How To Excel At Work Without Burning Out

I have been saying for the past several years that “work is broken” for so many people. This HBR article really reinforces that idea. According to some data cited in the article, employee engagement is at an all-time low; only 18% of people felt engaged at work. An important footnote to that data point; that was pre-pandemic. The data shows it has dropped even lower now. 73% of people report symptoms related to stress at work.

Work is literally making us sick.

This is triggering what has been called the “Great Resignation”, but is actually more of a “Great Work Shuffle”. People are not exiting the workforce (because really, few can afford to). Instead, they are leaving one job and taking on another hoping it will be better, that the proverbial grass is actually greener on the other side. (Hint — it usually isn’t).

To stem the tide of departures and make it possible to recruit, companies are offering all kinds of different perks; higher wages, signing bonuses, and improved benefits. But it is not really working. Interestingly, many of the things that organizations think really matter to employees are proving not to work so well either. Having work in the right location (or from home), liking one’s colleagues, and having a belief in the organization’s mission is not enough.

This is a crisis, and you can see it playing out every day, all over the place. It does not seem to matter what you are doing, you notice places are understaffed and struggling to serve customers. If you pay any attention to people, you see how much their work completely saps them of energy and joy. After work, people collapse on the couch in front of the television or mindlessly scroll social media, because there is nothing left in their tanks.

So many people are giving up on their lives for the sake of work. They are letting their dreams die, out of fear of making change.

It does not have to be that way.

So what does matter then? How can people not be so unhappy with their work?

The solution is simple. Actually implementing is harder, but achievable. To be happy at work, people need to;

1. Be excited to work.

2. Use their strengths.

3. Do work that they are good at and love doing.

This is not only good for employees, it is remarkably good for employers. Truth bomb for employers: when someone is happy with the work that they are doing, they will produce more, higher quality output. So if you want greater output, let people do the work in a way that makes them happy to do it.

This line from the article sums it up nicely:

“One could say that doing what you love makes you more effective, but it’s so much more than that: You’re on fire without the burnout.”

Of course, it is not at all realistic to think that you will love every aspect of your work. That is unlikely. According to the research, it only takes loving about 20% of your work activities to keep you engaged at work and avoid burnout.

20%!!! That is so achievable!

The article talks about how employers can go about creating this type of environment for employees. However, in my experience, most knowledge workers today can take control of this situation themselves. (Hint: if you don’t take control yourself, no one else will!)

How do you do this? By job-crafting. Job-crafting requires understanding the results that you need to produce and then producing those results in a way that suits your strengths, personality, and desired way of working. It means rather than following your “job description”, you go about delivering the results in your own way. You tweak what you do and how you go about it so that it aligns with who you are.

I know you likely think that your boss will never allow you to do that, that I don’t understand your boss. But just try it! I have done this many times, and it has always worked for me. I even developed a framework for how to go about doing it. As long as you deliver results and make your boss’s job easy, they are almost always willing to let you do your thing. You will find that as long as you keep adding a ton of value, no one will care if you “fit the box” of your job description.

To craft a job that is perfect for you, you need to:

1. know what type of work tasks you enjoy doing.

2. know what your strengths are.

3. know how you produce your best results

4. start changing how you work, with small experiments, based on the above 3 points.

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t ask for anyone’s permission. Just start. And once you do, you will inevitably start producing better work — because you will be happier. I can guarantee that your boss won’t give you too hard of a time for producing more, better work. And you will be happier. Win-win.

Work does not have to be a source of stress and leave you feeling depleted and spent. It can actually be a source of energy.

But it is on you to make the changes required to allow this.

If you need help, I have a coaching program designed to lead you through this journey.

Whether you tackle this on your own or work with me to accelerate your progress, get started today. You owe it to your future self.

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Career Coach & Work Architect. Work shouldn’t be something you hate doing. I can help you get there.

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Tim Parkins

Career Coach & Work Architect. Work shouldn’t be something you hate doing. I can help you get there.