I’ve worked on, I now feel like I’ve forgotten more than I’ve learned!

    I feel like I need to ‘rebuild’ effectively and the only (financially) sensible way to do this seems to be applying for roles beneath me, hoping my experience counts for something whilst effectively putting everything I’ve learned in the last few hectic years back into context.

    Problem is, I know what the less senior roles in my industry are like, pure sausage factory churning out ‘easy’ work but at high volume, there’s not exactly a lot of mentorship or breathing room, I’m sort of hoping that I could rely on my experience in order that I might find the work easy enough that it feels like a bit of respite…

    Don’t know what I’m asking exactly, has anyone else found themselves struggling to cope and dealt with it by stepping back? I don’t think career change is the answer and time off unpaid almost certainly not the answer (having had a month off between jobs recently and apparently not reaped any benefit 🙄)…

    Ta

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    I was “lucky” in my original career. I did the whole promotion thing and then realised it wasn’t really for me so managed to step sideways into a technical role again. However, I also refused to take on more work than was it was possible for me to do. That got a bit of fightback but once it was realised that NO meant NO but also that YES meant YES, everything settled down and I got a reputation for delivering on schedule rather than over-commiting and everything being late. I don’t get why more folk don’t adopt the same attitude. Fear that you’re letting someone down? Afraid that you’ll be sacked for another Yes-man? I’d say it’s worth a try just being honest about what’s possible without you having to be permanently stressed. That puts you in a more healthy position and more likely to be a positive contributor at work.

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Can you go part time eg 4 day week? Obviously that costs you financially and not every company is open to such things.

    If you genuinely have the extra day off, it will offer some respite.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    If you genuinely have the extra day off, it will offer some respite.

    Good point. It’s not worth cutting days if you still end up doing all the same amount of work.

    DT78
    Free Member

    Been there. Nearly didn’t end very well

    Learn to say No. what is the worst that can happen?

    How do you get along with your boss? If it’s a good relationship have an honest discussion about how they can help. The last thing a good boss should want is a member of staff signed off with stress. If not the boss do you have a HR helpline you can use? I’d avoid HR direct, my experience of hr is they are not there to help you.

    Don’t discount time off work. You talk about training, if you broke your leg and we’re told you needed 3 months to heal it, would you say no? It’s the same with your mental health. Do the right things and you can come back stronger than before.

    Do you have dependents? Your mental health will be impacting them too.

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    jkomo
    Full Member

    Can you command you’re own stepping back by delegating more and pushing others, or surrounding yourself with people more expert in the things you find stressful that they might not.
    Don’t give up the high ground.
    Do you have time to go to the gym first thing, so you turn up to work full of endorphins? If you already do big miles on the bike then do weights- get a hit from that.
    I am absolutely no expert, but the times I’ve been super stressed, I’ve turned to the above.
    It’s got me through.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Go off sick and get professional help. No job is worth making yourself ill for.

    Imo there is no way to recover otherwise unless you are in the early stages. Been there got the t shirt.

    Edit. I stepped down from a senior role back to the shop floor and had a good final 7 years. It was hreat not having the responsibility and being a good experienced staff nurse rather than the poor manager i had been.

    I had years of part time agency work in between the management jobs and going back to full time on the shop floor

    thegeneralist
    Full Member

    It’s happened to me twice. I did recover both times, much to my surprise.

    But now I’m older and less resilient I know that if/when it happens again I won’t get back up again.

    I reckon what TJ says is sound:

    Go off sick and get professional help

    dovebiker
    Full Member

    Long story short, I ended up being signed-off for the best part of a year due to a stress-related illness. I was OK-ish within weeks but my employer was rubbish at dealing with it and I ended up having to threaten legal action to get back to work. Initially, it felt that I had committed ‘career suicide’ but it was simply the job and the working environment that created the problem so don’t blame yourself.

    Speak to your boss, or if not sympathetic, HR. employers are generally more aware of stress-related illness these days and if they have an employee-support programme may help with access to counselling. Taking a break from work or reduced hours might be in everyone’s interest?

