I don’t need to fill the lead of this post with cliché phrases about the challenges we’ve faced over the last couple of years. Life is different; the world is different, and we’re all finding ways to cope at home and at work.
So, if you’ve found yourself struggling in your healthcare marketing job lately, don’t feel guilty. Overcoming work burnout is a challenge for many of us. Just look at the Google Trends graph below — worldwide interest for the term “work burnout” has seen an upward trend in the last two years, with a spike just a few months ago. And if you talked to some of your marketing colleagues today, I’ll bet they’re facing the same kind of stress and mental fatigue you may be feeling.
What is work burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines work burnout as a syndrome caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The WHO’s definition of burnout includes three main symptoms:
- Feeling exhausted or having low energy at work
- Feeling negative or cynical about your job
- Low productivity or efficacy at work
How did we get here?
The pandemic lockdowns and shift to home-based work/school/social lives have certainly increased burnout risk. It’s easy to feel burnt out when work meshes with home chores, cooking meals and virtual schooling. But as lockdowns lifted and life seemed to shift back towards some semblance of normal, burnout lingered.
The truth is, the pandemic raised lots of questions. We’re all looking at life through a completely different lens and as a result, our work looks a little different, too. Maybe we don’t need to do things the way we’ve always done them. The healthcare industry especially has been upended in the last two years and healthcare marketers aren’t immune to that shift. And the so-called “great resignation” also means many coworkers are leaving jobs, leaving those behind to take on added work and stress while they struggle with hiring a replacement.
There’s also the fact that many of us are languishing and feeling stuck in limbo between pre-COVID life and post-COVID life. That doesn’t do much to help our mental health at work, either. In fact, the world searched “how to maintain mental health” more than ever in 2021.
And here’s one more nugget to consider — overcoming work burnout isn’t a new trend. Burnout was on the rise before we started wearing masks and ordering curbside pickup. As outlined in this 2015 Harvard Business Review article, the “24/7 cycle” digital nature of our lives today has spurred employee burnout — “the epidemic of the modern workplace.”
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How to fall back in love with your marketing job
We’ve got the forces of a pandemic combined with a workforce already racing toward a burnout crash. What’s a burnt-out healthcare marketer to do?
Here are a few ideas that can help you rejuvenate and revitalize your marketing role.
Learn to say ‘no’
One of the biggest causes of burnout is filling up your plate with too much work. Let’s face it — saying “no” to a colleague or a manager isn’t the easiest task.
But learning how to say “no” is essential for avoiding burnout. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should decline every request. Instead, take a close look at those requests and determine whether you have the time, energy and brain space to address the task. Consider things like:
- Do I have time to complete this task successfully with other work and deadlines?
- Will I need to do this task alone, or can I enlist help from a colleague?
- Could I offload some existing work to handle this task?
- Am I the best person to tackle this job?
- Does this request fit with my role and job description?
If your gut tells you not to take on the request, be clear with your answer and explain why you’re saying no.
Setting boundaries with your job can also help you avoid overworking yourself and getting to the burnout zone. Consider these healthy work habits:
- If you work from home, make sure your workspace is separate from your living space. Like an office, you should be able to leave your work at the end of the day and shut the door (physically or figuratively), so it doesn’t bleed into your personal life.
- Set an alarm on your phone for when you will end your workday — and stick to it!
- Establish working hours on your office calendar. Here’s how you can do it with Google or Outlook.
- Turn off notifications for your work email or messaging apps (Slack/Zoom) during non-work hours.
Revisit your job description
Sometimes we can feel burnt out when we take on too many tasks that we don’t have the skills for. Learning to say “no” is just one part of that, though.
If you’re struggling to complete tasks, consider revisiting your job description. Look it over with your manager or supervisor and remind them of your primary roles and responsibilities. Say you’re managing all your organization’s social media accounts, but your job description primarily focuses on SEO/SEM — it might be time for a conversation about adding resources to your team.
Reviewing your job description is also an excellent opportunity to revisit your career goals and interests. Does your current job align with these priorities? If not, your burnout may be caused by a job that you’re not a good fit for or that you’ve outgrown.
When you find your daily tasks straying from your job description, make sure to have a conversation with your manager or supervisor. Often, reconfiguring your current role or applying to another job within your organization is easier and more rewarding than quitting and starting somewhere new.
