Its Bad When Being a Walmart Greeter Looks Good

I love my life, I really do.  But last week, despite being blessed with a dear and loving family, fabulous friends, and work that truly makes me happy, I’ve joined the ranks of an estimated 77 percent of workers who, in a recent survey by, reported they are sometimes or always burned out in their jobs. In addition to the high level of employees who report being burned out, 43 percent say their stress levels have increased over the last six months.

To be fair, in my case it may not be as much about the work as it is about the combined stress of a death in the family, travelling, and a tooth with a root that just happens to be sitting next to my sinuses and thinks it’s cool to share the infection. Regardless, once I had absorbed enough penicillin to get beyond my pity party I got to thinking about workplace stress and what I have done in the past to manage it, as well as what else I can do to keep it at bay. 

While the survey suggested that the rising stress could be the result of increased workloads, it may be as much about the ongoing onslaught of data and the fact that we are pulled in so many directions. Too often it seems we’re trying to do too much at the same time, dividing our attention, and never getting anything done well. 

I’m one who loves variety and change and yet even I’m beginning to covet routine and jobs that have a clear beginning and end. Heck I’m even starting to think a job as a Walmart greeter is attractive. I think I could handle smiling and saying, “Good afternoon ma’am, would you like a buggy today?”

Anyway, just to make sure I keep my stress under control, here are some strategies I’m working on for staying more balanced.

I’ve learned to do my most important tasks first thing in the morning. Before I even check my email, I’ll work for an hour or so with the only interruption being a quick trip to refill my coffee. Even though I’m definitely not a morning person, I’ve found the uninterrupted time allows me to be absorbed and productive so that regardless of how the day unfolds, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

I’ve also learned to work with our team members, to establish regularly scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, and strategically. By putting meeting times in our calendars for thinking proactively, we are less likely to simply be reacting to what somebody else sees as being most urgent. We’ve also found that when we take these planning efforts to a new or different environment we’re more relaxed and creative in our thinking.

We’re also getting better at maintaining meeting discipline and staying focused. However, an important stress buster for us is taking a few moments at the beginning of each meeting to have fun with an ice breaker. Last week, we asked everyone what they were going to do to take advantage of spring. Those few moments gave us a chance to leave the stress of work, connect as a team, and get ready to be in the moment and focused on the meeting. 

We’re also learning and encouraging others not to expect instant responsiveness as it seems to force everyone into a reactive mode that makes it challenging to stay focused on priorities. It should be perfectly acceptable to only check email several times a day.

It also needs to be okay to take energy breaks. For those like me who work from a home office it’s much simpler, however more employers need to think about group walks, workouts, or even just a room where people can relax.

Lastly, it’s important for each of us to have regular vacations or getaways. A real vacation will mean that when you’re off, you’re really off, meaning you disconnect – not even checking email. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only extended weekends. Research strongly suggests that we’ll all be much healthier if we take all of our vacation time, and be more productive overall.

Ultimately, there’s one principle that underlies all of these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, it’s fine to be fully engaged for defined periods of time. However, work needs to be offset with time for renewal. And, when you’re renewing, make sure you’re truly renewing.

Posted on 04-15-12


Excellent advice Brenda,

•Posted by Paul Watson  on  04/16/12  at  02:14 PM

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