How To Battle Burnout

Jolt’s known as “the business school for the self-made“.

A lot of their students are high performing, Type A, entrepreneurial folk. People with a lot on their plate who don’t just tolerate pressure, but thrive on it.

There are plenty of parallels between Recruiters and entrepreneurs, not least that both lead lifestyles which make them prime candidates for burnout.

We went to an event organised by Hunted legend Nina Gordon, Marketing Manager at Jolt, to learn how to battle it.

Battle Burnout

The event was a series of talks designed to give burnout the dressing down it deserves, with speakers sharing their own experiences along with tips on how to deal with it.

First on the bill were a couple of Hunted pals: George Bettany, Co-Founder of mental health startup Sanctus, and Ollie Scott, Founder of Creative search agency UNKNOWN. Ollie asks George what burnout feels like:

“Like a shell, empty”

Throughout the evening, speakers described burnout as feeling overwhelmingly heavy. Or like you’re about to burst. And what became clear is there isn’t a one size fits all definition of it.

George talks us through a spot of Sanctus prehistory. About trying to get the balance right between doing something you love and grinding away, building an empire.

On one occasion, that led to burnout. Although it also led to George and his mates talking about their mental health for the first time. And a business was ultimately born of it.

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Anxiety and Digestive Health Specialist, Katie Maycock, is up next.

If you’re familiar with Katie’s content on LinkedIn, you’ll know she’s forever telling you to “get your sh*t together – literally and figuratively”.

Today, we got that phrase unpacked a bit. With a particular focus on how the fight or flight response – the primal survival instinct that determines whether you attack or flee in times of stress – plays havoc with your digestive system.

This is because processing food takes a back seat when you’re fighting or flighting. Your immune system’s usually sat next to it. And your energy levels are in the footwell.

The opposite of fight or flight is ‘rest and digest’. And tapping into it can help manage the effects of stress on your gut.

Katie recommends avoiding booze and processed foods, scheduling meals for set times each day, and allowing yourself a proper break to enjoy them. Or at least not eating at your desk every day.

These sound like small gestures individually, but burnout’s a behemoth. And making minor tweaks to your day is often key to toppling it.

“Burnout is the destination. There’s a whole journey prior that you can use to prevent it. Look for warning signs. Check-in with your health, looking at your sleep, digestion and overall health. They’ll let you know how you’re doing physically”

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I met Ally Feikaki about five minutes before the event kicked off and he’s up next.

Ally’s the Founder of employee wellness company, Juno: a platform which allows staff to pick their own workplace perks.

The central premise behind it’s that for any wellbeing program to be effective, the people experiencing it need to own it. Designing your own happiness, if you like.

Ally’s main point goes back to one Jolt made marketing the event:

“Today, work is never over. There’s always more that can be done and ways to do it, wherever you are.”

Enough’s been said about how technology’s let your typical 9 to 5 day off the leash, how our mobile phones double as a portable work stations, and the amount of pressure that level of connectedness can generate.

But what’s not spoken about enough is the role technology has in relieving pressure. It’s why we do a regular Productivity Hacks series featuring apps and programs designed to optimise the most time-intensive parts of your job.

This article will save you a ton of time. And even something as simple as reclaiming free time can be enough to keep burnout at bay.

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Sophie Clyde-Smith, the Modern Career Coach, describes burnout as feeling “like a plant that hasn’t been watered in a long time”.

She speaks about the kind of conditions that cause burnout. Feelings of powerlessness, being trapped, not having control, feeling disengaged, unfulfilled.

Have been a recruiter herself, Sophie uses an analogy of a 360° Consultant who only likes doing BD.

If BD only takes up 40% of your time, does that mean you dislike the other 60% of your job?

Possibly a bit strong, but it shows there’s room for improvement. And if that’s going to have a net positive impact on your state of mind, is it worth changing employers?

Sophie’s advice is to be both self-aware and proactive.

To take the time to know yourself, your strengths, what pisses you off, what your values are, what you like, and what you’re good at. And to ask yourself regularly: “do I feel authentic in my career right now?”

If not, you can always change it.

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Niraj Shah’s up last.

He’s the Founder of Mind:Unlocked, a science and evidence-based wellness company, and starts by leading the room in a guided meditation.

Normally I lack enthusiasm for these in a massive way. But that turns out to be really good for meditation and so the whole thing’s actually quite a pleasant experience.

Slowing your breathing slows your metabolism, lowers your heart rate, increases blood flow to the brain, and activates rest and digest mode.

Breathing’s something anyone can do, any time. But it can be in the relegation zone of your to do list during a busy day.

Niraj’s tips are to start small, start soon, and to at least experiment with meditation.

He openly admits it’s not the answer to everything, but it will contribute to a lifestyle that repels it.

Because just as there’s no singular definition of burnout, there’s no singular trick or technique to battle it.

It’s a combination of things. Making subtle adjustments to your working day, making the most of your free time or any time you’ve saved, being cogent of your body’s reaction to pushing your mental limits – all of this will hardly hurt.

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What can you do?

It’s a cliché but the general consensus was to be the change you want to see.

Reach out to your pals, colleagues, candidates and clients if you think they’ve been working too hard for too long. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Sometimes having a vent takes a bit of the pressure off burning out. Sometimes just recognising you’ve been overdoing it’s a positive first step.

Hunted’s Hope You’re Well initiative is a bona fide badge of honour for agencies that are serious about tackling burnout in the workplace.

What do companies need to do to qualify? 

1. Send someone on a Mental Health First Aid course

2. Expand sickness policy to include mental health issues

3. Offer the option to email/text in sick, instead of call

4. Offer support internally for escalation of serious issues, provide links to organisations like Mind, The Samaritans

5. Include wellbeing benefits in perks – meditation apps, gym memberships, flexible working etc

6. Give attention to both personal and professional matters in monthly/quarterly reviews

4 of the above 6 points require very little effort whatsoever. Which goes to show how easy it is to implement. 

MHFA England will chat to you about courses. Not only are they a good day out, they could end up being really useful to someone you work with, if not you.

You can filter companies on Hunted based on who’s earned the Hope You’re Well badge. Recruiters both read and write it enough in any given day. It’d be good if it was genuine every now and then.

Feel free to email Tom Wish to find out more.

The best way to find out which Jolt event we’re going to next is to follow us on LinkedIn. If you’re already doing that, follow Jolt as well to make sure you don’t miss anything. And check out the extensive timetable of daily events on their website.

The last time we went to a Jolt event, Hunted’s Head Honcho James Silverman and I were taught to ask better questions.

What to say, when to say it, and crucially when not to. It’s all here.