Improve our work engagement and combat possible burnout!

Improve our work engagement and combat possible burnout!

Time is a valuable commodity to most of us, especially in the workplace where we are constantly challenged by limited time and resources for our ever increasing and demanding workloads.  Many people I know who live in Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland work long hours in the office and “almost constantly” making response to work messages using their mobile phones throughout the day.  We live in a fast paced world clouded with uncertainties that expects us to respond and react quickly for our survival in a highly competitive business world.  I sense that many of us feel “enslaved” by our job and we are constantly in a “fire fighting” and “survival” mode in order to stay employed.   

According to the World Health Organisation (2004), work-related stress can be defined as “the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.”   A study by LinkedIn in 2018 revealed that the top 10 workplace challenges that Americans struggle with in their career are work-life balance, workload management, relationships with their managers and peers, office politics, career growth, lack of passion, lack of supportive team, equal pay and answering all of their emails.  Indeed, these struggles also exist in Asia affecting the bottomline and wellbeing of organisations and individuals.    The inability to cope with these struggles will affect employees’ self confidence, job satisfaction, engagement and motivation; or even worse cause burnout.   A Deloitte survey that covered 1,000 full time professionals in the US found that 77% of respondents experienced burnout, 91% of them were affected by unmanageable amounts of stress that impacted their work quality negatively, while 83% of them believed burnout at work could affect their personal relationships negatively.   When we have burnout, we feel exhausted, detached, ineffective and unaccomplished (Maslach, Schaufeli & Leiter, 2001).   These figures and employee behaviours are alarming, and calls for organisations as well as individuals to take action to prevent and combat workplace stress and possible burnout which affects the overall wellbeing of  an organisation and individual employees. 

The negative aspects of Job Demands, such as job content (monotonous, under-stimulating, meaningless), workload and work pace (having too much or too little to do, or under time pressures), working hours (unpredictable working hours or badly designed shift systems), participation and control (no involvement in decision making or over work), role in the organisation (unclear and conflicting roles) and interpersonal relationships (bullying, harassment or isolation) could lead us to feel stressed.  Can we control these situations?  Are we able to turn some of these struggles at work to become enjoyments?  My answer is YES, we can!  And one of the solutions is through job crafting, by focusing on cultivating positive emotions, using our strengths and making positive meaning of what we do (Boniwell, 2019).    Job crafting is a self initiative to redefine and reshape the job content, working mode and relationship management at work (Peng, 2018).  This self initiative is a proactive behavior and creative process that crafts our 1) key at tasks crafting, 2) important relationship we need to cultivate and manage, 3) subjective beliefs on difficulties encountered at work (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001).  The following 6-step process allows us to get started crafting our jobs (Boniwell, 2019):

My personal experience of this 6-step job crafting exercise is very positive because:

  1. It gives me an opportunity to review and prioritise what to me are the most important aspects of my work (task and people) and what I am struggling at. 
  2. It allows me to be truthfully acknowledge my real feelings in relation to these important aspects.   Do I feel positively, negatively, motivated or demotivated to act and perform?
  3. It helps me assess whether I am using my strengths, skills or weaknesses to get my job done and what kind of energy and energy level I am manufacturing and driving. 
  4. It reveals to me my attitude and satisfaction about my work and helps me differentiate the mindset and characteristics between a Job, a Career and a Calling.
  5. It reminds me of my purpose and goals in Life and Career, that I am able to make a positive contribution for the betterment of self and others.
  6. It stimulates me to create more positive interpretations and to think creatively about the resources I have to address my work challenges.

I also appreciate that this job crafting exercise can give me a structure, helps to organise my “busy and complexed” thoughts, while challenging my automatic reactions to work and my subjective judgements arising from my likes and dislikes about key tasks, key relationships and key challenges.  And being a Strengths advocate, the most important discovery for me in this exercise is that the overuse of my strengths and professional skills can make me feel drained and robotic.  I am reminded that I can use my strengths of “humour” and “strategic thinking” in my work to cultivate a less serious work atmosphere and big picture framing.  At the same time, I feel less stressed because the process has helped me to focus on the key priorities of my work and to break them down into items that are more manageable. 

Traditionally Stress is perceived to be bad for us, however my new found knowledge on “Holistic Stress Model” presents a more balance viewpoint as there is good stress (Eustress) and bad stress (Chronic Stress).  This Model is about our cognitive appraisal of people and work situations resulting in our negative or positive responses (Simmons & Nelson, 2007).   Through this job crafting exercise, I am able to consolidate my strengths and resources to address some of the challenges I am facing and by doing so makes me feel less stressed.  At the same time, I realise that over-stretching my capability a little bit is a doable challenge.  I feel excited and prepared to tackle some of the difficult tasks.  All in all, this exercise is uplifting my confidence, hopefulness  and gearing me up to get started to bring some of my work stress under my control!

Rosemarie Yau is Principal Consultant of M Institute Asia Limited.  She is passionate to support clients to prolong their career life and improve wellbeing at work through Positive Psychology. (Her email:


Boniwell, I. (2013).  Job Crafting.  Positran. 

Fleige, M. (2017).  Perceived Job Aspects and Outcomes Related to Eustress in the Working Population.

Peng, C. (2018).  A Literature Review of Job Crafting and Its Related Researches.  Journal of Human Resource and Sustainability Studies, 2018, 6, 1-7.

Leka, S., Griffiths, A., Cox, T. (2004).  World Health Organization.  Protecting Workers Health Series No. 3.  Work Organisation & Stress.  Systematic Problem Approaches for Employers, Managers and Trade Unions Representatives.  World Health Organization.  Institute of World, Health & Organizations.  UK. 

Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W., Leiter, M. (2001).  Job Burnout.  Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2001 52. page 397-422

Mejia, Z. (2018).  These are the top 10 workplace struggles employees face in 2018.  CNBC.  Retrieved from

Simmons, B., Nelson, D. (2007).  Eustress at Work:  Extending the Holistic Stress Model.  Positive Organizational Behavior at Work.  SAGE Publications.  London.  Chapter 4.  p. 40-53.

Workplace Burnout Survey (2019).  Deloitte.  Retrieved from

Wrzesniewski, A., Dutton, J.E. (2001).  Crafting a Job:  Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work.  Academy of Management Review, 25, 179-201