Alexander Martinez coaching solutions

I declare myself in burnout!

I have lived almost all my life in Latin America, and when I moved to the Netherlands about eight years ago, I noticed that many things were different in the professional world. I am not only referring to working hours, lunch times or the long vacations Europeans are known for. I am also referring to the amount of work people do during the day.

It is known that people in Latin America, America and Asia work a lot. Some people find having two jobs (apart from the one at home) necessary to make ends meet. Along the way, they even have to endure mistreatment or abuse. Undoubtedly, most suffer from the physical and mental exhaustion that this situation can entail.

The point is that people who have to live through these circumstances cannot simply stop working or succumb to stress sooner. Many do not have job insurance or another source of income, so if they want to feed their families at home, they must go ahead and deal with stress.

In European countries with a higher quality of life, workers do not easily accept working more than 8 hours or that their vacations (an almost sacred subject in some countries) are less than 25 calendar days. But in addition to that, there is work insurance, which protects the employee against serious illnesses. If, at any time, the employee feels that she is working too much and begins to feel exhausted, then the employee can go to the company doctor, and he will measure the cortisol level (a hormone used as an indicator of stress). If his cortisol levels are high, the doctor may declare that the person has entered a burnout, which means she is exhausted by stress.

As a consequence of this diagnosis, the employee must enter a stage of recovery. Therefore, she should not work; the doctor will indicate the recovery time, which can vary between weeks or months. I know employees who have been in burnout for almost a year. The doctor will monitor and inform the company when the person can return to work progressively. During the entire time that he is in recovery, the employee will continue to receive his salary from the employer since it is considered that the employer caused damage to the employee.

But I have my own opinion on this matter. Although I agree that the worker should be protected and abuses that occur elsewhere should be avoided, it seems to me that it is taken to the other extreme in some instances. Today in the Netherlands, it is widespread to hear that a large percentage of workers are out of the office due to burnout (it is a very sensitive issue that is not discussed), and, as a consequence, the company must spend to hire temporary people or distribute work among the remaining workers. What happens is that when the employee returns, the colleague covering her takes the relay and declares burnout. It is a cycle that I do not see has a solution.

I wonder, what are the criteria to say that a person has a lot of work? The amount of cortisol in our blood fluctuates significantly during the day and is closely linked to what happens to us minutes before the measurement and our character. Is this an efficient way to determine if a person is in burnout? Is it that in Europe workers are more sensitive to stress? Or is it simply that you can call in sick in Europe, stop working but keep being paid?

I know people who spent a long time recovering from burnout, but, in my humble opinion, they did not have as much workload or responsibilities. They did have family problems at home, though (unrelated to the company). In addition, I have heard stories of siblings or friends who declare burnout simultaneously (different companies) and go on a trip together on the doctor’s recommendation to de-stress. All of that leaves a wrong impression on the subject.

Of course, I know of other cases in which people did have a lot of work and responsibilities, never took breaks, lived with extreme stress and ended badly. These people needed many months to recover, and when they returned to the company, they no longer continued in the same position. Some even radically changed their way of life and dedicated themselves to different things.

As I said, this topic is sensitive, and there will be divided opinions. What is certain is that dealing with stress is a severe and relatively common problem among executives. Before you get to the point where you feel like you’re about to collapse, you need to pause and see how to reduce stress. The same message is for employers; timing is everything, and they should not wait for their employees to collapse and end up in burnout.

In this sense, coaching is a very interesting tool that can help discover ways to deal with work stress, whether delegating tasks, managing time or improving relationships. If we can develop these capacities, we will be able to deal with stress more effectively and not reach the point of having to declare ourselves in burnout.

If you want to know more about how coaching can help you deal with stress, do not hesitate to contact me via the web or schedule a meeting.

Alexander Martinez

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