You’re Burned Out. Now What?

How to reignite the passion you once had for your job in the professional cleaning industry

matches, fire, burned out

Regardless of whether you were doing well or struggling at work prior to the pandemic, it’s likely you or someone on your team is exhausted and burned out from the response to COVID-19. How do you reignite the fire after losing the passion you once had for your job and the cleaning industry? It may not be easy to reset your passion. You probably didn’t choose the cleaning industry in the first place— it likely chose you. 

In my lifetime, I have only met a small group of people like myself who wanted to be in the cleaning industry since childhood. 

I grew up in a small town in western Pennsylvania where I spent my summer watching the garbage truck come through our neighborhood to pick up everything from bags of trash to sofas. Through the lens of a child, it was fascinating. I was impressed by how the workers moved with an energetic speed. They communicated well, and my goodness they were efficient, laughing and teasing each other as they hopped on and off the back of the truck while tossing bags of trash into the compactor. That team appeared to be so happy even though the work they performed was by no means easy or glorious. 

In many ways, watching their healthy teamwork inspired me to spend my entire career in the cleaning industry, and I will never regret it. Before I wanted to be Terry Bradshaw playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I wanted to be collecting trash on that garbage truck team. 

Reasons to reignite

As we rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, I see so many people I know in the cleaning industry struggling to rise to the challenges. Let’s face it, even if your job was going well before COVID-19 hit, the last year has taken its toll on all of us. You may find yourself empty, tired, washed out, or just plain ready to do something else. This level of burnout is problematic and could worsen as millions of people in our industry continue to work at an exhausting pace to meet the ongoing challenges. As you struggle to reignite your passion, try to find your “garbage truck” moment and remember the reasons that led you to the industry in the first place.

Below, I offer my top reasons and methods for rekindling the fire. If you have been thinking of leaving the industry, perhaps these will change your mind and help you overcome burnout. 

  • Practice proper self-care—Work toward taking care of yourself, such as setting aside time for exercise, meditation, and/or hobbies. 
  • Value your skills—Value yourself because nobody else is going to do it for you. Take care of yourself and acknowledge the worth of your time.
  • Reward yourself—Reward yourself for a job well done. Pick something non-work-related such as a movie, book, or daytrip. 
  • Show gratitude—Thank yourself for doing what you do and thank others who help you achieve your goals.
  • Imagine your absence—Think about what the world would look like without us. It would be a big, stinky mess, with trash lying about, and no toilet paper in the bathroom stall. Your absence would be noticed.
  • Consider yourself a hero—Fact: The work done by cleaning workers saves lives. 
  • Value the industry—People make the industry and people in the cleaning industry are awesome … you know who you are.
  • Know you’re part of a team—I would be terribly bored without all of you as my colleagues.

We’re in this pandemic for the long haul, so we must find new ways to make workloads sustainable for ourselves and our team. Expectations are high. If we miss the mark, we are going to lose a group of people the world needs to have in the
cleaning industry. 

In these unprecedented times, we don’t have to crumple from exhaustion. Remember how you got here and become the cleaning professional you once were. 

Posted On June 8, 2021

Tim Poskin

Director, ISSA Consulting

Tim Poskin is the former Director of ISSA Consulting and is one of the world’s leading authorities on custodial workloading.

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