Burning Out is Not a Badge of Honor: Achieving Work-Life Harmony

With the cost of job stress on the U.S economy topping out at 300 billion, corporations are honing in on the need to design a new model, one that doesn’t include burnout as a recipe for success. Callie Schweitzer, Managing Editor at Thrive Global, sits down with SheWorx to discuss the inherent link between corporate well-being and increased productivity, and to question society’s current definition of “success”.


“We need to change the conversation so that burning out isn’t a badge of honor.”

Americans are quitting their jobs “at the fastest pace in 16 years.” Schweitzer says this is due to conventional workplaces demanding constant connectivity and endless work hours. If employees are to thrive, instead of merely survive, corporate culture needs to shift away from the burnout model, to a more flexible, individual-centric approach. Schweitzer indicates this type of shift requires a multi-level commitment, from management and employees alike.


Focus on Individual Needs

Management Needs to Ask Pointed Questions to Understand Individual Employees

1.)    What do you consider “sacred time”?

This is time where you absolutely don’t want to be bothered. It might be your 9:00 a.m. yoga practice, or a weekly dinner with your sister. How can we make sure that you get this time to yourself?

2.)    How can we make the best use of your time?

Do you get stuck in a two-hour traffic jam if you leave work at 5 o’clock instead of 4? Can we work together to find a solution?

3.)    What isn’t working for you?

How can we help you to achieve work-life harmony? Do we schedule a weekly board meeting that means you can’t take your daughter to school? Can we find a way to re-schedule?

4.)    How do you thrive?

What do you need to be able to thrive in your day-to-day life, both personally and professionally?


Employees Need to Take Control and Set Personal Boundaries

As much as this change needs to be led from the top down, it also needs to be led from the ground up. Employees need to take control of their own lives, set personal boundaries, and stick to them. It’s about demanding something different – a different structure, a different way of living and working. It’s about demonstrating that you can get as much as you need to done in under 70 hours a week, and still be a top performer. “[Work-life harmony] is something we need to push for at every level – because that’s how change happens.”


Take Your Health and Well-being Off the Back Burner

Schweitzer remarked that it’s important to realize that it does take conscious effort to commit to a schedule — for sleep, exercise, or anything you want to prioritize in your life

It’s not about getting people to transform their lives completely, but health and well-being do need to be prioritized. It’s all about taking micro-steps. Making a resolution to do something, and then taking the necessary steps to move towards that goal, even if they’re incremental.

Corporations and individuals need to have access to science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance. People believe in science, and there is a body of evidence that supports the fact that brain health and body health are completely intertwined.

Commit to bringing your best self to every situation and committing to putting your health first.

Change the Conversation to Affect a Cultural Shift

There also needs to be a change in the dialogue surrounding the idea of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” to “I’ll sleep when I’m tired.” People need to learn how to unplug, to disconnect and to take time to foster a nurturing, loving relationship with themselves and their bodies.


Schweitzer recommends pulling the plug at least once a day, creating space for “sacred time” that doesn’t revolve around work, or electronics if possible. Maybe you leave your cellphone in the kitchen when you go to bed, and spend an hour with a paperback. Maybe you spend 20 minutes meditating in the morning before you go to work.


Being mindful and being present allows us to appreciate life more fully, and this has a positive (albeit indirect) effect on our productivity levels.


Celebrate a Different Kind of Role Model

In order to move away from the burnout culture, Schweitzer recommends that people start celebrating role models who advocate for the “sleep when I’m tired” way of life. And they do exist. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos published an article, entitled, “Why getting 8 Hours of Sleep is good for Amazon Shareholders”, to promote his belief in work-life harmony. World champion quarterback Tom Brady has also joined the growing trend of “Rest, Win, Repeat” advocates, promoting this slogan for his Under Armour line. Chip Berg, CEO of Levi Strauss, goes so far as to share his own personal rituals, which include purposely refraining from early morning and late night emails, “conscious of the signal’ the time of his emails can send to people.”


For all of these leaders, the age-old philosopher’s question is an important one:

What is a good life? How can we live better?


It’s up to each one of us to start changing the dialogue around what it means to be successful. We can start by asking ourselves these questions, and commit to integrating our answers into both our personal and professional lives.


Recommended Reading List:

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder: Arianna Huffington

The 4-hour Work Week: Tim Ferriss

The Disciplined Pursuit of Less - Greg McKeown


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