Are You Resilient at Work?

The dirty little secret in many organizations is burnout — but most companies refuse to admit it.  Instead their managers focus on building the resiliency of their employees.  It’s a positive spin on an ever-growing workplace challenge.  

But the truth is this:

Resiliency cannot exist if you are burned out.  

I focused on this issue in my keynote address for the Pittsburgh Human Resource Associations’ annual conference, where I spoke about How to Stop Workplace Burnout and Build Employee Resiliency.

I also inadvertently presented a real-time case study on “resiliency in action” when the technology CRASHED — about 10 minutes into my hour-long presentation!

Rather than stressing out or waiting for the tech guy to fix the problem, I adapted.  Since I was prepared and passionate about spreading my message on eradicating workplace burnout, I went “old school” without PowerPoints or any other tech.

Being resilient means being prepared AND being conscious that “life happens when you’re planning something else.”  Since part of my business is presenting keynote addresses, I was able to “walk the talk” that being resilient is critical to doing your job well — and enjoying what you’re doing!

In this post-keynote interview, I share some of my insights into the symptoms of burnout, why its victims are often professionally stigmatized, how companies can help build employee resiliency, and how I personally avoid burnout.

P.S.:  This keynote is published on PHRA’s YouTube channel.

©2020 Dr. Geri Puleo

5 Ways to Tell If You’re Burned Out (VIDEO)

Are you feeling stressed out …but don’t know if you’re burned out? In this 2-1/2 minute video short, you’ll discover 5 common signs that you might be burning out AND get tips on how to overcome each.

Dr. Geri Puleo is the President/CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc. with a mission to eradicate workplace burnout — once and for all! To learn more, please check out the blogs and eLearning site listed at the end of this video.

Stress, Fatigue, and Burnout: What to do now to finally get some sleep

ANW2W 2019-08-05 - Tired Workers

If you’re feeling tired, you’re not alone.  According to a recent NSC survey,

  • 73% of Americans reported that they felt too tired to function at work
  • 53% admitted they are less productive
  • 44% had trouble focusing

But is there an underlying cause for our fatigue?  Sleep deprivation may be the underlying factor.

Heavy workloads, extended work hours, and jobs that are cognitively or physically demanding are becoming the norm in the modern workplace.  OSHA has identified 9 risk factors in jobs that can increase a worker’s propensity for fatigue.  These include:

  • Working at night or in the early morning
  • Working long shifts without regular work breaks (either mandated by the employer or self-imposed by the employee)
  • Routinely working over 50 hours per week (NOTE: Japan has identified the 60-hour work week as a contributing factor to kairoshi, or death by overwork)
  • Long daily commutes to and from work

In the previously cited NSC survey, 97% of participants self-reported having at least one of these leading risk factors for fatigue in their jobs.

Are YOU one of the 97% who is at risk for occupational fatigue?

Why We Need Sleep

Unlike machines or robots, human beings have a hard-wired need for daily, restorative sleep.  Sleep is necessary for us to perform at optimal levels.  Unfortunately, ___% of American workers get the recommended 7-8 hours of restful sleep on a nightly basis.

According to NIH, 40 million American workers experience chronic, long-term sleep disorders; an additional 20 million have occasional problems with getting a good night’s sleep.  Insomnia is a clinical term covering a wide range of sleep disturbances, including:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning (anecdotally this seems to be around 3:00 AM)
  • Feeling unrefreshed upon awakening

Prolonged sleep disorders that lead to a sleep deficit
have been linked to lasting physical and mental health problems. 

A sleep disorder is any “abnormal sleep pattern that interferes with physical, mental, or emotional functioning” (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).  One of the primary causes for sleep problems is stress.  According to a recent National Sleep Foundation Study, 43% of 13-64 year olds have lied awake at night due to perceived stress in the past month.

Stress-related sleep disturbances do not discriminate on age or gender, but employees whose jobs require cognitively demanding tasks may be more susceptible to fatigue:

  • Monotonous tasks that are unstimulating (such as jobs with little growth or development opportunities)
  • High alert tasks that require vigilance (such as assembly line work that requires constant monitoring of products for even slight abnormalities)
  • Repetitive tasks that use a limited number of muscles in their performance (such as data entry or other positions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome)

According to OSHA, jobs that are at high risk for fatigue can be any job that requires sustained attention OR places significant cognitive or physical demands on the worker.

Sounds like just about every job across industries and organizational levels, doesn’t it?

Fatigue and Burnout

Stress and fatigue are closely associated with burnout.  But why?

A stressor is a situation or event, but the stress that we experience is the result of how we interpret and perceive the stressors.  Do our manager’s constant threats of termination threaten our financial well-being?  Challenge our self-confidence?  Undermine our feelings of self-worth?

While often viewed negatively, the human stress response is actually a protective evolutionary response that chemically enables us to effectively deal with important or dangerous situations.  In other words, our perception of the stressful situation triggers the fight or flight response of adrenaline and cortisol surges to support the heightened awareness and vigilance that are necessary to defend ourselves.

But here’s the problem:  our human bodies cannot endure a constant barrage of these hormones surging through our bodies.  In a constant, prolonged, heightened state of hypervigilant awareness, the cortisol and adrenaline trigger “rapid, anxious thoughts to occur at night” (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

In other words, our survival instincts (when left unchecked), prevents our bodies from succumbing to sleep.

