24 Mar 2023
Being an actuary isn’t the 9-5 job that everyone thinks it is. At some point in your career, you'll probably feel like you're approaching burnout. It could happen when you're just starting out and you're trying to balance actuarial exams with work. Or it could happen later on when you're an experienced actuary with looming deadlines.
But first, what is burnout? According to the World Health Organisation, it's an "occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed".
In this blog, we're going to cover 7 tips to help you prevent burnout in your actuarial career.
1. Make yourself replaceable
You might think that having unique knowledge or skills within your team is the best way to keep your job secure, but it's a fast track to burnout.
If you're the only person who understands a particular spreadsheet or R script, you'll be called upon every time there's an issue. Even during your time off.
Sharing knowledge and responsibilities with your colleagues can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Take turns covering tasks for one another. Create documentation for routine processes. By not being the sole expert, you can enjoy your time off without worrying about work.
2. Learn to say no
Saying no can be difficult, especially when you’re saying no to something that could benefit your career. But setting boundaries is crucial to avoid burnout.
If you work on a fast-paced actuarial team, there will probably be times when you have to work late into the evening or even at weekends. Although this is understandable, you want to avoid it becoming the norm. That's why it's important to set your boundaries and discuss them with your manager.
Learning to say no means you don't have to take on every piece of work that comes your way. You could explain that you're at full capacity and you'd need to drop another task to make room for the new one.
3. Get physically active
Actuarial work involves sitting at a desk for long hours, so your lunch break is a great time to move your body and help prevent burnout. Whether you work from home or in an office, taking a daily lunchtime walk can help you feel refreshed when you return to work in the afternoon.
In fact, any form of exercise can help. It doesn't have to be a chore, just do whatever you enjoy. You could go for a run (start with Couch to 5k if you're a beginner), try a yoga class, do some gardening or just step outside for a few minutes of fresh air.
4. Learn something new
Once you’ve been in your job for a while, the work will probably start to feel repetitive. It happens to everyone - even the most enthusiastic actuaries. So how can you stay engaged?
One effective way to avoid burnout is to learn a new skill. This could mean taking an online course (e.g. learning to code in Python), attending a conference, or researching an area of actuarial work that interests you (e.g. climate risk).
Don't be afraid to tell your manager that you want to learn something new. Lots of companies see this as a positive and are willing to support your professional development.
5. Grow your social life
Having a well-rounded life outside of work is one of the best ways to prevent burnout. When you have regular social commitments like seeing family or friends, you're much less likely to routinely work late.
You don't have to plan anything elaborate - it could be as simple as eating dinner with a loved one, playing video games with friends or going to a religious service.
Actuaries are often stereotyped as introverts who enjoy spending time alone. But whether you're an introvert or an extravert, socialising can recharge your batteries and help you avoid burnout.
6. Think long-term
As an actuary, it's easy to focus on your day-to-day work and forget about the bigger picture. But if you're not passionate about your job and you can't see a clear path to your goals, you'll eventually lose motivation.
Spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve in your career. Do you have a dream job or company in mind? Think about how to get there. Once you have a clear idea of what you're aiming for, you'll find it easier to stay motivated and focused - especially if you think of your current job as a stepping stone towards your dream job.
7. Find a new job
If you suspect that your work environment is the source of your burnout (e.g. the team/company culture or the role itself), it might be time to consider moving jobs. This should only be a last resort, but finding a work environment that suits you better can significantly boost your job satisfaction and overall happiness.
Try to schedule some time off between leaving your old job and starting a new one. It's a great way to unwind and clear your head, so you can start your new job feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes your way.
It's not worth sacrificing your physical and mental health for your actuarial career. Hopefully this blog post has given you some useful tips for avoiding burnout. 🙏