No man (or woman) is an island
Believe it or not, journalism and plumbing have a few things in common.
Both professions often have busy seasons and lulls, and they both also sometimes require irregular and very long hours (though plumbers admittedly perform significantly more physical work than we journalists do). Both plumbers and journalists also strive to create a quality product and ensure customers (or readers/advertisers) are happy.
And, of course, both professions can be very stressful.
For that reason, Al Levi’s fantastic July column on workplace burnout and how to avoid it has really struck a chord with me, as I imagine it may also have with many of you. Among his other useful tips, he says it is OK to disconnect, take breaks (and naps!) and rely on others to handle things for you.
I have had to heed his sage advice in recent weeks. While I would not say that I am burning out at work, there have been an abnormal number of taxing events outside work that have added to my overall stress level. As Levi suggests, I have let go and leaned on the people around me for support much more than I am used to. It has made all the difference in the world.
My husband has been an incredible partner in crisis, and my 11-year-old has truly stepped up and shown his newfound maturity as we welcomed an 8-year-old foster child into our home, helped nurse a family member back to health after open heart surgery, juggled full-time jobs and full-time school, and worked to care for another relative struggling with mental illness. The phrase “when it rains, it pours” is not lost on the members of our household, believe me.
Professionally — and this again goes back to Levi’s column — my coworkers have been blessedly patient and understanding as I have stretched deadlines, taken time off, and worked some strange hours to make sure our collective work did not suffer while trying to balance work and home obligations. They have picked up the slack. To my amazing coworkers, I am extremely, truly grateful for your help and compassion.
Be part of a continent
When I was younger, the thought of asking others for help was, well, unthinkable. Gosh, was I stubborn. And foolish. I was an island, and for no good reason other than I was perhaps a little controlling and particular. Poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man / is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” I didn’t get it then, but boy do I get it now.
Levi gets it, too. He knows that trying to handle everything by yourself is the fastest path to burnout, which ultimately affects everyone around you. Mark Rogers, owner and COO of West Chester Mechanical in Pennsylvania, also understands and is quick to acknowledge the huge role his coworkers play in his ability to take time away from work in order to be involved in industry organizations, apprenticeship programs and more.
But it goes both ways. Rogers’ willingness to support his employees in any and every way he can is obvious; he has even opened his own home to employees who needed a place to stay. This is just one of the many reasons he is this year’s Mechanical Contractor of the Year.
So, my advice to you is to take the advice of Levi and Rogers: Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to offer help and support when others need it. You can’t do this alone. Find good people. Build them up. And show your genuine thanks when they help you.