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8 Tips to Avoid Workplace Burnout & Ensure Job Satisfaction

By Sharda Kohli

As administrators in radiation oncology many of us are tasked with diverse responsibilities that don’t fit neatly into a job description. Though we are in leadership roles, oftentimes we are the chief cook and the bottlewasher, the go-to people that step in to ensure that last-minute crises are avoided. We get the job done. And while that level of involvement can be rewarding and challenging, it can quickly lead to burnout. Read on for 8 tips to avoid workplace burnout and ensure job satisfaction.

Our job requires that we advance the department, but when we are successful, we also advance people. We work with diverse teams of physicians, physicists, clinicians, nurses, therapists, administrative personnel, financial and revenue cycle personnel, engineers, researchers and lab personnel, as well as residents and we are often either directly, or indirectly, responsible for the performance of these teams. Productivity and efficiency are rewarded: RVUs exceeding benchmarks, more publications in high impact journals, more research grant awards, faster patient throughput, less machine downtime, increasing numbers of consults, greater numbers of new starts, etc.  And while we are responsible, either directly or indirectly, for driving productivity and efficiency, the pace of progress leads to routinely longer work hours, errors and disgruntled employees at all levels. We, and our teams, feel there are simply not enough hours in the day to do our jobs—and our personal lives often absorb the pressures of our professional lives. The result: a stressed out, demoralized and unhappy workforce. But does it have to be this way?
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Dr. Walt Gmelch, professor of leadership studies and dean emeritus at the University of San Francisco’s School of Education, is an international expert in the field of leadership and professional development. He has studied the management of time, stress and transitions in leadership roles and his findings are equally applicable to people at all levels of the workforce. Here are a few strategies* that are simple, but require commitment:

  • Plan some personal time each day: Take your home calendar to work to remind you of personal commitments, like having dinner with the family or making it to that yoga class.
  • Compartmentalize work and non-work activities: Put time limits on your workday but recognize the limitations of your organization and your responsibilities. For example, the “Doc of the Day,” may have to work late if the clinic is running behind.
  • Do one task at a time: Don’t be a slave to your email. Block discrete time on your calendar to respond to emails. Block “meeting-free” days on your calendar to get work done. Multitasking is inefficient and can lead to poor quality of work and mistakes.
  • Strive to enrich yourself, in multiple ways: Consider the “big picture”—as administrators we bring a unique multifaceted perspective to our organizations and it’s important to continue learning to continue adding value.
  • Live by your calendar: Establish and update goals; set deadlines and stick to them.

Job satisfaction is also vitally important to achieving healthy work-life balance. What key factors contribute to job satisfaction? And what can we do at the individual and organizational levels to promote better work-life balance for ourselves and our teams?
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The cover of NYT Magazine’s Feb 24th edition featured the title “What Makes a Good Job Good?” Based on decades of research, here’s what the experts** identified as the key factors for job satisfaction across all levels:

  • Basic financial security and sense of job security (that is, one’s job won’t disappear overnight): Strive to be transparent with your teams about financial limitations that affect promotions, raises, as well as the direct correlation between their productivity and the unit’s financial well-being.
  • Autonomy, defined as the ability to control one’s time and the authority to act on one’s unique expertise: Encourage your employees to use their strengths and expertise to find ways to improve your organization. Empower them to make decisions using their expertise to achieve shared goals.
  • Belief that one’s contribution is meaningful, no matter how small: Routinely thank your team members for the work they do. Find ways to celebrate achievements and milestones and help your employees see how their work matters.

As managers and leaders in our fields, we can use this information to connect with and support the needs of our teams in small but meaningful ways that can lead to better job satisfaction and a healthier work-life balance for ourselves and our organizations.


* In the bulleted list, items appearing before the colon have been pulled from “Leadership Trade-Offs: Managing Time, Stress and Transitions,” a presentation Dr. Gmelch gave a Rutgers University. The content that follows each colon is mine.

** In the bullet list, items appearing before the colon appear in the NYTimes articles. The content that follows each colon is mine.


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