Exercise is one of the best ways to combat burnout. Not only does it keep you healthy and your mind clear, but it can be very relaxing. It boosts your mood, improves your sleep, and makes you more productive. Even just 30 minutes of walking a day can have major health benefits. All you need is a pair of good walking shoes and the will to make it happen. Try putting on a podcast or playing your favorite playlist to motivate you to get up and moving!
Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joan Alavedra.
Joan Alavedra is the Co-Founder of Onsite.fun, a marketplace for team building activities. He started his business during the pandemic as many organizations he contacted were struggling to keep their employees engaged. Now employee experience is a top-priority for the most successful workplaces and he wants to help those organization spend less time searching for an experience and more time enjoying each other’s company.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a family where my parents were very entrepreneurial. I think I started my own lemonade stand when I was 4 and collected money for a good cause. I think my parents instilled in me the idea that I could dream big and accomplish my dreams.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I went to college for Computer Science, and I remember very clearly one day in the computer lab, I was thinking about what I wanted to do in life. I really wanted to build stuff, I wanted to create something, and I loved computer science. It felt like those were all compatible. So, I started working on several projects as a freelancer and discovered several parts of the business development, marketing, sales, customer support, etc.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
My parents were my greatest supporters. They were always encouraging me and helping me think through ideas and giving me the space to figure things out on my own. In the early days, I think one of the things that I remember well, is that I had an idea and built it. I put it out there, but then I got a lot of feedback from people who told me they thought the idea was stupid. And I remember feeling very discouraged because I thought, “I thought this was supposed to work.”
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
I put some idea of a product out first, but it didn’t really work out and I got a lot of negative feedback. I had to shut it down and that for me, is when I was learning how to put yourself out there and when you’re knocked down, to pick yourself up again.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I think for me, the quote that really resonates with me now is “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” I had an idea when I was in college, and it didn’t go as planned and I had some ups and downs. But I think at some point I realized that you could choose to look at those down and ups and to be discouraged, or you can choose to look at those downs and ups and learn from them. I tried to start learning, adjust my sails, and try again.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
When we started collaborating, we didn’t originally set out to focus on team building for remote teams. I was working on a side project and there was a need in the market for it, so I think there was a meeting of the minds there. Now, our company is fun and exciting to work on. Now, I imagine we are helping with the engagement of remote teams, because we are aware that people aren’t necessarily networking with their teams in a remote setting.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1. Resilience. Being resilient allows you to keep going after failure, setbacks or disappointments. I overcame a lot of personal setbacks in my life, including rejection by great universities, followed by my first bank job, followed by several jobs before landing my first business. These setbacks taught me that you have to be resilient. It helps you stay positive and persevere, because you never know when success may come.
2. Perseverance. Persistence is a lot like stubbornness. You need to believe you’re going to accomplish whatever it is that you’re doing. You don’t give up easily. You keep moving, and you don’t stop until you achieve your goals. This kind of passion is very important for an entrepreneur because you often have to work harder and longer than other people. You have to show determination and persistence to build a successful business.
3. Motivation. A lot of people become entrepreneurs because they have a great idea, and they just need the incentive and encouragement to get started. You need to have an internal fire inside of you that keeps driving you forward every day. If you’re not motivated, I don’t think you can become an entrepreneur.
How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?
As a leader, I’ve had the ability to observe workplace burnout in employee participation, engagement, and loyalty. Workplace burnout affects workplace morale and culture. It can cause communication breakdowns between management and employees which negatively impacts the process and productivity of work, as well as teamwork and contribution to a company’s bottom line. While no single definition exists, suffice to say that workplace burnout is a challenge for many leaders across organizations. Burnout can be rooted in circumstances like long hours, poor manager communication and workload. The feeling of “burnout” is also an emotional, mental or physical response to unforeseen work overloads and perceived job inefficiency that are experienced by many people in the workplace and leads to decreased energy, productivity, motivation and engagement.
How would you define or describe the opposite of “work burnout”?
The opposite of burnout is engagement. Engagement allows us to make work an important part of our life without it taking over. Being engaged involves being plugged into your work, but at the same time, still knowing how to detach yourself from it mentally and emotionally in order to not feel drained from doing too much at one time. A motivated and engaged employee is one who looks forward to coming to work each day and enjoys what they’re doing. They feel a connection to their employer and feel like their work is valued and appreciated. They prioritize their work and responsibilities. They demonstrate compassion and empathy for their colleagues and clients.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance, and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?
Overwhelming workloads contribute to employee burnout. Over time, it can result in employee stress, lower productivity, and eventually employee absenteeism. Employee burnout can also have a significant impact on workplace culture, which impacts employee retention and customer perception. Burnout can have significant personal implications as well. Excessive workloads can negatively impact family life, put chronic stress on the body and lead to depression. Researchers have even found that burnout can lead to physical ailments like heart and gastrointestinal disease, which can be prevented by engaging in “mindful” activities like meditation and yoga.
From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?
