Overcoming Burnout with Whole-Life Culture

Part 3 of our 4-part Burnout Series. If you missed the first articles, you can check them out here and here.

Hustle culture drains the life out of people and businesses. What organizations really need is a culture based on personal and organizational sustainability. This means looking beyond just work and addressing the full needs of workers, not just in the workplace but in life itself.

This is the antithesis of hustle culture. It’s a whole-life approach.  Studies from Harvard Business Review and others show that when people are enabled to lead fulfilling lives, they show up stronger, healthier and more engaged at work. 

While burnout existed pre-pandemic, as did hustle culture, COVID was a wake-up call to workers around their time being finite and it caused a lot of self-reflection around how people were spending their time.  So today, workers demand more from their jobs – mostly flexibility, which translates into the need to live a whole, fulfilling life that includes work but is not entirely centered around it.

This led to a call for a new normal where people are able to prioritize what matters most to them, including their own lives.

It doesn’t mean work doesn’t get done, it just gets done differently. This can take make forms such as asynchronous collaboration and flexible working hours, but the idea is to create a culture where people don’t feel guilty or ashamed when they prioritize self-care, personal relationships or or new life experiences.

In fact, by empowering people to show up stronger in their life, you’re also empowering them to show up stronger at work because they don’t have the weight of unattended life items piling up on them. This is good for the individual AND for business.

In hustle culture, the assumption is that pushing people to work more hours will naturally lead to more results and better outcomes.  But the opposite is true – working more hours actually decreases work performance and more importantly, it’s killing people.  This issue has become so dire that the Japanese coined a term for death by work – “karoshi.”

On the other hand, we know that happier employees produce better work and stay longer, so it’s obvious that fulfilled people are good for business, and simply pushing your geese for more golden eggs is a way of the past.

The truth is whole-life culture requires a shift at all levels of an organization.

  • Leaders need to show workers that prioritizing life is expected and won’t be punished. 
  • Managers need to be trained and equipped to model whole-life behavior to their teams, including not answering emails on PTO, prioritizing their own lives over work and the like.  
  • And employees need permission to live fulfilling lives both inside and outside of work.  This requires giving them space to pause and think intentionally about their life, their work and what they want out of both.  

When this is done right, there’s a benefit to everyone and it’s an investment that more than pays for itself.  

  • People start to create the life they want and as a result, individual fulfillment levels rise, supported by their employer. 
  • As the focus moves away from all-work-all-the-time, people are able to make more genuine connections and trust begins to rebuild. People can see they benefit from their relationship from their employer, making it a two-way street. 
  • And businesses win as they’re able to create cultures where people want to stay, allowing them to retain both customers AND talent so they can grow more sustainably.

Join us after the Thanksgiving holiday as we explore ways to make whole-life culture a reality and look at the roles we all play in this journey.

To learn more about burnout and our research around it, check out our recent webinar, or download the full report for yourself.