    I’d also suggest you don’t rush to any decisions whilst under stress as your thinking and decision-making might be impaired.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Ill take a bet that if you go to your gp you will be signed off immediately for at least a month

    Talk to your other half and ask her what she is seeing in you.

    13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    However, I also refused to take on more work than was it was possible for me to do. That got a bit of fightback but once it was realised that NO meant NO but also that YES meant YES,

    Yeah, this is a fundamental problem in my industry right now is that nobody really knows how much work should be possible for one person to do, or how long any given task will actually take (there are so many variables that designing the same system on two similarly sized buildings can take drastically different amounts of time).

    Standing my ground would simply mean throwing co-workers and directors under the bus and probably very quickly getting fired as missing deadlines is the ultimate taboo in our industry as contractors have very well defined costs for delays and deadlines missed ☹️

    On the flip side, I do honestly wonder if I’m simply put of my depth!

    Good point. It’s not worth cutting days if you still end up doing all the same amount of work.

    See above unfortunately, if nobody can accurately gauge how long projects *should* take then they can’t really adjust for someone doing 20% less, deadlines don’t move out and they can’t employ and extra fifth of a person ☹️

    I’ve tried discussing with bosses and in last two years have changed job twice, each time thinking I’d been quite frank with new employer and that I’d secured a better fit, but both times the same issue has arisen that the volume or quality of work expected requires 110% all the time to stay on top of.

    OwenP
    Full Member

    Go off sick and get professional help

    I’m reading the OP as being of the opinion that they aren’t quite at that point yet, but would like to avoid it getting that bad. Obviously take time off if it is required.

    Short of that, maybe have a think about where the pressure comes from. Is it people literally screaming at you and threatening your job etc, or is it more pressure you put on yourself to ‘perform’, maybe even because you are proud of your work and/or work in something you think is genuinely worthwhile, so you struggle to let it just fail. Can be a mix, of course.

    Changing jobs and stepping back, yeah I did that for a bit. Turns out that I ended up working just as hard and using all my ability, but for less money and with less ability to change things. I found that frustrating. I have seen people do it successfully, but you have to be prepared to step back in your own head and your view of yourself professionally, if you know what I mean. I think you touch on that risk in your OP.

    I have to work hard on being prepared to let things slide – I don’t like it. If things get really on top of me, I choose two things/clients/projects that I am deliberately going to let fail/shut down immediately – they are sacrifificed and I communicate that as best I can, but I’m not asking permission. Saying no to new stuff is obviously great, but that takes weeks/months to come into effect, as does new recruitment etc (which rarely materialises as promised anyway).

    But yeah, if it’s required, do just step away.

    EDIT sounds like a lot of employer pressure and things aren’t being planned right.

    13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    (sorry, struggling to keep up with posts above, am reading and absorbing though!)

    tjagain
    Full Member

    I’m reading the OP as being of the opinion that they aren’t quite at that point yet,

    Ime its only when you have gone off sick or resigned that you realise just how ill you had become.

    Hence go to the gp and tell them honestly how you are feeling. The will make a dispassionate judgement but my bet is you are worse than you realise as you have adapted to the chronic stress and its become normal to you

    MoreCashThanDash
    Full Member

    If you genuinely have the extra day off, it will offer some respite.

    Good point. It’s not worth cutting days if you still end up doing all the same amount of work.

    A wise person on here said that you need to go 3 days a week to get your workload cut enough to make it worthwhile.

    I went to 4 days after a combination of work and caring responsibilities got on top of me and I went off sick. My new manager has had a similar experience herself and has tweaked my caseload down a bit more to make it properly representative of my hours.

    dovebiker
    Full Member

    I got signed-off immediately by my GP when I told him that there were entire parts of my day that were blank, I couldn’t recall being at meetings and I drove half-way across the country without any memory of the journey.
    He continued to sign me off when my employer failed to do anything, didn’t recognised they had an obligation to help me (this was 2005).

    thepurist
    Full Member

    I managed to define a new role that kept all the bits I enjoyed and ditched the rest, to be done in reduced hours while we hired (and I mentored) someone to take on my old role. Senior management saw this as a good thing to reduce the risks if and when I decide to quit.

    scotroutes
    Full Member

    Standing my ground would simply mean throwing co-workers and directors under the bus

    This.Is.Not.Your.Problem.

