Suffering from burnout
The pressures of a new job can often be overwhelming. Image: TORWAISTUDIO/Shutterstock

Top tips to avoid burnout in a new job

17 Jan 2018

Hitting the ground running in a brand new job can easily cause burnout if you don’t look after yourself properly. Luckily, Hays’ Michael Jones has some advice.

Starting a new job can be difficult. You can expect those first few weeks to be filled with introductions, inductions and training sessions.

Taking in all of this new information and getting up to speed can be tiring, and you might find your working day spilling into out-of-work hours. Before you know it, you could find yourself veering towards new-job burnout.

New-job burnout strikes when you push yourself too hard, and start falling into bad habits concerning your diet and lifestyle. Feeling completely exhausted certainly won’t be conducive to your success within your new role, or your own wellbeing.

Therefore, it is essential that you take some active steps to establish a work-life balance and avoid new-job burnout from day one.

The importance of getting enough sleep

Multiple studies have shown how much sleep can impact our physical and mental health. This research in particular conducted by the Rand research group demonstrates how sleep deprivation can negatively affect our immune systems and our emotions as well as our cognitive functions; from processing new information to problem-solving and decision-making.

Long hours and a lack of sleep when you start a new role, therefore, could quite easily lead to new-job burnout. By not getting enough sleep, you will increase your chances of getting ill, you will become more irritable and stressed, and you will also take longer to learn new information.

They say the average person needs eight hours’ sleep but sometimes, when you’re starting a new role, it can be hard to switch off and get the sleep you need, so try these tips.

  • Write your next day’s ‘to-do’ list at the end of each day, and ask your boss to help prioritise tasks if you are struggling. This will make your new workload feel much more manageable, enabling you to leave the office at a reasonable time and get some much-needed downtime during those hectic first few weeks.
  • If, for whatever reason, you feel like you have to check emails in the evening, then set yourself a reasonable deadline for when you’ll stop looking at them (I wouldn’t call 11pm at night a reasonable deadline) and make sure you go offline at that time. You won’t feel refreshed the next day at work if you were up all night sending emails or catching up on work.
  • On the subject of switching off, I would advise turning off personal electronic devices at least 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime to allow your brain to wind down. As I said before, restorative sleep helps you to process new information when starting a new job, and research has found that the blue light emitted by these devices can harm the quality of our sleep – so put down that game of Candy Crush and get some shut-eye.
  • If you are still struggling to fall asleep, which can be the case when you start a new job and have so much new information swirling around your brain, then play some easy-listening music when you get into bed, or read a book. I would also advise listening to one of the many sleep-inducing meditative podcasts available on iTunes.

Exercise to relieve stress

When starting a new role, it can be hard to maintain other aspects of your normal routine, especially when it comes to physical exercise.

However, exercise is scientifically proven to be one of the best ways to improve your mental health. It relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better and boosts your overall mood – all helpful for when starting a new job and avoiding burnout.

When I started my new job, I felt like I barely had time to go the gym in the evening and, for a brief period, I stopped going altogether. Only then did I realise how much exercise improved my mood and focus.

I decided get up early and work out first thing, which suited my new working routine so much better and put a spring in my step for the rest of the day. Here are some suggestions to help you maintain a healthy exercise routine when starting a new job.

  • Find a gym close to work so you can go on the way to or from home. This way, you will find less excuses not to go, and you incorporate exercise into your daily routine more easily.
  • If going to the gym after work, take your gym kit with you. If you have to go home and change beforehand, you’re less likely to go back out again.
  • Find a gym partner so you’ll have someone to motivate you. Also, you’re less likely to cancel on them.
  • Try different classes or find an exercise that you enjoy doing so that going to the gym is something you look forward to.
  • Music is a powerful motivator, so create a playlist full of your favourite high-energy songs, which will get you pumped and ready to exercise.

Brain food can help you avoid burnout

When you’re trying to prove to your new boss that you can do the job, it may feel like you don’t have time to leave the office to go and get some food. Instead, you may settle for one of the convenient yet unhealthy snacks from the vending machine nearby or dash out quickly to pick up some fast food.

An unhealthy diet filled with sugar, saturated fats and a lack of vitamins and minerals can soon leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic, not to mention damage your ability to concentrate. Here’s how to stay healthy, and therefore focused and productive.

  • Be prepared by making your lunch for the week ahead. Freeze leftovers from home, make filling and nutritious meals, and bring plenty of fresh salad ingredients that you can keep in the office fridge.
  • Try to avoid sugary treats and too many cakes. It can be hard in an office where it feels like every day there’s cake to celebrate something, but learn to say ‘no thanks’ or take a smaller slice.
  • Watch out for the extra cups of tea or coffee during the day (and the spoons of sugar). Opt instead for water, green tea, or lemon and hot water, or limit yourself to one or two cups a day. Caffeine can largely affect our concentration, as well as our sleep patterns.

Of course, getting enough sleep, exercising well and eating a healthy diet is important at all times, but it’s also important to appreciate what impact these things can have on your wellbeing when starting a new role.

After all, you need to be well rested and refreshed so you can put in a good day’s work and focus on the task at hand, as well as feel energised enough to make your mark in your new role.

By Michael Jones

Michael Jones is the head of internal recruitment and training for Hays UK and Ireland.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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