Determine what you love about your job — and find support for what you don’t
When you feel burnout building, think about your to-dos and take a Marie Kondo approach to the list. Which tasks bring you joy? For the tasks that don’t get you fired up, find ways to ease the burden.
For example, a colleague may be able to help you brainstorm ideas for social media posts, so you don’t have to come up with everything alone. Hiring freelance healthcare writers or content experts can help support the blog writing you’re doing every day. And maybe there’s a helpful tool that can make your SEO reporting easier and faster.
Change up your work environment
One of the best antidotes for overcoming work burnout is changing up your workspace. Adding variety to your work life can take on various forms — even small changes can make a big difference. Here are a few ideas:
- Move your desk to a different part of your office or re-arrange your office furniture.
- Try working from a different location in your office or home for an hour a day.
- Get outside the home or office and work from a completely new space — your backyard, a coffee shop or the library.
- Explore local co-working spaces and memberships.
- Consider changing up your working hours a few days a week to add variety to your schedule.
Connect with your clients, customers or patients
When you’re creating reports and tracking campaigns every day, it can be easy to lose sight of your organization’s mission and purpose. If you’re feeling a little disconnected, it may be time to write a patient story, create a customer case study or scope some five-star client or patient reviews. You can also talk to your sales or customer success team to get insight into how your organization makes a difference.
These can all be good reminders of why your marketing efforts — and your job — matter. Bonus: This exercise may also inspire some fresh marketing content!
Attend a new conference or seminar
Will a single webinar rejuvenate your career? Probably not. But now and then, an inspiring session is the shot in the arm your career needs.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut career-wise, seek out a new seminar or industry conference. Learning new skills and meeting new people can help reinvigorate your role and remind you why you got into marketing in the first place. When I feel like I need a boost, I seek out MarketingProfs master classes or sessions from their B2B Forum.
Reconnect with coworkers
With a massive uptick in remote work, many healthcare marketers may feel isolated, which can worsen burnout. Reconnecting with coworkers can help.
- Try scheduling a quick check-in with one of your closest colleagues where you vow to talk about anything other than work.
- If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a coworker’s face, schedule a Zoom or video call rather than a phone conference call.
- If you use a chat platform (like Slack), start a chat about a fun topic and ask your coworkers to contribute. Prompts can include weekend plans, book/podcast/TV/movie recommendations and favorite memes.
- If it’s safe and you feel comfortable doing so, consider co-working with another remote colleague. You can set up at their home, your home or a mutual location.
Set aside time for you
Your entire day shouldn’t be filled with work. To avoid burnout, make sure you’re setting aside time every day to do something for yourself. Yes, every day. Spend time on a hobby, walk the dog, have coffee with your partner, or exercise — whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Block it off on your calendar if you must.
Unplug and step away
Sometimes the best thing you can do for work burnout is to take some time away from it. That may mean a long weekend (or two), a vacation, or a sabbatical if your organization offers it. No work emails, texts, chats or phone calls allowed.
Taking time off from work is serious business. Not only does it help with burnout, but it may also save your life. A WHO study published in 2021 showed that people who worked 55+ hours/week were 35% more likely to have a stroke and 17% more likely to die from heart disease than people who worked 35-40 hours/week.
If the thought of taking a lot of time off gives you anxiety, consider starting with one or two days a month that you block off just for you. Maybe that’s the third Thursday or the first Friday. Add it to your calendar in advance to avoid surprise meetings and deadlines.
Still feeling off in your marketing job?
Here’s the truth: It may take some time and a few different tactics to overcome work burnout and fall back in love with your job again.
But if you’ve tried and tried and still feel uninspired, it may be time to talk to someone. That person could be a coworker or supervisor you trust. If you can be honest about the struggles you’re facing at work, they may be able to help you find solutions or a position that’s a better fit for your skills and interest.
You may also want to consider speaking with a professional therapist — sometimes the root of our work ennui is not related to work at all. Resolving other issues in your life that are weighing on your mental health can often give you renewed energy in your career.
Whatever struggle you face today in your job, know there’s someone out there who is willing to listen and help. You don’t have to face work burnout alone.
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