The new ‘engaged-exhausted’ conundrum – Staying Ahead of the Curve (SAotC). Vanda North writes…

See where you are on the engaged-exhausted continuum…

The Change Maker Group is sharing a series of articles on how to stay ahead of the curve. Today we are looking at a newly discovered phenomenon. The engaged-exhausted conundrum. In the past engagement meant flourishing at work; however, research is showing that sometimes it can bring with it high levels of exhaustion,  stress and strain. At The Change Maker Group, we can show you the relationship of stress to strain, and assist you to prevent burnout.

Try this simple, powerful graphic activity for yourself and with your teams. The stress-strain chart below provides you with a snapshot of how you are doing right now – and, it can, of course, change rapidly! However, once you are aware, you may take the appropriate actions.

The stress and strain chart:

The engaged-exhausted continuum

Monitor your engaged – exhausted continuum

Mark on the top line how much stress – that is everything that is impacting you at this time – is occurring in your life. Then mark on the bottom line how much strain you feel that is taking on you. You may have low stress but are feeling very strained, or high stress and not feeling much strain at all. Just create your line.

This simple activity takes less than a minute and if you complete it on a regular basis, it provides a picture of how you are currently functioning. You may easily complete it in a team meeting, or have people complete it electronically and share. It will provide you with an immediate awareness of your engaged-exhausted situation. Most importantly it shows you when some remedial action is necessary.

Research on the new engaged-exhausted conundrum

Recent research from Yale University shows that if employees are engaged, motivated, dedicated and professionally active they may also be exhausted, depressed and suffering with sleep problems. If you leave these symptoms unattended, they may lead to burnout. The World Health Organisation has now officially recognised burnout as a disease. If you ever experience burn-out, it is very difficult to return to a ‘normal’ life. Those in your sphere may be unsure how you may respond. How much work to give you, when to give you more space.

If you have a wellbeing programmes that will help to a degree but is not the long-term solution.

For you to prevent exhaustion your highly engaged employees need:

  • the correct resources to do the work
  • supervisor support, e.g. being available and amenable to a flexible schedule, and most importantly
  • to be able to balance the priorities to let the workload flow – if a person has several ‘bosses’ balancing all the needs can be very difficult
  • further, people need just a small recovery gap after a particularly busy time.

Balancing your work priorities is the best way to prevent the engaged-exhausted situation.

Strive for ‘smart engagement’

The new term is ‘smart engagement’. This is where:
– your project timelines are balanced
– you have agreed no-work and electronic free zones
– regular breaks and lunch times are your daily habit
– clear and honest communications are easy for you to have.

Change Maker, Vanda

Please contact us at The Change Maker Group we can assist you to put these necessary changes in place. We can work with you to identify the future business impact and build resilience. This way you may keep your hard-working and motivated employees in a balanced change-ready environment.

To continue the conversation, please contact Vanda


Watch Vanda speaking about the Conundrum…