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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Ashley

Regain your sense of control!

Do you feel that you have autonomy and influence over what you work on and how you work?

A common source of burnout-inducing stress comes from a lack of control over how and what you work on. For example, you may not feel like your voice is not heard; that you don’t have any influence over the direction of a project you are working on; or that you may not have the tools & resources you need to deliver. Feeling powerless when you don’t have control over your work isn’t just uncomfortable, but over time it may result in negative effects on your mental health.

What’s worse, we often blame ourselves for not getting our voice heard; for not presenting our ideas clearly enough; or not being persuasive enough to procure the tools we need. But very often your level of control is not your fault. Rather there are systematic biases that make it harder for your voice to be heard, for your ideas to have influence and for you to get the resources you need. No matter how hard you work (or how valid your arguments are), gaining this control is often much harder for women to obtain.


Many women struggle to gain control! According to a McKinsey study, only 36% of senior management is made up of women. What is worse, the few women that make it into leadership roles are leaving their companies at the highest rate seen in years, and difficulty with control over multiple facets of their careers is cited as one of the reasons [1].

As you can see, having control at work is key to keeping women happy and productive at work.

Looking back at my own burnout, I now realise that one of the factors that caused it was lack of control over the demands of the job. My job gave me enormous privilege and a lot of autonomy in how I worked and structured my day, but despite that I still couldn’t control the wider issues that really mattered. I couldn’t control the fact that I was working in a surgery with the highest patient need in the entire country*, and that I couldn’t meet the job demands with the scant resources I had. That sense of powerlessness was one of the factors that fuelled the spiral into overwhelm, and eventually anxiety, depression and burnout.

I’ve been there, and I really understand that awful feeling of being disempowered.

The good news is that if this is a problem you are experiencing at work, there are steps you can take to regain control and to reduce your risk of burnout.

I’ve regained my control over how I work through going self employed. In doing this I've lost a lot of benefits, such as maternity pay, sick pay and paid annual leave, but instead I have gained control over what shifts I take on, where I work, what type of work I do, how long the shifts are, and how much I get paid. The key thing is that the things I’ve gained control over with these changes are the things that matter in my burnout recovery. I am grateful for this privilege, as I know not everyone has the option to go self employed. Regaining control, or your perception of control, might not be the same as my journey, but at BobbyChat we are here to help you on your way.

Here are our tips for regaining control at work, and taking empowered steps towards preventing burnout:

  • The work that has been done on burnout suggests that perceived control is just as good as having objective control when it comes to managing your stress. What this means is that reframing the situation you’re in and working on your mindset will allow you to feel more positive and in control. Even better, this is accessible to everyone, even if you don’t have a pale complexion or a Y chromosome… Whilst this doesn’t absolve your employer of their responsibilities to you, it will help you to cope better. The reflection tool on BobbyChat is perfect for learning reframing skills!

  • Feeling that you don’t have control doesn’t mean that being passive is your only option. Making small but active changes to your career in alignment with your values will help you to regain control. It might be helpful to set some SMART goals for yourself to achieve this. Again, you can do this in BobbyChat!

  • If it’s hard to find where you have your control, or you’re not sure where to start making changes, then to help you identify what things you can control, we’ve developed a brand new feature on BobbyChat for exactly that! The new Release and Focus feature talks you through an exercise designed to help you identify exactly what you can and cannot control, and to give you advice about the next steps to make change and to feel better. This exercise is one I have used myself and found very helpful!

The new feature is now available to use on BobbyChat. Here’s how it works:

1. Open up WhatsApp and say “Hi” to Bobby in the same way you start every conversation.

2. Select the “Release and Focus” chat feature.

3. Bobby will then lead you through an exercise called “The Sphere of Influence”, which will help you identify the things that are both outside and within your control, and what steps you need to take to make improvements.

We really hope that you enjoy using the new feature! If you have not connected with BobbyChat yet, then you can sign up for free using the button below. Bobby is available on demand and your conversations are confidential.

*not fake news! The team from the software company that we used to triage and manage our patients came to show us the national data.. they confirmed that we were the outlier nationally with by far and away the highest patient demand.

[1] Women in the Workplace report, McKinsey, 2022

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