If you’ve ever experienced true burnout in your professional career, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to find the motivation to invest fully in your work. It’s not because you don’t care, but because you’ve exhausted yourself (mentally and physically) day-in and day-out for the last six months.
Never has this been truer than in the seemingly ‘never off’ culture prominent throughout digital marketing. You get in early, you leave late, you’re engaging on LinkedIn at 11pm, you’re thinking about what campaigns you’re managing until 1am.
It’s frankly, unhealthy and not sustainable. Having been through this first-hand I’ve learned along the way, with the support of my employer, how to switch off and how to better compartmentalise my work/life balance.
Whether you’re an in-house marketing manager or a SEO working for an agency, often the first sign of fatigue is lack of interest. If you truly love what you do, you shouldn’t ever feel as if your work is a burden, so if you notice this mentality shift, you’re likely overwhelmed.
That can manifest in any number of ways. For instance, have you ever felt irritated by someone just doing their job?
It’s a way of thinking that can become significantly more destructive if left alone over time. There’s a distinct difference between being constructive and being cynical about someone’s work or, even overly critical of your own work. If you find yourself always picking faults and feeling negative often, it could be due to mental exhaustion.
I’ve struggled with the physiological effects of stress in the past, and it ended up spilling over into other areas of my life. Again, it’s something that simply can’t be brushed under the rug.
Imagine how difficult your working day will be when, in every brainstorm and every client meeting, you’re struggling to pay attention because your head is pounding and you’re counting down the minutes until you can be back home and in bed.
Often, the first port of call is to speak with your manager. Poor performance and friction between different teams in your business can be misconstrued as you not wanting to work for your employer – a not particularly desirable perception. But together you can understand where your real challenges are.
We all have a sense of pride in what we do. But allowing that pride to manifest into pressure is where your mental health can take a hit, particularly where it impacts workload. We all have contracted hours and it’s important to remember that. Of course, there may be times where we’re required to work outside of our normal hours but if this is a regular occurrence, you need help balancing your workload. It’s crucial to learn the difference between must do and it can wait another day or two.
The likelihood is, once you become tired, the quality of your work will begin to slip.
I’m lucky enough to work in environment where being ‘always on’ isn’t encouraged, and where there is a huge emphasis on trust and team collaboration[DK(1] .
Being able to rely on your colleagues to help you with work when you need it and to have the support of your manager when you’re struggling is critical to keeping your mind healthy and the pressures to a minimum.
Work from home
Sometimes we need to break the routine and spend more time at home to get our mind straight. Even your commute can be equally as stressful as your working day. When you’re irritable, noise, interruptions and even general chit-chat can be too much.
So take a step back. Spend a day or two working from home, in an environment you control. Luckily, in our industry, a lot of what we do on the day-to-day can be achieved remotely, if needed. This flexibility from employers can make a big difference when you’re struggling.
If you can, and your employer is happy to allow it, try working less hours if you’re at home. As little as an hour a day, and avoiding a commute, can make the world of different to you mentally and very little difference to how much work you get done, in this more focused and calmer environment.
Spend more time with your family, friends, at the gym or with your dogs.
Whatever it is in your life that you love, focus your time here more. Don’t get trapped into a FOMO mentality when it comes to your work. Twitter and LinkedIn are still going to be there in the morning, take a night off.
Create a culture of wellbeing
This is something we all should be doing, no matter what ‘authority’ you think you have within your company. We’re all human, we all have our limits. Allowing employee burnout to be such a big problem in the digital marketing world shouldn’t become inherently accepted. Agency life can be hectic, but regardless of your role, whether entry-level apprentice or senior PPC specialist, we should all share a common goal; healthy mind first, always.
Consider the industry we work in - a lot of what we do can be done remotely. A lot of the tasks and challenges we’re faced with daily are all manageable through utilising the talent you have around you.
I encourage anyone suffering with fatigue to reconsider their approach to a work-life balance. Adding additional pressure and stress in already challenging and hectic environment is unnecessary and impractical in the long-term. Employee burnout may often be self-inflicted. If it’s not and it’s down to external pressures from your manager or colleagues, this needs to be addressed at a higher level. Sometimes people can apply pressure and unrealistic expectations without knowing.
But always take a second to get some perspective. If you make a mistake, is the business going to close? No, probably not. Learn from it and move on. If you’re unlikely to hit a deadline, is it impossible to save? Of course not. Shout about it early enough and get help.
Take one day at a time and remember, your health always comes first.
Ryan Roberts, SEO lead at Zazzle Media.