You may have been reading lately about topics like burnout, overwork and pandemic fatigue - and it’s no surprise that burnout rates are on the rise, given the impact of COVID-19 on the intensity and pace of our working lives. Burnout is thought to have affected as many as 77% of us in our current roles, and business owners know that these stats aren’t good for their team members nor the health of their businesses.
We caught up with acclaimed advertising industry veteran and public speaker Karen Maurice-O’Leary to learn more about burnout, championing productivity at work and her wellness project The Bolognese Philosophy.
Karen, can you tell us a bit about the Bolognese Philosophy?
I worked in the advertising industry for 20 years, and there were a lot of stressful timelines and huge projects and late nights. And it all came to a bit of a tipping point for me, when I was getting pretty close to burnout myself.
The Bolognese Philosophy is really based on making sure that we're getting home on time - that we are either making that meal, or being present for a phone call, or we're meeting our children after school. It’s whatever the most non-negotiable thing is for you and that moment.
It all stems from an experience I had working late one night at an agency. I had a very familiar phone call from my husband. And he said to me, ‘It’s 6pm, you better be in that car on the way home darling, I’ve made my homemade Bolognese, and I want to have a meal together.’
I usually didn't handle these phone calls very well at all, but there was something in his voice on this particular night, when he called me and asked if I was on my way home. And my response was yes.
The reason why it was such a big decision to go home and have a beautiful night in over homemade Bolognese, was because, unknowingly to me, it would be our last meal ever together.
I lost him the following day in an accident. And I just go over and over in my head ‘what if I had missed that?’ There was a lot of thinking about what I should have done with those 20 minutes, and whether I was present enough or whether I was still thinking about the workload I needed to do the following day.
So based on this lesson, I started doing public speaking about the story to just really help people reframe, and reset and help set some boundaries to make sure they get home.
I was doing all of this work globally and then the pandemic hit. So I stopped and thought about what other resources and tools I could develop for people to be able to use now, knowing that through the pandemic, the burnout rates are through the roof.
I created a video, which talks through the lesson that anyone can use to create a team meeting. I also created physical elements including a workplace agreement around getting people home and looking out for each other. There’s also a personal Guardian oath, which is just a way of giving each other extra support, so you've got each other's back. That's how the Bolognese philosophy came about.
How can small businesses use it to change up their workplace and culture?
The Bolognese philosophy, in a nutshell, is a culture enhancer. A lot of businesses will already have their own culture in place, and this provides a more formal way for business owners and their people to reset and make sure that we are checking on each other regularly. It’s time to shift our mental focus from rest being a treat, or a luxury, and acknowledge that it’s a crucial part of being productive. Burnout is not a glorified badge of honour. It is a medical condition.
There’s some really easy ways for anyone to implement the Philosophy Depending on where you are as a business, the easiest place is to just set up a meeting, play the Bolognese philosophy video, or send out the link before you meet and then use that meeting as a safe space to just ask everybody: What does Bolognese time mean to them?
We should know what ‘Bolognese time’ means for the immediate people we work with on a day-to-day basis. Is it being the first face that your children see when they finish school? Is it making sure that you are at the dinner table each night? Is it a call with your Mum? Or is it just to keep making sure you're looking after yourself?
Sometimes having a physical element to sign and date, can be really powerful if you want to take it further. I’ve created the physical workplace agreement that can be displayed on the wall in your office or at home as a visual reminder to look out for one another.
What's the one thing that you'd like everyone to take away from your story and what you've created?
We only have a certain amount of time a day, so it's really up to us how we're going to spend it. And burnout isn't a glorified badge of honour. It is a medical condition - rest is an essential part of survival, not a treat or a luxury. And you really need to look after the people around you now more than ever.
For more tips on spending your time productively check out our 6-step strategy to skyrocket productivity in your business.