Here’s the deal, burnout is real. Everyone has experienced job burnout at some point in their lives. Either they have been working overtime and haven’t had a moment to catch a break, they aren’t feeling motivated by the work in front of them, or they don’t feel like they’re contributing enough at work. While most employees get to clock out on Friday and leave their worries at the office, executive assistants don’t get that luxury. The work never disappears, the pile just grows bigger and the only way to deal with it is to get through it. Executive assistants don’t get weekends, they have to deal with issues as they arise, which can lead to an even higher chance of burnout. 

So, if it’s inevitable, why bother writing about it? 

Although job burnout is hard to avoid, there are plenty of ways to combat and lessen the feeling of burnout. We have searched far and wide to find advice on how other executive assistants have dealt with and managed their burnout. 

But that’s not all…

We will also be providing you with some ideas that you can implement immediately after reading this article. 

If you’re feeling that burnout is creeping up behind you, take a few minutes, grab something to drink and read on. 

The ability to disconnect as an executive assistant becomes more of a challenge as you grow within your role. The feeling of burnout can sneak up and chip away at your morale over time. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it has hit you until it’s too late. In this article, we are going to address the different types of burnout, some examples on how different executive assistants handle job burnout and some tips and tricks that can help you manage your job burnout. 

To start, you have to understand the differences between different types of job burnout and how to assess which type of burnout you have. Inc magazine has identified three main types of burnout:

  1. Overload burnout: Overload burnout leads people to work harder and more frantic, in search of success. “People affected by overload burnout are usually willing to risk their health and personal life in pursuit of ambition and tend to cope with their stress by venting to others.” When people suggest taking more time for things like breaks and exercise, this is the type of burnout they are generally referring to. This burnout can also happen when we are under too much pressure or stressed out. Some level of stress is fairly common (and can sometimes be good for us) while chronic stress can be a huge factor in burnout. Stress and burnout are not the same thing. Burnout can result in mental damage, while stress can result in physical.
  2. Under-challenged burnout: This type of job burnout happens with jobs that lack learning opportunities and room for professional growth. This tends to lead to pessimism, disengagement and avoidance of responsibility in the workplace. With this type of job burnout, more breaks will not help. If you are suffering from this type of burnout, begin by spending some time self-reflecting. What drives you? What are you passionate about? Try to incorporate things that excite you into your daily routine, make challenges for yourself at work and celebrate when you achieve them.
  3. Neglect burnout: This job burnout is “the result of feeling helpless at work.” People affected by neglect burnout start to think of themselves as incompetent or they feel like they aren’t able to keep up with the demands of the job. If you are suffering from this type of burnout, you don’t need breaks or to rediscover your passion, what you need to do is regain your focus by saying no more often and identifying your strengths and weaknesses. You can also ask for more support or training.

Now that you are able to identify which type of burnout you may have, you can apply the advice given by other executive assistants to your situation. 

Now that you can identify what type of burnout you have, check out our suggestions and choose the ones that fit your specific type of burnout. 

  1. One way to help burnout is by consciously creating a strong contract between work and home life. If you had a day at work where all you did was do office work and you didn’t get to spend that much (if any) time talking with other people, it might be a good time to invite some friends and socialize. If you had a long day at work that consisted of a lot of talking, take some time to recharge with a solo activity. 
  2. Ask for help at home and at work for predictably hectic times. If you know there will be a week where you will be spread thin, start asking for help. Let your family and friends know that you might need some additional support. Let your executive know that any projects that need to be done by that week, now need to be done before (or after that week). 
  3. Accept that you are in this job and accept accountability for your own satisfaction. You are here because you chose to be here. You are here because you are capable of this job, even if there are times when you doubt yourself. Embrace that and know that the only person in charge of your happiness, is you. 
  4. Ask yourself, ‘Is there anything I can do right now to make work more enjoyable?’. Perhaps creating a stronger morning schedule, forcing yourself to take those fitness classes you’ve been blowing off, maybe reaching out to your coworkers and connecting with them outside of work. 
  5. Change what you can and accept what you can’t. Work will always be work, there will be good days and bad days. If there are things that make you unhappy and you can change them, work on a plan to start changing them. If there are things that make you unhappy and are out of your control, try not to waste time being upset at the situation and focus on things you can improve. A little bit of mental clarity can go a long way. 

