There’s been a lot of chat over the past few days about burnout thanks to an incredible honest and compelling blog written by Gisele Navarro, CEO of NeoMam Studios. It inspired me to write about my own experiences of burnout.
Disclaimer: I can only talk from my own experiences, and not everybody will feel burned out from working outside of their hours. The pandemic has made flexible working far more acceptable, and what works for one may not work for another. Our differences are what make us wonderful. However, what I wanted to talk about today was my own experiences with burnout and why I think the “start early, finish late” mentality is a very dangerous one to be imposing on our young creatives.
The Real Impact Of Burnout
I VERY nearly ditched my whole PR career all together a few years ago.
I know now that this is not because I wasn’t good enough, but because I was burned out to the max. With hindsight, I can now recognise that actually, I was incredibly overworked, under too much pressure and lacking proper training.
Burnout made me lose my passion.
It wasn’t just my passion for PR that I lost either. My experience with burnout has left me with permanent damage to my health.
So naturally, I’m really glad that we’re openly talking about it now.
Thoughts About Clocking Off
Burnout has been the HOT topic of digital PR Twitter over the past few days; mostly there’s unanimous support for tackling the taboo of burnout and not overworking ourselves. However, I’ve seen a few suggestions on social media that (when reading between the lines) indicate that if you’re getting burned out by your job, then you’re not passionate enough about this.
Whilst there are some that thrive from round-the-clock attentiveness, starting early and finishing late, many of us don’t. To me, this mentality has no long-term stability and whilst everyone’s different and I accept that, what I don’t condone is the implication that if you’re burned out, you don’t have enough passion for what you do. So let me get the following straight…
You can love your job and clock off at 5pm
You can be incredibly passionate about your industry and clock off at 5pm
You can be awesome at what you do and clock off at 5pm
In fact, I’ve never felt more motivated, driven and in LOVE with what with I do in my whole life. I leave work on time every day. I rarely check emails out of hours and I don’t let my work consume my life. Marketeers tend to have an overactive brain, and yes I do often think of ideas outside of my working hours, but do I act on them? No. I can write them down and action them tomorrow, or on Monday, whenever’s appropriate for my schedule.
Just because I choose to love my life outside of my job, that doesn’t mean I do not love my job too.
Why We Need To Address Burnout
I’m no longer what I’d call ‘burned out’, but the ramifications remain.
I think they always will. I was so young in my career to suffer such a devastating blow to my confidence, my passion and my love for PR. Experiencing burnout was one of the most derailing experiences of my life to date; so I am SO glad that we’re talking about it honestly and openly now.
I think we need to address burnout and help juniors in particular realise that it isn’t normal to be working late into the evening, or over the weekend. You don’t need to be always switched on to be a badass PR, and if you’re not achieving a good balance in your life; there’ll likely be repercussions further down the line. Not always, but often.
We’re all guilty of checking coverage and sharing campaign work on a Sunday evening, or having a cheeky check of our emails whilst on annual leave, but I think it’s so important to make sure that this isn’t expected. Nor does it make you any better or worse than your job.
For a long time I didn’t believe this to be so, in fact, I was actually told that if I wasn’t working overtime that I wasn’t taking my role seriously enough. If I wasn’t tuned in 24/7 and always looking for opportunities, that I wasn’t good enough at my job.
What a damaging mentality to teach our young PR professionals.
Naturally, everybody is different, but what I will say is this: it might be a buzz the first time that you outreach on the weekend, or work until 9pm, but I promise you, it doesn’t last. As soon as you set an example of being contactable out of hours, and working more than you’re contracted to, it becomes expected of you. Your work life balance becomes more strained and the pressure can be overwhelming. Once the novelty wears off, you’re left with unrealistic expectations and difficulty switching off.
For me, the aftermath of burnout seriously damaged my creativity too, one of the most important qualities for any PR person to have.
But I refer back to my disclaimer at the beginning, this is only my experience and what I believe to be true. It goes without saying that one size does not fit all, and managers and business owners, for example, are likely to be much more active outside of their working hours – because it’s in their best interests to be. I just think we all need to be a little kinder to ourselves. Overworking is not as glamorous as social media may make it seem, and balance is so important.
Take it from somebody who learned the hard way.
If anybody would like to speak to me about burnout or feeling overworked and overwhelmed, please don’t suffer in silence. My DMs are always open for a chat. You can reach me on Twitter at any time.