We need the earth as much as the earth needs us. Gardenuity co-founder and CEO, Donna Letier, reminds us that “burned-out people will burn out the planet.” Burnout is verging on the edge of crisis, especially in the United States. The burnout crisis makes it even more difficult to address the climate crisis.
What is Burnout? According to the Mayo Clinic, Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress – a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Burnout is now categorized as a “syndrome” that results from continued workplace stress that has not been managed.
Our all-work, all-grind, demanding work culture has made it next to impossible for people to feel supported and anxiety-free in their jobs. Burnout and constant high-intensity environments create an apathetic state of mind. Apathy is not productive in any event, including in the care for the planet. How do we combat such an epidemic? The answer is simple: making sure that we as employees, employers, and leaders are partaking in beneficial practices for our minds and bodies to give us a breath of fresh air and relieve us from burnout.
“In the last few years, two major issues have moved to the center of our collective conversation. One is climate change, and the other is well-being and mental resilience.” Arianna Huffington “They are not just existential threats, they are deeply connected making it clear that the way we live and work is not only burning us out, but causing us to make decisions that are destroying our own health and the health of our planet.”
Researchers from the University of Surrey found that when we are burned out we are less likely to engage in rational decision making. Proving again that our health is also directly affected by our stewardship of the planet.
Enter gardening, self-care, and moments of nature nurturing you. When we are able to take care of ourselves by getting some fresh air, digging in the soil, watering our garden, or going on a walk, we are able to glean a deeper and more intense appreciation and love for the world around us. That is what the earth needs more than anything, people who are so in love with the earth, that they cannot imagine partaking in practices that harm it. But, people who never have the time to enjoy all of the assets of our planet will not be able to feel the deep love that the earth needs on a global scale. This is what leaders globally are addressing in the workplace. When we lead sustainable lives we have the energy to build a sustainable planet. When we are exhausted and burned out it is impossible to find that centered place of resilience and strength on which to make decisions.
A way that you can imagine burnout and your relationship with others and the planet is to imagine that you are a hose. Water flows freely when you turn on the knob, enriching the people around you and the passions that you have. This flow of water can also be an enrichment to the earth.
However, when you are burnt out, a knot appears in your hose. You are unable to spread the same nourishing and hydrating goodness to the planet and to the people around you. This is what we need to address as leaders: getting rid of the knots, of the burnout, and encouraging a sweet, serendipitous flow of self-care and calamity.
How to Address Burnout as a Leader?
What if companies gave employees more flexibility, less time spent in the office, and more time to go spend time doing the things that they love to do?
It has been clear for decades, spanning back to the Industrial Revolution, that the more people work, the less productive they actually are. This is why Henry Ford standardized a forty-hour work week. However, following the Pandemic and The Great Resignation, many companies are beginning to use four-day work weeks as a bargaining chip for employee retainment.
According to CNN Business, surveys show that “ 80% of respondents support a four-day workweek. As for the remaining 20%: Only 3% said they were against a shorter week, and 17% were “neutral.”
Take the example of Patagonia as a lesson for leaders in employee retention and life-work balance. Patagonia thrives off of the philosophy “Let My People Go Surfing”. This policy allows Patagonia employees to work flexible hours, pretty much whenever they want to, as long as they get the work done and do not negatively impact their coworkers. This foundation allows people to go do the things that they love, while coming back to work energized, inspired, and ready to get things done.
Amdocs is another example of a company that focuses on the health of their people and and the planet. In 2023 the company will host a series of programs focusing on growing good habits, gardens and sustainable practices. Gardenuity is honored to be partnering with the leaders of Amdocs.
Both of the above examples may sound drastic, but the point remains the same – people need time to do things to fill their cups, otherwise, they cannot pour themselves and their best efforts into anything else.
At Gardenuity, we believe that instilling mindful moments in nature does wonders for mental health, physical health, and the health of the planet. Activities such as gardening or group gardening workshops can serve as a time to reconnect with our life source.