Permanent employment generally involves peaks and troughs in terms of workload. Departmental or project deadlines result in some frantic days and a few late nights but then things get back to regular pace. When you’re on a contract you tend to have a pretty tight schedule and when renewal of your contract or consideration for future roles depend on your performance, the pressure can build. These are our tips for managing the stress to avoid burnout.
Remember your job description
No one likes to hear “it’s not in my job description” but for a contract worker it’s important to focus on the task in hand. It’s good for a contractor to be friendly, to build relationships with colleagues and demonstrate their ‘add value’ but it shouldn’t be to the detriment of the work they’ve been hired for. It’s a balancing act but you need to establish those boundaries from the start. Once you’ve taken time out of your schedule to help a colleague with a tricky IT issue, you’re in danger of becoming the go-to IT guy/gal. Equally the ‘not in my job description’ attitude is not going to get you recommendations when it comes to the next contract role, but if you’re working late to make up for a morning helping to fix the photocopier your not doing yourself or your employer any favours.
Organise organise organise
It may seem obvious but good project management, realistic timetables and clear contingency plans are great, not only to help you to stay on top of things but also to demonstrate your progress to others. If you don’t have a clear structure to your role it’s easy to fall behind schedule, resulting in longer days or the quality of your work to slipping. Spend time producing a comprehensive plan at the beginning of your contract and you’ll stay in control and avoid burnout. Thinking you don’t have time to organise is always a false economy!
Communication and transparency
However much you plan, sometimes things go wrong. Rather than trying to remedy issues alone and slip further behind schedule, be upfront about the situation. Your manager may have a plan in place and be able to provide assistance, be that a deadline extension, a staff member who can help out or a budget for outsourcing part of the project. Discuss priorities with your line manager in a pragmatic way. If the deadline is crucial you need to ask for further resources. If the budget is key, the scope of the project may need to be redefined.
Monitor your progress on weekly or even daily basis and ensure that you make everyone aware in good time of possible delays or the likelihood of deadlines being missed. Deal with problems as they come up and ask for help where needed. Be confident in your abilities – you’re a professional and you’ve been hired as such. If you’ve been given unrealistic timescales it’s the problem of the project manager and they need to know. Finally remember that your burnout is in no one’s best interest and your manager should help ensure it doesn’t happen.
Check out these links for further tips to avoid burnout