Burnout can happen to anyone and is closely linked to stress. Burnout is caused by prolonged and excessive stress. This can be due to workload, inadequate resources, poor management or work environment. A sudden increase in workload without adequate resources can also contribute to employee burnout.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)
- Don’t be afraid to disconnect. If you’re feeling burned out, don’t be afraid to take a day off. A day off doesn’t have to be a 12-hour marathon of Netflix. It can be just 10 minutes to brew a cup of tea and stare out the window. Even 10 minutes away from your work can help you gain perspective on your work, and remind you of what you love about it. Taking a break from work shows your boss that you respect your work, and that you have a life outside of your job. It’s imperative to resist the urge of forcing yourself to come up with more and better strategies of “how” you’re going to get everything done. It begins with simple rest and rejuvenation. Now, time off doesn’t mean it’s time for you to check out entirely — before you know it, your productivity has started to fall flat. Instead, build in “you” time throughout your day/week that allows for relaxation as well as some time spent on something productive but not bombarding (e.g.: start a book club or pick up painting/drawing). Trust me when I say this: more often than not, the best way to help ensure you’re staying healthy physically is by taking care of your mental health needs too!
- Get clear as to where you want to go with your life. What do you want from it? It can be hard for modern people to answer this question because we are so focused on making ends meet in each day, month, and year. But the best way to truly take care of these responsibilities is by having a clear idea of what matters most to our souls. While it might require adjustment in our roles or even leaving a position altogether it’s important that we find an area of work that brings us joy and allows us to feel like contributing something really worthwhile.
- Talk to a coworker in your company who is someone you can trust. In order to foster an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their challenges, encourage your manager/president/owner to be more open about showing his or her vulnerability and not always projecting an image of being invincible. This helps create a judgment-free zone where employees feel they can share their burdens and receive empathy or head recommendations that could benefit them personally as well as the company! Talk about your experience as a team and make sure they feel empowered to do something about it with you. Try presenting your notes on the causes of burnout but don’t harp on them — rather focus on how everyone can work together toward the goal of active resolutions in the future.
- Exercise is one of the best ways to combat burnout. Not only does it keep you healthy and your mind clear, but it can be very relaxing. It boosts your mood, improves your sleep, and makes you more productive. Even just 30 minutes of walking a day can have major health benefits. All you need is a pair of good walking shoes and the will to make it happen. Try putting on a podcast or playing your favorite playlist to motivate you to get up and moving!
- Set new workplace boundaries. After you’ve given yourself a break and processed how you feel, it’s time to set some new boundaries. The key to setting effective boundaries is to think of them as if-then statements that are about how you’ll respond to situations. You don’t set them to control another, you set them to help you maintain your emotional well-being and physical resilience. Setting boundaries could be an interview/article all on its own, but this should give you enough to get started! You may not be used to setting boundaries but they’re quite easy: just look at each situation as an if-then statement. You want them to be realistic, so no saying “If my boss calls me stupid, then I’m going to quit!” You can handle that without being passive aggressive by saying, “If my boss asks me what’s wrong after a long day at work” and then tell them, “I’ll let you know after I get a chance to cool down”.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?
First and foremost, talk. Don’t wait until it is too late. Secondly, it’s important to address the workload that is causing burnout. Workload should be aligned with organizational goals and expectations. If it’s not, find ways to make it better. For example, use the right tools. Too heavy workloads can be efficiently managed with project management software and tools.
What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?
Employers should invest in employee wellbeing by creating a healthy workplace culture. This can be done by creating a supportive environment where employees are encouraged to take breaks and go home early. Companies should invest in wellness programs, such as subsidized gym memberships, healthy eating options, yoga, meditation, and retreats.
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Awareness is the first step. The best way is to start with your employees. Ask them how they feel about their jobs. See where they are feeling stressed. Often, they are only too eager to share what they are feeling. Secondly, ask employees for feedback. By having an open-door policy, employees will feel valued and will be able to share how they’re feeling. Take employee feedback seriously and act on it. Organizations should invest in technology to track workload, identify process inefficiencies and resolve them quickly.
What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?
The most common mistake people make is neglecting themselves. It is important to take time away from work, engage in exercise and take care of your health. The second mistake is not listening to your body. If you feel fatigued, take time off. If you are not sure, ask your boss or management. When an individual is suffering from burnout, they often become over-stressed and over-worked. This can cause further mental anguish. In many cases, individuals feel they need to “tough it out”. The best way is to take some time off from work. Even if it’s just a couple of days. This will give the employee the opportunity to rest and recharge.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My passion is helping people live healthy, happy lives. If I could inspire a movement, it would be one where we all take the time to take care of ourselves. Dedicating more time towards our self-care can have a huge impact on our mental and physical health. I would love it if more people in the tech sector invested in employee wellbeing. I’ve experienced burnout first hand and know how difficult it is to recover, both mentally and physically. I speak with talent acquisition teams every day in the tech industry and I understand the challenges they face. By investing in employee wellbeing, it will not only increase employee happiness, but help organizations attract and hire the best talent.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would like to meet with Jeff Bezos. I admire him as a leader. He has taken Amazon from a small online book seller to one of the largest companies in the world. I believe Jeff Bezos is the best CEO of our time and I’d like to learn more about his success and leadership philosophy.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit www.onsite.fun and follow us on Instagram at @onsitefun.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!