Carefully Crafted on May 17

HOW TO: Avoid Burnout at Work

If you work in PR, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that it’s one of the most stressful careers. But, that doesn’t mean you have to adhere to “the way it’s always been done.” I spend a lot of time with startups that are focused on disrupting the status quo. Apply that mentality to your day, too. Design your own life to avoid burnout.

How can you design your own day to alleviate some unnecessary stress? A few ideas:

  • Work away from the office. We recently instituted the “Work Away” policy at Geben: Each week, you’re required to work a 1/2 day from your most productive place. Working outside the office — at your favorite coffee shop, park, library or even from your bed — can be a productive way to shake things up and refocus on what needs to be accomplished. A change of scenery can work wonders.
  • Abandon the 9-5 mentality. PR is not an 8-5 job. We sometimes have to work weekends or evenings — particularly if you’re acting as a client’s community manager … or helping at all with social media. But, if you’re working late or on Saturday, there should be a tradeoff. Who says the work day has to start at 8? What if you’re like me and sometimes do your best writing at 3 am? If I work a few hours in the middle of the night, I shouldn’t feel bad about cutting out before 5p on Friday or running an errand during the “workday.” 8-5 is an antiquated work construct. Get your work done when and where you want to. Producing high-quality work is far more important than being chained to your desk for a specified 8-hour period of the day.
  • Find a “cruise director.” The office cruise director is the person who infuses some fun into the team. In my office, that’s Jeana Harrington. She plans monthly happy hours and frequent lunch outings, sends links to hilarious videos, offers some levity to the day. Currently, she’s in the midst of organizing a segue tour of downtown Columbus for our team. What’s the point of working hard if you can’t enjoy it? I maintain high standards for my team, which requires them to work really hard, but it’s equally important that they enjoy what they’re doing. When I launched Geben, I wanted to build a company that companies wanted to work with and people wanted to work for. Potential employees want to join our team because we do good work, but also because it’s a fun environment with a group of people who genuinely like each other. Who’s your team’s cruise director?
  • Let your team call the shots (sometimes). Speaking of Jeana … for a while, she’d been suggesting that Geben host an event to thank our local clients and show appreciation to our supporters, referral sources and friends. She was right, but, I explained to her that I didn’t really have the bandwidth to plan the party myself. I agreed to host a holiday party (and pay the bills) if she and Megumi took the lead in organizing it. They totally took the reins and planned a fantastic event. I listened to what they wanted to do and gave them ownership of an important project, and they rose to the occasion. This provided a win-win for everyone, and made sure that we took some time during the holiday season to appreciate how far we’d come and the people who helped us get here.
  • Know when and how to disconnect. Remember what I said about PR being super stressful? Part of that is because we feel like we’re never off the clock … never allowed to turn our brains off. But, you need that time to recharge. You have to figure out how to set those boundaries and what you need to stay energized. Whether it’s reading a (non-work) book, watching your favorite TV show or going for a run — you need to make disconnecting a habit.

How do you avoid burnout? Share your secrets!

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