Corporate mental health benefits used to be little more than a 1-800 number you could call. Now, they are one of the most sought-after perks.

It make sense: Modern work culture is very fast-paced and demanding. It requires giving your all in mind, body, and spirit — and that can easily lead to burnout, deemed this year to be an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organizational.

No wonder employees are searching for employers that will support their mental wellness. And employers should be invested in it, too: Burnout causes decreased production and morale and increased turnover. Unfortunately, not all companies have recognized this responsibility yet.

Building Boundaries for Yourself

If an organization is slow to tackle this issue, it is up to the individual to create balance for themselves. That starts with creating boundaries.

Have you ever been woken up by a text from your boss at 5 a.m. asking you for a data point they should already have access to but are too lazy to look up? Today, we workers are way too connected and accessible — and we fear retaliation if we do not answer our employers’ texts and emails immediately. The need to be available 24/7 can create strain, stress, and eventually, burnout.

So when we’re talking about setting boundaries, we’re talking about setting reasonable expectations and acceptable times of communication. Easier said than done, of course, but there are some ways you can bring more balance to your work life — even if your employer doesn’t seem to be helping just yet:

  1. Communicate to your team and manager when you are available. Let them know that you will absolutely make yourself available for emergencies, but you need defined availability for the day-to-day stuff in order to function at your best.
  2. If you require balance, so do your teammates. Ask them to share their boundaries, and then abide by their requests. Lead by example — by both setting your own expectations and respecting the expectations of others.
  3. Make sure your calendar reflects your availability. It is important to align your personal calendar with your work calendar so that you know what you have to do in all realms of life. If it is not written down, it can be more easily cancelled and replaced with work.
  4. Make a concrete goal to take your time back, and commit to doing it. Your total well-being requires it.

On a personal level, seek your own development and reshape your day to accommodate what you need in terms of sleep, nutrition, focus, and energy. Time management is under your control. Once you believe your work controls your time, your balance is off-kilter.

Take back your life. Remember: No matter how many hours you put into your job, if your position is on the chopping block, you will be eliminated. You won’t save your job by giving yourself burnout. To quote Survivor, “The tribe has spoken.”

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

A Culture of Respect Begins at the Top

While employees need to be advocates for themselves, the company does have a role to play. Employers should not place the responsibility for avoiding burnout solely on their employees’ shoulders.

Company leaders and HR pros should be asking themselves: How are we fostering a culture of respect for our workers? Cultural norms start at the top. How the executives model their own boundaries (or lack thereof) informs how the rest of the organization behaves.

Employers should start promoting boundaries by recognizing that true achievement comes from quality of work, not the amount of time logged. Eliminate employees’ fears about being unable to disconnect and take time for themselves.

The other important thing to keep in mind is that certain people thrive in certain cultures. A key way to prevent burnout is to hire people who will succeed in your specific workplace environment. That means recruiters need to clearly and honestly explain the culture during the hiring process. Candidates should know what they’re in for if they get the job — it will help them self-select in or out, depending on what works for them.

Burnout is the result of a number of factors, but the most important one may be the lack of communication and understanding between colleagues and leadership in terms of expectations. Hard work and dedication are necessary in any workplace, but without proper boundaries and support in place, the desire to succeed can consume workers’ lives.

Companies need to take active steps to foster employee wellness. There are a lot of ways to do so: meditation time, nap pods, attractive PTO plans, coaching, opportunities for personal growth, executives setting good examples, etc. New generations of workers will be expecting these types of benefits and behaviors.

Meanwhile, employees need to recognize the aspects of their work and personal lives that are within their control. There is no sense worrying about the things beyond your power — but if you take charge of the things you can change, you can carve out space for your well-being, even if your employer hasn’t quite gotten its culture perfect yet.

Laureen Kautt, BCC (with additional Career Coach designation), is a global talent acquisition executive and the founder and principal coach of Volitionary Movement, LLC. “Confessions of a Corporate Talent Acquisition Leader” is her recurring column on Recruiter Today.

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