After running the New York Marathon in 2009, I pledged myself never to do it again. Training endlessly and then putting up with the 4-hour trek was fun once, but never again. Until a friend told me about the Venice Marathon two months ago and I gave in with the idyllic picture of running along the canals of Venice.
The last 10 km. Or better: the return shock.
In the past few weeks I have trained a lot, but also gained a lot of insights. The most important insight immediately turns out to be extremely relevant for the time we are in now. In marathon terms: the last 10 km. And especially how you deal with it. In more business terms: the return. Or better: the return shock.
Jitske Kramer has extensively researched the entire culture shock we found ourselves in over the past two years. She described a year and a half ago how we would enter an optimistic phase at the end of the lockdown with expectations about how society would be positively influenced by our experiences.
Unfortunately, in the model she outlines, you also see that this positive approach quickly gives way to a final dip, the return shock, before we can resign ourselves to our new situation. The return shock comes in the form of the traffic jams, which we were so glad to be over. The open-plan offices that are becoming reality again for many, but now in combination with endless Zooming and Teams meetings.
Busiest months of the year
In addition, the work has become even harder, if possible. The last quarter of the year is always the busiest. Especially when you consider that most companies now have more work than ever before, while there are hardly any extra people available. And among the people out there, sick leave hasn’t been this high since 2001.
To top it off, we also have to give hybrid working a place. What could serve as an advantage is often still seen (and treated) as a challenge. Instead of teams determining this together, company-wide rules are often drawn up, which reduces the autonomy of your people.
The 17 percent of working Dutch people who would suffer from severe burnout symptoms in 2019 therefore seems to have been skipped over 17 percent of the companies that show burnout symptoms. It squeaks and creaks on all sides. You can compare it to someone who keeps driving in a low gear for too long at too high revs, without shifting through.
Panting like a horse
Since you often do not run further than 20 miles during your run due to the risk of injury, you will always be faced with a challenge in that last 10 km during the actual marathon. Now it comes down to willpower. Stay focused on your goal, reach the finish line. The best way to do this is to turn inward. By slowing down your breathing and calming your inner system so that your internal combustion does not run at the highest speed and you burn yourself out.
If you don’t, you’ll get those swaying legs. Those people who start waving their arms lamely and panting like a horse. If you are able to calm your breathing again, best to start breathing through your nose, you will see that you also get more/regain control over your body and mindset.
That wouldn’t hurt the business at the moment either. Instead of running like a headless chicken after every new opportunity, bring the focus internally first. Focus on your team. First decide together how to proceed. And with who? Mapping out the possibilities and especially the impossibilities. Determine the new dot on the horizon.
The return shock only lasts a few months. But unlike a marathon, which is finished after the finish line, you, your team, the company, have to go straight to the next phase. Then you don’t want to lie exhausted next to the finish line.