Avoiding Burnout in Building Trades Business photo

Avoiding Burnout in Building Trades Business

A fog of burnout surrounds you: You’re perpetually exhausted, annoyed, and feeling unsatisfied and unappreciated. Everything in you wants to quit your business. But is that the best choice?

Various models help to explain and predict burnout, which is now an official medical diagnosis, according to the World Health Organization. One, called the Areas of Worklife model (drawn from research by Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter of the University of California at Berkeley and Acadia University, respectively) identifies six areas where you could experience imbalances that lead to burnout. As a business coach, I’ve seen that some individuals can make positive shifts in one or more of these areas and then happily stay in their current business.

Here are the six areas that can lead to burnout.

1. Workload. When you have a workload that matches your capacity, you can effectively get your work done, and have opportunities for rest and recovery. When you chronically feel overloaded, these opportunities to restore balance don’t exist.

To address the stress of your workload, assess how well you’re doing in these key areas: planning your workloadprioritizing your workdelegating taskssaying no, and letting go of perfectionism. If you haven’t been doing one or more of these things, try to make progress in these time management skill areas and then see how you feel. For many individuals, especially those who have a bent toward people pleasing, some proactive effort on reducing their workload can significantly reduce feelings of burnout and provide space to rest.

2. Perceived lack of control. Feeling like you lack autonomy, access to resources, and a say in decisions that impact your business life can take a toll on your well-being. If you find yourself feeling out of control, step back and ask yourself, “What exactly is causing me to feel this way?”

Then ask yourself what you can do to shift this situation. Once you’ve considered these areas, you can then see what you can do to influence your environment versus what won’t change no matter what you say or do.

3. Reward. If the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for your job don’t match the amount of effort and time you put in to them, then you’re likely to feel like the investment is not worth the payoff.

In these instances, you want to look within and determine exactly what you would need to feel properly rewarded. For example, perhaps you need to increase your prices. Or perhaps you need to take advantage of the rewards you’ve already accrued, such as taking the ability to work your own hours or take leave when you choose. Experiment to see which rewards would make what you’re doing worth it to you and whether there is the opportunity to receive more of those rewards within your current building trades business.

4. Community. Who do you work with or around? How supportive and trusting are those relationships? In many cases you can’t change your colleagues and clients, but you can improve the dynamic. It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going — and really listening. Or sending an email to someone to let them know you appreciated their work. Or choosing to communicate something difficult in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. Burnout can be contagious, so to elevate your individual engagement, you must shift the morale of the group.

5. Fairness. Think about whether you believe that you receive fair and equitable outcomes for your efforts. For example, do you get acknowledged for your contributions or do other individuals get praised and your work goes unnoticed?

6. Values mismatch. If you highly value something that your business partner does not, your motivation to work hard and persevere can significantly drop. Ideals and motivations tend to be deeply ingrained in individuals and organizations. When you’re assessing this element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to you to match your values with those of your team.

Burnout isn’t simply about being tired. It’s a multifaceted issue that requires a well thought through solution. Before you quit, really think through what exactly is contributing to your burnout and attempt to make changes.

Adapted HBR July 2019 Saunders