The average person will spend 90,000 hours of their lives at work, according to industrial-organizational psychologist and data scientist Andrew Naber. That’s nearly 10 years and 3 months.
Although this number might seem staggering, it makes sense when put into perspective: Full-time employed people work an average of 8.5 hours on weekdays and 5.5 hours on weekend days and holidays, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When there are 104 weekend days and 10 employer-recognized holidays annually, this adds up to an additional 627 hours spent working on holidays and weekends each year.
We might all agree work/life balance is important, but what about the case for its absence being the biggest deterrent of your longevity as a recruiter, and your overall wellness?
How frequent is burnout?
You may associate burnout with the physicians you’re recruiting and hiring, but it’s more common in other industries than you might expect. In a Gallup study of almost 7,500 employed people, 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while another 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That’s two-thirds of full-time workers experiencing burnout to some degree while on the job. Recruiters, and certainly physician recruiters, aren’t an exception.
The result of not being deliberate about this balance can be disruptive. While most recognize burnout for its negative impact on job satisfaction, it can have other symptoms that don’t confine themselves to the workplace and obstruct physical, mental, emotional and personal well-being. Over time, it can present itself as chronic fatigue, insomnia, headaches, stomachaches, anger, isolation or depression.
Likelihood of burnout is especially high when time working and time out of the office is not distributed well or has little distinction. We spend a lot of energy and time focused on our careers, but not just because it’s our livelihood. No matter what the industry or profession, working can provide a sense of purpose, lasting meaning and, simultaneously, set a parameter for success. The issue arises when work activities and subsequent stress leak into other aspects of daily life.
What makes finding the balance difficult?
As a recruiter, your professional life constantly offers opportunities to sharpen your skillset - even when you’re not actively recruiting. This could be pursuing independent learning courses to obtain new interpersonal skills, researching best practices and building strategies that elevate your recruitment game as a whole.
Thanks to technology, resources that help advance your professional life are more interactive and accessible than ever. While this offers the benefit of making it convenient to continue career development anytime, anywhere, it also means it can be more challenging to establish boundaries.
If you’re one who enjoys continuous learning and researching ways to grow as a recruiter, don’t abandon this strength. These are positive attributes of an individual with an invigorated work ethic. However, like everything, moderation matters, even when it comes to positive activities like career development.
What can I do about it?
For growth and balance that’s sustainable long term, there needs to be intentionality when dispersing your time. Consider: Of the 90,000 hours you’ll spend working in your life, how many of those are you willing to spend working outside the office when you could be spending time with family, friends or hobbies?
Be specific when deciding what’s reasonable for your schedule. How many hours a week do you typically spend working? How many additional hours outside your work schedule are you willing to lend to your recruitment activities? Will you make exceptions to work on the weekend? Holidays? What do those limits look like for you? If you don’t have them, and even if you don’t think you need them, it’s important to put them in place. A lack of these boundaries is how the average worker unknowingly - and presumably, inadvertently - racks up an additional 5.5 hours checking email each week when out of the office.
In the short term, being over-attentive to work responsibilities may mask itself as productivity. But over time, it can start to erode your effectiveness and mental stamina when carrying out basic recruitment tasks, and eventually nonwork activities.
What other solutions have worked?
In 2017, a study by Statista Research Department surveyed U.S. workers to determine which strategies were most effective in avoiding burnout based on their level of risk. For individuals at low risk for burnout, the top suggestion to avoid it was a stable family life, with exercise and having a hobby following closely behind.
For those at the start of a burnout situation, exercise was the top suggestion, followed by having a hobby, then a stable family life. As for individuals already experiencing the effects of burnout and requiring action, less pressure from work was the number-one way to combat it, followed by having a hobby, and then exercise and a stable family life.
What you might notice about these strategies is how they differ based on an individual’s risk of burnout. Simply put, they are either proactive or reactive. For workers already burned out, talking with their employer about taking a break may be the best option to shift out of the imbalance. Meanwhile, individuals who are at low risk may have more success continuing to invite strategies complementing the work/life equilibrium, like spending time with family. Ultimately, it’s circular. Those who are already acting in a way that preserves this balance are the ones most likely to maintain it and avoid burnout.
For many, it can be hard to step away from work responsibilities, especially when they’re giving us the impression we’re going the extra mile. But sometimes, a marathon is enough. It’s important to know when to take a break and when you’re pushing your limits. The best recruiters aren’t the ones who work the most weekend hours, watch the most webinars or even have the most interactions with candidates. The type of recruiter you want to be and the recruiter your potential hires will trust is the one who has mastered balance.