    TheBrick
    Free Member

    Standing my ground would simply mean throwing co-workers and directors under the bus

    Does anyone die?
    Is it your money? Do you get some real fat bonuses (a rate that more than compensates for the overtime) for pushing hard meeting deadlines etc?
    If no to both of these question then just learn not to give a shit. Learn to say no. Easy to say but do what you can during the day. Manage upwards. Push problems upwards. Then go home in time (more or less).

    molgrips
    Full Member

    What about when it’s not them, it’s you?

    DT78
    Free Member

    I admire loyalty as a trait. I feel very strongly about loyalty and honesty. People like us are utterly taken advantage of.

    So when I was chucked “under the bus” I took it very very badly

    It was a nasty lesson to learn. The business you work for has no loyalty to you. And despite whatever they say they do not care about you or your family.

    They are contracting you to work, not for your soul. Only you (and possibly your friends and family) will look out for you

    You have a duty to look after yourself first, if work is making you unwell you need to adjust. Either a change of role or a change of mindset

    I’m currently sand bagging at a lower grade. Trying to enjoy it, but I keep getting dragged into more and more senior meetings again. I was demoted in a restructure and had to deal with a toxic boss. They’ve gone now and I’m being pushed back up the ranks… slightly unwillingly but to be blunt I have a big mortgage that needs paying….

    defblade
    Free Member

    I’ve had some time off work recently.

    I’ve always been working at the busiest end of my profession, but have always been able to cope with it. But from around Feb this year, it all started getting too much for me. Staff shortages, and I’m supposed to have a second person working with me at my level – but increasingly no cover there either. It came to a head when I went to A&E, appropriately enough for on here to get my shoulder checked after going OTB and coming down hard on it… shoulder was fine, but they didn’t really want to let me go as my BP was 220/180!

    At the time, I felt this was mainly from stress at work; my GP didn’t agree that it could cause that increase, but did sign me off for a month as it sounded like I needed it either way. I then researched hypertensive crisis… nothing says it is caused by anxiety/stress, or that it causes anxiety/stress… just that many people who are in hypertensive crisis present with anxiety/stress.

    My meds were doubled immediately anand the BP did quickly come back to reasonable, but it took a good 3 weeks before I started to feel like myself again. I did return to work and found that, mostly, I was back to being able to cope.

    But in the meantime, just as 13thFM is asking, a job that would (should?) be a step down/back came up, for a bit less salary but much less responsibility. It also offered a greater chance of some additional training that would let me move sideways (although at over 50, i’m a bit worried about going back to Uni!). So I grabbed it, been there about 6 weeks now.

    Can’t say I’m thrilled. Not out of the frying pan and into the fire, but starting to look like another frying pan. The last week has been like my old job – the boss was off, little cover, and huge amounts of work as a result. My BP shot back up (I know when it does, I suddenly starting peeing out large quantities of almost pure water) and that feeling of being overwhelmed started to creep back in.

    I can recognise it now, and I know it’s less likely to be a constant problem in the new job, but I’ve already decided I’m prepared to move again if I have to, if it does become an issue for my health again, and sod the extra training. I’ve got maybe 15 years or so of work to go; the mortgage is paid off in 7 or 8 months’ time, and I am NOT going to work myself into an early grave for anyone.

    13thFM: don’t know if any of that helps you, but it seemed relevant when I started!

    13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    I got signed-off immediately by my GP when I told him that there were entire parts of my day that were blank

    Yikes! Not this bad yet, although I did have a very interesting bout of sleep paralysis a couple of weeks ago… In general it’s just a low grade sort of inability to turn off or relax, but when I am working I can tell I’m sort of plodding even when I think I have my foot to the floor, and am very conscious of the things that aren’t getting done which adds to the stress. It’s difficult to explain exactly but perhaps I haven’t really reached burnout yet.

    What about when it’s not them, it’s you?

