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Working smarter, not harder, key to avoiding burnout

Working harder is contributing to worker burnout and is not actually producing greater performance in the workplace, according to one CEO.

Burnout has had a definition change by the World Health Organisation where it is now defined as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

According to chief executive of Next Evolution Performance Vanessa Bennett, people who work harder may ultimately burn out without actually producing better work.

“We believe that high performance is not about working harder but about making the most efficient use of personal energy. It is about taking a neural, mental and physical approach that combines neuroscience, psychology and sports training principles.”

Working harder was equated with high performance, but more and more research showed this wasn’t true, said Ms Bennett, and working out how your brain worked was one way to get a better performance.

“Every brain functions in its own unique way, and once you understand a bit more about how your own works, you can start working with rather than against what’s natural for you.”

Finding your pace and then working to that speed was important to reduce stress, said Ms Bennett.

“Fast-paced people, those who naturally operate quickly, tend to focus for quite short periods of time. People who naturally operate at a slower pace tend to focus for longer periods of time. One is not necessarily better than the other and, interestingly, one is not necessarily more productive than the other,” she said.

Working at your pace required an understanding of when you are most productive, said Ms Bennett, so doing easy tasks when energy is low and tackling complex tasks when your energy is high.

“If you can work in this way, even for as little as an hour or two a day, it can make a big difference because it will mean you won’t be spending energy unnecessarily,” she said.

Sustaining high performance was also about being physically fit and healthy, said Ms Bennet, and people needed to treat themselves as a priority.

“This means not only paying attention to things like eating well and training, but also self-care; treating yourself as a priority, spending time doing things that make you happy and renew your energy and – much underrated but very important – getting enough sleep,” she said.

Burning out was in no one’s best interest, said Ms Bennet, and to avoid it people just needed to start working with their bodies.

“Avoiding burnout is possible – but it requires a willingness to use our brains and our bodies to work for us rather than against us.”

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