With the holiday season upon us and a new term just around the corner, education professionals might be feeling festive, but many are also exhausted. In this article, Martine Ellis explores ways to stop end-of-term weariness from turning into burnout.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. The three main characteristics of burnout are “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy”.
Burnout is a social phenomenon. In other words, it is experienced in a social context – the workplace. To recover from burnout you must remove yourself from the social context – in education, this feels like an impossible task.
Furthermore, if the social context remains unchanged (this includes your actions and behaviours and those of other stakeholders), there’s every chance burnout will return.
It would be better to prevent burnout from occurring in the first place.
The Job Demands-Resources Model (Bakker and Demerouti, 2007) is a helpful tool for understanding burnout.
The JD-R model states that every occupation has job demands and job resources. Job demands require effort and come at a cost to the employee (for example, long hours and high pressure). Job resources help employees work well, achieve their goals, and develop (such as salary, autonomy, support, and feedback).
The more job resources an employee has, the more demands can be safely placed upon them.
Burnout happens when employees have high job demands and insufficient access to the necessary resources. To prevent burnout, demands and resources must be balanced.
The JD-R model tells us that staff should use every available resource, and leaders and managers should focus on providing those resources.
But what else can be done?
If you are close to burnout – or perhaps you have noticed signs of burnout in a colleague, and you want to support them – revisit boundaries. The blurring between work and home boundaries commonly contributes to burnout.
Here are some ways you could reinforce your boundaries:
As you enjoy a break over this festive period, take the opportunity to reflect on your boundaries. Could you make some positive changes in the new term?
As you reflect, remember that to do well (personally and professionally), you must be well. Everybody wins when you prioritise your wellbeing.
Martine Ellis (FSET ATS) is a writer, speaker, and education consultant specialising in professional development and wellbeing-driven productivity.
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