Feeling “burnt out” is something almost everyone has been through at one point or another. Burnout is a serious problem, and has been linked to a number of serious mental health conditions, as well as fatigue, antisocial behaviour, and decreased work performance. Volunteering on a board or committee while also maintaining a career and home life can quickly lead to becoming overworked and burning out. Here’s a few things to think about in your day-to-day that can help hold these problems at bay.
The hard truth is that burnout is not very well studied. This means that there’s no hard and fast diagnosis that covers everyone. There are some questionnaires, such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory, but these are typically developed for research purposes and not for actual medical diagnosis. So the real key to recognising burnout in yourself and your colleagues is communication and empathy - everybody will have different symptoms, but talking about it openly can help you recognise it and build solutions.
In your next meeting, have a chat with your team about burnout and let them know that there are ways to manage it. Building that culture of openness is a long road, but someone has to lay the first stone - if you’re reading this, maybe it should be you.
If you’re a chairperson, volunteer coordinator, or in any position of authority, you have probably seen people working under you who go above and beyond, despite suffering personally for it. Clarifying what you need from each member of your team, giving them a hard-and-fast job description, can reduce stress and boost efficiency. Making sure all your team members know exactly how much they need to be doing keeps them from overworking.
Another key aspect of being a communicative team member is praise. If you think that someone’s done a great job, let them know! If you can tell them in person, even better, but a quick “Hey those photos from the fundraiser turned out awesome, nice work!” over email or messenger can hugely boost their work satisfaction and help them stay motivated. If you see someone doing a good job but don’t acknowledge it, that person can quickly feel under appreciated or overlooked, which can lead to burnout symptoms.
As we mentioned above, building a culture of openness, clarity, and empathy, can massively help in alleviating the symptoms of burnout. And there’s even more that you can do to help! Making breaks (or days off) mandatory, or at least strongly suggesting them, allows team members to regroup their mental state and engage in the activities that relax them. Even a lunch time soccer game in the parking lot can energise the group and get them ready to work.
But sadly you do need to be careful with managing this environment - if you’re too carefree, some people will take advantage, and do no work while still reaping the rewards of the team. It can also be damaging to take too much time off, since it doesn’t properly address the issues that can cause burnout.
If, after all these tips, you still feel burnt out, talk to a professional. If your workplace has a HR department, they’re a good first contact to help make in-house changes to address the issues. If that’s not enough, consider talking to a councillor or psychologist - and if you’re not comfortable with that, a number of resources such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer anonymous or online counciling and mental health management tools. Don’t be afraid to get help - you’ll feel much better for it.