Balance or burnout: keep your sanity and get ahead in 2019, by Sarah Mitchell, Business Development Manager at Overbury

February is already here and despite your best intentions your New Year’s resolutions have already slipped. Don’t fret. As young professionals we’re often harder on ourselves to prove our worth and capability, especially in an increasingly competitive built environment context. Working harder will only get us so far in 2019, so here’s why I think we should invest in balance all year round…


It’s obvious. Learning to strike a balance between personal and professional development is more important than ever. We don’t need a huge lightbulb moment to know life plods steadily along despite best our intentions to ‘be our best’ every waking minute, whether we’re tied to our desks or sipping a coffee.

The pressure cooker

In the office, there’s constant pressure for us to be the innovative, tech-savvy and enthusiastic tribe of the working world. We want to grow professionally, network and become respected mentors ourselves. Out in the world, we’re socialising, keeping up with current affairs, staying fit and plotting home ownership. Some have young families, others are already looking after ageing parents. It’s a precious time in our lives when we reflect on what’s important and where we’ll focus our energies. 

Up until this point, we’ve been conditioned to throw ourselves into our work and to find satisfaction in a job well done. Often we get so caught up in the busy pace of the office that we forget how to unplug, only giving ourselves permission to disconnect when we’ve activated our ‘out of office’.

We can easily slip into constantly being ‘on’ and tuned into our work, whether we realise it or not. During the week, we spend more time at work and commuting than we do at home (and even when we’ve left the office, we’re still guilty of checking emails on our mobiles). Then the weekend rolls in and we’re bogged down with chores when we should be relaxing and connecting with loved ones. It’s no wonder that Monday’s alarm is always too soon! Hello, burnout…

It’s worth real consciousness about the benefits of ‘switching off’ for the individual and the business itself. Loads of research points to how much stress and illness cost a business. Often small changes that empowers people to focus on their wellbeing can have a huge positive impact through increased productivity, greater staff retention, more motivated staff and of course less time lost to sickness and stress.

A balancing act

When we feel that ‘real life’ only begins after 5pm, it can make it even more difficult to cope with the day-to-day grind. Instead of hovering at the edge of a burnout, wouldn’t it be easier if we cultivated balance? Working effectively is way more important to our wellbeing than clocking hours. It’s been proven that a four day week can be just as productive as a regular Monday-to-Friday schedule.

We need to do away with any notions of presenteeism. Being confined to work patterns that don’t suit your life stage or unique situation can add unnecessary pressure to your work-life; and, ironically, aid under-performance. Judging performance on output rather than presence means you can manage your time and workload without feeling pressure. Most workplaces already do this and there’s a strong chance your performance metrics focus on KPIs; if not, speak to your line manager and understand why you need to ‘clock in’. Are we adding unnecessary pressure to ourselves?

Step away to step up

If your performance metrics focus on KPIs, you can create your own rules of engagement within the agreed boundaries. My boss knows even if I’m not at my desk, I’ll meet my weekly deadlines because she trusts me and that’s one of my KPIs. She knows I’ll show up for meetings and be in touch when I’m out and about, so why shouldn’t she trust me?

Everybody wants to be appreciated for the work they do. Research has shown people would rather work in a happy environment where they are trusted and respected than earn a higher salary elsewhere. In today’s world, most of us would sacrifice a couple pounds each month to be somewhere which helps us live a more balanced life and where work isn’t a ball and chain.

When we want to get ahead, even though we're already working hard, our response is often just to work harder. But to work smarter, research shows we should take time restock. I guarantee you’ll still meet your career goals in 2019 if you step away a little more!

By Sarah Mitchell, Business Development Manager at Overbury