The term burnout gets thrown around a lot but what does it actually mean and more importantly, how does it affect the skilled trades? While job burnout is not an official medical condition, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) recognizes it as a contributing factor to a person’s mental health and well-being at work. Although, it is difficult to pinpoint exact data on the number of people in the workplace, specifically the skilled trades, experiencing burnout (because it is not an official medical condition), if you want to learn how to improve your work-life balance, avoiding and managing burnout is key.
Let’s Define Burnout
The American Psychiatric Association lists four factors as contributing to burnout:
- emotional depletion, ie. feeling tired of going to work
- detachment, ie. lack of empathy for co-workers and frustration with work
- low achievement, ie. work feels unrewarding
- depersonalization, ie. thoughts and feelings feel unreal or not belonging to oneself
A lot of people think burnout means you’re tired, and while that’s not incorrect - many people experiencing burnout feel tired and fatigued - it goes beyond that.
Burnout can also look like:
- physical pain and injury
- headaches, migraines, or chronic pain
- troubles falling asleep or staying asleep
- change in appetite
- use of drugs, alcohol, or other substances to cope or numb feelings
And, burnout is a chronic condition, meaning it’s something you can experience for a long time or multiple times during a period of your life.
In general, some of the factors that contribute to burnout include:
- unclear or unreasonably job expectations
- unsafe work environment
- lack of support within the position or in personal life
- continuously long work hours
- high levels of stress or highly monotonous work activities
But how does burnout affect the skilled trades specifically?
How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance In the Skilled Trades
In “Powering Up: Preparing for Canada’s Skilled Trades for a Post-Pandemic Economy”, RBC reports that Canada’s workforce will see a 10,000 person shortage in 56 skilled trade sectors between 2022 and 2027. If you’re working in the skilled trades you might already be feeling the effects of this labour shortage. Employment and Social Development Canada estimates that approximately 700,000 skilled trade workers are expected to retire between 2019 and 2028, without enough apprentices currently available to replace them.
A shortage of skilled trades workers will undoubtedly create a need to train and recruit thousands, but in the meantime, the burden of the labour falls on you.
That burden creates a ripe environment for burnout in the skilled trade workforce.
So, How Do You Prevent It?
There are a lot of ways to prevent and manage burnout and some may work for your workplace and lifestyle while some may not. Browse this list, experiment, and find what works best for you:
- Break tasks into small, manageable chunks
- Schedule “rest” into your day; if you plan for work, you should plan for rest, too
- Communicate with your friends and family, your management team, especially the people that have control over your work schedule, and co-workers; connecting with co-workers and prioritizing your work community is key to avoiding burnout
- Reward yourself, whether it’s for a job well done, doing the work even when you didn’t want to, dealing with a stressful situation, or doing something you’d been putting off
- Eliminate or delegate any “unnecessary” (to you) work
- Have fun, whether at work or home, find opportunities for fun; there are many opportunities for fun in Ontario East, one of the best places to live in Ontario
- Schedule exercise into your day; you don’t have to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, simply moving your body the way you want to releases all those amazing endorphins everyone’s always talking about
- Set boundaries for your time and with your job
Do you think you might be experiencing burnout or have you experienced it in the past? If so, how did it affect your quality of life?
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