Now that you have read some of our tips for fighting job burnout, read what these three executive assistants told The Assistant Room for their advice on how to manage job burnout. Their responses were incredibly valuable:

“‘Firstly, eliminate the things on your ‘to-do’ list that can wait until the new year. The world is not going to end if you choose to organize the October 2019 board meeting in January. Secondly, don’t say yes to everything and everyone. The people I haven’t seen since Christmas last year who want to meet up for a night of tequila and karaoke can wait. If I haven’t seen someone for a year they can cope with waiting an extra month. A lot of December is about planning my time carefully and making sure I stick to those plans. I force myself to have a lunch break and tick something off of my personal admin list each time so I don’t become overwhelmed with never-ending Christmas card writing, present shopping and general festive organization.

I also try to keep half a day off every weekend free to switch off and relax. I stay as hydrated as possible, practice yoga at least 3 times a week and try to avoid drinking too much alcohol at the relentless number of Christmas parties. I have fun but I like to stay productive and no one can do that on a hangover!’

Emily Callow, Executive Assistant to CEO, Wagamama

 ‘There are a lot of things I concentrate on during the winter to stay as positive and focused as possible. I make a huge effort to do something I really enjoy for at least 30 minutes a day. It could be making a trip to the gym to get my blood pumping or sometimes it could be something as simple as making sure I read my favorite book before bed. The little things make a big difference!

I don’t like to make over committing on social events with past and present colleagues as well as friends and family a habit. Going to every Christmas party does not work for me at all, I like to prioritize sleep as much as possible so that I can stay in top form.

I also like to step away from constant updates on social media and like to factor a mini technology detox in every night. After my day is done and I am ready to relax, I turn off all notifications on my phone and disconnect from Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Taking the time to relax is impossible if you are constantly getting distracted by your phone lighting up!

Finding a charity to work with that you feel passionate about is great during the winter months. It puts your stress for everyday life to the side and lets you concentrate on helping someone who isn’t your executive but you still feel useful! I very recently helped to wrap gifts for the homeless in London which was very rewarding and helped to make a positive difference to someone’s day and to their Christmas season.’

Leighaine Ashworth, Assistant at global institutional investment management firm

‘Avoiding burnout during the winter is a constant battle every year for me as my immune system takes a serious hit. This is also a really busy time for me at LSH so burning out is not an option!

My first rule is to avoid drinking alcohol where I can and if I do find myself drinking, especially during the Christmas period, I stick to a 3 drink golden rule whatever the occasion. I definitely do not mix alcohol, hangovers slow me down and also make me more susceptible to a nasty cold!

My second rule is to get as much sleep as possible. Studies have shown that 8 hours of sleep is what we all need to maintain our energy levels and keep us all focused throughout the day. I like to treat myself to new pajamas to encourage me to relax as much as possible and get an early night as often as I can.

Lastly, eating healthily and making my own meals is something I do throughout winter. I make a lot of homemade soup so that I get my 5 a day and the nutrients I need to keep my immune system in good order. It doesn’t have to be complicated, I blend up whatever vegetables I can get my hands on, add some chicken stock and I have a balanced lunch I can eat everywhere and anywhere.’

Emily Felstead, Personal Assistant to Head of National Markets, Lambert Smith Hampton”

We understand burnout can be rough, but we hope that some of our tips were able to help. If nothing else, know that you are not alone and that burnout hits all of us. All we can do is keep moving forward and prioritize ourselves whenever possible. And remember, you are appreciated!