Is Burnout Activity-Based?
Activity seems to be celebrated quite a bit these days. Making lists. Cutting and pasting stuff. Ticking items off the lists. That’s all activity-based and busy work. And it doesn’t always translate into value creation and usually involves very little true collaboration.
I connect with so many people overwhelmed by the never-ending information coming at them every day. The flooded email boxes they need to manage. The days strung together by meeting after meeting (sometimes to discuss meeting). The lack of clarity of where they are headed as changes are announced every other week.
With the increased rate of burnout associated with these work pressures, an increasing number of corporations have been offering mindfulness and meditation at work over the past ten years, as employees become increasingly overworked and stressed out.
The Mindfulness Agenda
Employees saw the free organic food, yurts, and yoga classes their employers are offering, but these things don’t mesh with the overly demanding work culture they experience daily. And during the pandemic when everyone was working from home (apart from frontline employees), some of us recognized that these perks were there to make us stay in the office longer.
Instead of looking at the root cause of why burnout is increasing, mindfulness has become the program of the day, and it is growing, perhaps even adding to the stress. People are asking themselves: Do I have time to attend my work-sponsored meditation class? Are my coworkers more mindful than me? How will I be treated if I don’t have time to participate, even on Zoom?
When we are stuck in the same mindset, holding to the same implicit or underlying assumptions that got us into a mess in the first place, no amount of mindfulness training or workplace yoga will bring transformation at the root.
While mindfulness is undoubtedly good for business, corporate practices have become trendy and not really a solution to the deeper underlying problems. The same companies that have been creating the stress with long hours, demanding jobs, and workplace volatility are now offering ‘safe spaces’ for people to retreat and reflect.
While there are definite benefits to be gleaned from practices like meditation and yoga, isn’t it time to ask why it is needed in the workplace in the first place. If it is for health reasons, then can we examine the underlying causes of this stress?
From Activity to Value Creation
Obviously, life is better when we make mindful and conscious decisions. People who are mindful can potentially engage at deeper levels and create new paths. But before we jump on the mindfulness bandwagon, can we focus on creating a more humane workplace and stop stressing and burning people out in the first place?
We may be currently busy doing, achieving, tweeting, following, emailing, texting, connecting, keeping up, and trying to get our work done. But real value creation comes from authentic and real exchanges when we can dream, connect and create together.
Today, we have far more opportunity to connect more deeply to ourselves and each other, to tap into deeper shared value creation. Coming together around issues that impact our lives and the lives of those who come after us is the only way to affect dynamic and lasting positive change.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakes.”—Carl Jung