An archetype is a model after which other things are patterned. While we like to think that bosses and recruiters have long appreciated differences in personality or work styles, there’s no hiding the fact that last 50 years have heralded an unsustainable, fading archetype.
This archetype of the corporate realm worked whenever she was asked, even if it was far above and beyond her expected work hours or duties. She answered client requests after hours, a task that smart phones only made easier by the early 2000s; she worked during her vacations (or, what vacations?), didn’t take holidays off, and stayed late even it meant missing dinner with her family; she ate meals at her desk, checked email while she drove or walked to meetings, and double or triple booked her calendar because saying no felt like a weakness. She was rewarded for this behavior, and, along the way, we added “so busy” to our lexicon, the archetype’s ultimate badge of honor. She got the promotions, the raises, and the opportunities.
I won’t go down the rabbit hole here about the “mommy penalty” or gender inequalities ripe within this archetype because that’s a whole other novella, but it’s 2020 and you get the idea. This model passed down from the hard working Greatest Generation and became woven into every job we’ve had from college on.
Now that we’ve learned so much in the past 10 years about the longevity and productivity of healthy and happier employees, this archetype doesn’t belong in the 21st century working model. Hiring and rewarding employees that are thriving in every aspect of their human lives is something we all should be on board with. This isn’t fluff Millennial speak either; the jury is not out on what chronic stress does to our entire bodies and minds.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. And more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. –The Miami Herald
Burnout is Real
And it’s costing us all. Burnout is often considered a gateway to a handful of health issues doctors often miss initially. Despite the science, we’re struggling to realize that stress plays a massive role in our physical, mental, and emotional lives. Back pain, migraines, depression, anxiety, obesity, panic attacks, and a slew of auto-immune flare ups, such as psoriasis and certain arthritic conditions are now linked to chronic stress. And using modern medicine to treat the symptoms alone usually winds up looking more like a game of Whack-a-Mole with stress creeping up into other areas of our life. We’ve got to address the source of our dis-ease, rather than just treating the symptoms stress can cause.
Burnout is a workplace issue – a chronic process of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy caused by a disconnect or an imbalance between key job demands, job resources, and your ability to recover both at work and outside of work.
–Paula Davis-Laack, Forbes
The word we’re focusing on above is chronic. Workplace and daily life stresses are just part of being human. They’re largely unavoidable but we have the ability to become resilient to stress and that’s a big part of having both a personal wellness practice and a workplace culture that offers resources while rewarding behaviors that align with a healthier culture. Clarifying for those in the back: Resources aren’t enough. It’s largely why workplace wellness programs fade away into nothingness or, much worse, lead to HIPAA, GINA, or ADA lawsuits. Establishing and nurturing a culture of well-being in whatever organization in which we’re participating is a key component in a thriving workplace wellness culture.
An employer or manager may feel like they can’t control an employee’s work communications after hours, especially in work environments where autonomy plays a big role. Autonomy is an important piece of the healthier workplace model, but leaders set examples and reward those who follow proper working hours, rather than rewarding the fading archetype. Reminders are part of the wellness culture’s consistent communication. Expected behaviors are discussed by recruiters and during employment reviews and we can’t expect cultures to change overnight. It weaves into every aspect of our culture from top to bottom and it takes time. It’s a new paradigm and I’m thrilled we’re waking up to the potential for better, healthier work and personal lives.
Again, this isn’t about eliminating stress from our lives or workplaces, because that’s a futile effort. It is about rewarding and promoting employees who embody characteristics for longevity and well-rounded participation in every aspect of their lives. I know burnout. I’ve been through it and I’m on the other side, cultivating a life of balance that works for my life. I see more clearly now than ever the importance of supporting my daily wellness practice while working energetically for an organization that applauds my health and happiness right alongside the success of the business itself.