    Am very awake to this possibility, I use the analogy of being a championship player being asked to perform at Premier League level, or a solid mid-pack Cat 2 being asked to race Car 1 every week. I had hoped that moving to a bigger company would allow me to find a better fit but instead I’m expected to up my game to an even higher level which is where the problems are occurring.

    I’ve almost said as much to directors but they seem to be M.I.A. at the moment, I suspect because they are even more swamped 🙄

    There are a couple of frying pan -> fire scenarios written above which describe the situation that I could imagine happening if I stepped back/moved sideways, they always find a way of extracting the absolute maximum out of you such that you’re always operating just above your limit it seems, has been the pattern for the last few years.

    This.Is.Not.Your.Problem

    Perhaps not, maybe I just need to develop a thicker skin abd learn to make it someone else’s, easier said than done!

    TheBrick
    Free Member

    They are contracting you to work, not for your soul. Only you (and possibly your friends and family) will look out for you

    100%

    I had hoped that moving to a bigger company would allow me to find a better fit but instead I’m expected to up my game to an even higher level which is where the problems are occurring.

    I had similar thoughts when moving to a big company. Turns out everyine is very good at their processes and just pushes stuff sideways, upwards, downwards. Tick the box and remove responsibility (scrum masters seem to be the best at this, it’s always someone else’s responsibility)

    TheBrick
    Free Member

    Perhaps not, maybe I just need to develop a thicker skin abd learn to make it someone else’s, easier said than done!

    Yes. One thing that is regularly done is the “friend” thing. You want to please your friends. Some people at work are your friends but most are just people you get on with to get the job done. The word friend is overused in our society. This is again about managing other people, expectations, stating xyz will be late due to unforeseen complications. Maybe introduce a process that needs to be followed, or at least suggest this, then that takes time, so you point out that introducing the process will have an effect, but not introducing the process doesn’t increase visibility.

    It’s all a bullshit game.

    RustyNissanPrairie
    Full Member

    the mortgage is paid off in 7 or 8 months’ time

    Coast/do whatever you have to do till then. After adopt the attitude of 🤷‍♂️

    tjagain
    Full Member

    CBT style techniques can help give you the tools to cope with stress. I’ve used some successfully in dealing with my issues but its very much second best to removing the source of the stress

    ojom
    Free Member

    Hey Ian. Firstly well done for recognising this is happening and knowing you need to change it.

    You know what’s right for you and your situation so you’ll do the right thing in the end. It’s a process with a few steps that will feel tough and long but you are on the right path.

    i_like_food
    Full Member

    I don’t have any advice, because I’m in exactly the same position, albeit in education rather than the private sector. I know how it feels and it’s not nice. Good luck OP, hopefully we both find a way out.

    Sandwich
    Full Member

    I’m expected to up my game to an even higher level which is where the problems are occurring.

    Is there more money for this? No? Then **** ’em! Do what you’re paid for and train your manager(s) that this is how it is. (You can still offer advice but don’t take the extra on). Keep a daily work diary and let your manager(s) know it’s there, you may need it to cover your back.

    thestabiliser
    Free Member

    Just be shit at your job. I used to worry and try and strive and battle to improve things, it was stressful, depressing and futile. Then I looked around me and realised (nearly) everyone was either bullshitting or just plain useless. Float with the flotsam brother, don’t swim against the tide.

    *there are lots of good people doing their utmost out there but they seldom seem to be the ones to prosper

    **you might even get promoted to somewhere you can do less damage – seen it happen

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Good point. It’s not worth cutting days if you still end up doing all the same amount of work.

    I do a 4 day week, have Wednesdays off and I mean properly off – don’t look at any emails or work etc. Benefit is I only have a 2 day working week, then a day off, then another 2 day working week.

    I probably do the same amount of work as before, just as I faff a bit less having less time – so I think the company probably benefits more than me. However, I have a much nicer work / life balance and after a while you get used to being paid 20% less.

    Wouldn’t go back to 5 days now.

    dazh
    Full Member

    OP I’ve been through exactly what you describe and have come out the other side. To cut a long story short I used to manage a small dev team, had no previous management experience and my boss at the time provided little support and dumped a significant amount of crap on me which pulled me away from what I was good at (solving tech problems) with the result that I felt completely out of my depth and was screwing up all the time.