And here’s another problem:  bragging about our ability to function with little to no sleep has become a badge of honor for high-performing professionals.  It’s like your father’s fishing stories where the size of the trout eventually becomes the size of a whale!

But our professed need for less sleep is a delusion that stresses our bodies, decreases our mental energy and acuity, and contributes to the onset and maintenance of burnout.

Tips to Decrease Stress, Avoid Burnout…and Get Some Sleep

The modern workplace rarely offers opportunities to take a break from the demands of our jobs.  Workers are challenged by both the unrelenting organizational pressure to be more productive and our own self-imposed emotional need to prove our worth in and through our jobs.  This combination increases anxiety and limits the innate restorative power inherent in our bodies to reduce stress and avoid burnout.

Here are a few commonly used ways to sleep better (and why they work):

  • Reduce stress levels by meditating on your breath. All you need to do is observe each inhalation and exhalation – just let go and realize you only have to observe without doing   (After all, your breathing is automatic.)
  • Just try to move a little more each day – even If you don’t like to exercise (or believe that you “don’t have the time”). Walk around when you’re on your phone instead of sitting at your desk.  Take the steps instead of the elevator.  Park a little farther away from the front door in the parking lot.
  • Eventually add 10 minutes of exercise to your daily routine – make sure it’s something that you enjoy doing! Yoga is particularly good for relieving stress.  But don’t exercise immediately before going to sleep:  aim for morning or early afternoon exercise sessions.  Remember:  exercise releases mood-enhancing endorphins.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet, and ONLY for sleeping. If you can’t fall asleep within 15 minutes of lying down, go into another room in order to associate your bedroom only with restful sleep.

Now, here a few other helpful tips to enhance your sleep:

  • Live your life by your priorities – not everything is important. Spend the majority of your time on those tasks that are most important.  Break major projects into small, easily managed chunks.  You don’t have to do it all – so don’t refuse to delegate!
  • Play soothing music that you love – use headphones at work. Not only will this lower your blood pressure, but you’ll also find your mind and body slowly relaxing by releasing any pockets of tension.
  • Focus on others. One leading cause of stress and anxiety is a self-absorption with our problems.  By seeking ways to help others through volunteering, your changed focus can provide new insights into your own stressors – plus you’re better able to recognize and feel gratitude for what is good in your life!  (We often forget the good stuff when we’re stressed and burned out.)

But most importantly, make sleep a priority and recognize that our human need for restorative sleep is non-negotiable.  We need it.  Our bodies crave it.  And without it, we can’t enjoy our lives.

So, don’t overlook our human need for 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night!  Losing just 2 hours of needed sleep results in the same level of physical and cognitive impairment as consuming 3 beers (OSHA).

Learning to create a soothing sleep routine reduces stress and enables our body’s restorative powers to help avoid burnout.  So start making sleep an enjoyable priority!

Copyright 2019 G. A. Puleo

Holiday Stress: How NOT to Turn into a Burned Out Grinch!

Did you ever notice that we look forward to the joy of the holidays…but then are too exhausted and stressed out to really enjoy the festivities?  WHY does this (always) seem to happen?

In this video from my free eCourse, Destressing the Holidays:  How to Move From Bah Hum Bug to HoHoHoI’ll share the Top 5 holiday stressors:  by understanding what causes your holiday stress, you’re better able to avoid them.

For more information on overcoming holiday stress, click here in my on-demand holiday eCourse.  HoHoHo!

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Knowing Is Not Enough

Burnout Bundle_ Lesson 8 - Knowing is not enough

On some level, we all know what we need to do in order to succeed.  We’ve taken the courses, attended the lectures, listened to the podcasts…but somehow we tend to stay “stuck.”

Creating the necessary changes in our lives requires the decision to make those changes.  That means pushing down our fears and deciding that we will implement what we’ve learned — and learn from what we’ve implemented.

And therein lies the rub:  we know what we need to do…but we don’t always apply what we’ve learned.

Perhaps it is the fear of failure — or even the fear of success.

Perhaps it is that we have a high-level understanding of what to do — but lack the specific tactical steps to transform that knowledge into action.

Success in life comes down to the willingness to take action.

But today’s hyperactive, fast-paced, 24/7 world makes demands on our time and thwarts our best efforts to do what we know needs to be done.

So, we need to develop achievable plans with “wiggle room” embedded within them.  In this way, we avoid the snowball effect of too aggressive planning that leads to a cavalcade of missed deadlines.

We need to develop habits that can carry us through when our willpower might be lacking.

We need to get enough sleep and avoid burnout so that we can not only do what needs to be done, but also enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

And we need to care enough about ourselves to do not only what will make us happy, but also create success on our own terms.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Wasting Time on the Urgent…But Forgetting the Important

“Busy-ness” occurs when we react to looming deadlines and crises around us.  The problem is that we often “forget” to take action on the things that are most important to us.  When we procrastinate, important tasks become urgent — leading to unmet goals and burnout.

This 12-minute video explores how procrastination takes us away from our priorities, then provides 4 ways to achieve goals with less stress by focusing on the important and minimizing the urgent.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

What Networking Is…and Isn’t (VIDEO)

Networking is all about creating connections — BUT your connections don’t create a viable network unless there is a mutual commitment to helping each other achieve their goals.

The many misconceptions about networking serve to derail attempts to grow and sustain a network.  In this 12-minute video, I’ll dive into common networking mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them — plus you’ll learn my new definition of what it means to network either face-to-face or online.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com