    I managed to get a sideways move back towards doing tech stuff and am much happier, but it took a bit of effort and a couple of years. What I learnt was that being shit at work is your bosses problem much more than yours. Don’t be shy in telling them that you feel like you’re not doing what you’re good at and that you could be much more productive doing something else. That’s exactly what I did and I made sure everyone who mattered knew it (including senior leadership). That forced my boss to address the problem and now I am where I am with no cut in salary (it’s improved actually).

    13thfloormonk
    Full Member

    That is quite close to the mark Daz, whilst there often isn’t a clearly defined ‘manager’ role in my line of work, it is clearly required for some projects, but lack of resource just means that the people trying to turn out technical design to tight deadlines are ALSO the people juggling management of internal team members AND external clients/contractors etc.

    I actually enjoy both roles and feel I can deliver either, it’s just when I’m asked to combine both that the wheels seem to fall off.

    Funnily enough a recruiter for a firm I’ve always had my eye on has just contacted me for a ‘discussion’. Convenient!

    mert
    Free Member

    What is it they say about “No” being a complete sentence?

    I’ve used that many times since i realised that work really wasn’t worth risking health over.

    I’ve also developed a much more lackadaisical attitude towards certain aspects of the job.

    Such as, I only physically go to and interact in meetings if it’s essential that i’m there and i have information and experience that no one else in there does. (unfortunately, that’s become a lot more often in the last 10 years, but it can’t be helped!) The rest of the time i’ll either listen in, or simply not go and read the minutes later.

    If i’m not sure, a 30 second teams chat the day before works wonders.

    Or just coming out and telling the boss, this doesn’t have enough support, either let someone else take it on, or i’m going to miss delivery dates/adjust timing myself.

    blackbird
    Free Member

    Look after yourself, you’re the priority here – keep thinking that if I got squished by a bus, it would have knack all impact on my employer and I’d soon be replaced…..if they can find any more engineers….which they can’t,so we’re all getting overloaded with work, which equals stress, burn out, time off. I’ve been there about 6 years ago, lost a lot of weight through stress, anxiety through the roof, then followed by depression. Nearly didn’t get out of the hole – so I urge anyone suffering to get professional help, get signed off recover….it’s hard to change your mindset….look after you, tek care….

    trail_rat
    Free Member

    .if they can find any more engineers….which they can’t,

    Oh they can…. It’s just that people are asking their worth/needs due to the current climate and companies are playing hard ball because everything’s being squeezed – suppliers and wage costs so high hiring costs are not tolerated.

    Don’t let them fool you with there are no engineers…..what they mean is none in budget

    TheBrick
    Free Member

    Don’t let them fool you with there are no engineers…..what they mean is none in budget

    100%, not that this is an unreasonable position, but it’s not the same as no engineers available.

    keep thinking that if I got squished by a bus, it would have knack all impact on my employer and I’d soon be replaced

    100% again. People seem to be offended if they consider a company doesn’t care about them but why should it outside the bounds of optimisation of productivity. The company is just a system to get work done to make money. It’s not your friend.

    Try to change the world or try to change yourself/ your outlook. Guess which one people who are chilled out, happy and deal with stress well do and guess which one angry people try to do?

    alwillis
    Full Member

    Don’t want to derail the OP, but rather than start a similar thread I thought I would comment here.

    I agree with the sentiment about companies replacing employees who are hit by the metaphorical bus, I know at our place the advert would be out the next day. OR they would decide it is more profitable to redistribute the workload to the rest of the team.

    This is my issue. I don’t mind my work, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous covering extra work to simply save cost on wages- it is becoming less enjoyable, so I’m worse at it. Which is fine as a balance, but do those above advocating this not end up hating themselves for doing a worse job, or is that just me?

    tjagain
    Full Member

    Mrs TJ burnt out really badly because she could not accept doing an adequate job. Everything had to be the best she could do and with an increased workload she could no longer acheive a standard she was happy with. She ended up off sick at 58 1/2 and never returned to work. Once she went off sick she realised just how burnt out she had become. She couldn’t see it until she went off sick

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