THE NEW NORMAL - Handling and Avoiding WFH Burnout
It seems like lately, more and more people are feeling burned out at work. Burnout, or the overwhelming feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, even affects those who typically enjoy their jobs.
With the economic pressures rising and endangering our social needs and the relaxation we all seek (but never seem to have time to find), it seems we’re all exhausted.
But being burnt out does not necessarily mean you need a new job.
Burnout means you need to slow down and take care of yourself so that you can not only love your job again, but be happier in your non-work time as well.
Here are 9 tips to try out for yourself.
1. Acknowledge that you are burnt out
You must first acknowledge that you have reached burnout. Some key indicators are mental and physical exhaustion induced by repeated pressures and stresses in your life. Psychology Today listed out the telltale signs of burnout as the following:
Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and focus
Loss of appetite
2. Talk to your boss
Don’t be afraid to talk with HR or your boss about your burnout. As mentioned, the burnout phenomenon is well known, and they are likely to sympathize with your plight and will work with you on a solution.
Before you head into the conversation, have a plan in place and already have a few options for what would help you most.
During your conversation, consider also emphasizing how much you enjoy working there, but suggest that you might benefit from some time off.
If they value you and if you approach the situation with respect and professionalism, they will want to work with you to try to find a solution to keep you happy at your job.
Also, stay networked. When we’re numb or stressed with the ever-changing demands of pandemic life, it can be easy to retreat or withdraw. But now is the time to stay connected. Both in your personal life and professionally, keep relationships alive through honest and regular communication, where you seek to listen as well as share. Making the effort to listen will not only give the other person a lift, but may also give you a fresh perspective on your own challenges. There’s always someone who’s got it tougher.
A sense of ongoing connection is especially important for younger workers, who are reporting the highest percentages of loneliness as a result of the pandemic. According to Glint’s research, 24–38-year-olds most desire employer-sponsored support for mental health and well-being, while those 54 years of age and older asked for it the least. “While all employees can benefit from employer-paid mental-health support, either through insurance or EAP, younger employees prefer affinity and connection in organizational settings,” says Black. “Practices like mental health days or well-being support groups aimed at educating and sharing stories of how and when to seek help can be particularly valuable with younger populations.”
3. Take some time off
One of the only ways to properly recover is to detach yourself from your work environment for a while. Taking a vacation could in fact be the thing that saves your career to bring you back to star mode.
People who take vacations are proven to have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life and more motivation to achieve goals upon returning to work. It isn’t just about work; overall well-being is improved and—get this—women who take vacations are reportedly more happy in their marriages than those who don’t take time off.
Whether you take a couple days off, a week off, or two weeks off, it is much-needed time so you can get back into your groove and regain the energy and enthusiasm that you once had for your job.
4. Love your job again
During your time off, you will find yourself immersed in precious moments of much-needed sleep, relaxation and recalibration. It is also a good time to discover ways you can avoid burnout when you return to the office.
Once you are on your time off, take time each day to reflect on reasons why you are grateful for your job. Trying to deliberately shift your thinking from negative thoughts to more positive ones can help improve your outlook.
If you need help getting started, remember why you took the job in the first place, and recall the enthusiasm and energy that you once had. While it certainly may be on the depletion-side now, it is not too late to regain it, especially if you can shift your focus to reasons why you are grateful for your job. If you are dead set on getting a new job, use this gratitude practice to notice what aspects of your current job you do enjoy, and be sure to bring those into your job hunt.
5. Know your limits
Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire way to get burnt out, and it is also the easiest way to get bitter toward your boss or your work generally. Ask yourself, Am I over-exerting myself at work? Get really honest and curious about where you’re saying “yes,” tipping yourself over the edge of your capacity.
6. Don’t be afraid to say no
Do you ever feel obligated to always say “yes,” just because you are afraid of saying no? Perhaps you are afraid of appearing as though you can’t do the job, or are afraid of appearing rude or unprofessional. Either way, there are major psychological benefits to saying no when necessary.
Admittedly, it is difficult to say no, especially if saying it to a boss or co-worker. But it is even more difficult to say yes and then be unable to do the job to the best of your ability, or compromise your health and well-being in the meantime, which leads to burnout.
7. Organize your desk
This may seem counterintuitive because it seems like an extra work-related task but, in the long run, it will actually help you work more productively and with less stress.
During your time off, try to devote an hour to organizing your desk and your papers. If you work in an office, pick a day where you can stay for an extra hour to organize your space. An organized desk has been shown to increase productivity, and feelings of productivity generally reduce the feeling of burnout.
8. Throughout your work day, take time to unwind
While you are working, whether from home, in an office or in a restaurant, be sure to take frequent breaks throughout the day and slow down a little bit when you feel the need. A recent study has shown that taking breaks throughout the day can increase your mental well-being, as well as your productivity. Furthermore, one Harvard study found that, if you face a mental or creative blockage, taking a small walk can reignite your mind. What a great excuse to take a stroll.
Your body has a wisdom of its own, so listen to it. And use your breaks wisely. No need to scroll through your phone. You do enough of that already (and even that can be stressful). Break time is when you stretch, read a chapter of an inspiring book, take a small walk, drink water, have a snack, pop open the Insight Timer app for a meditation, close your eyes for a few minutes or create a little combination of these.
Feed yourself on healthy content. ‘You are what you eat’—and this holds true for more than just what we put in our bodies. What you feed your mind with will determine what your mind puts out. If you’re overwhelmed with negative thoughts, trace them back to the content you’re consuming. It might be time to make some changes, like switching up some of your social media or news sites for something more positive.
At the end of each work day (you decide when the work day ends) take time to document your response to these three questions:
What did I accomplish?
What did I learn?
What am I grateful for?
Don’t overthink it. It’s not a test. There are no wrong answers. And don’t think your responses need to be life changing. Here’s an example:
Accomplished: I led the first meeting of the virtual keynote speakers group I put together.
Learned: I learned a new way to create animated gifs that allows me to make my presentations more fun and dynamic.
Grateful for: My colleague. She always offers a different perspective, which makes me think and makes our products infinitely better.
What you’re grateful for does not have to be another person. You could be grateful for how patient you are or for the fact that Amazon gets your packages to you in two days. When your gratitude is directed at someone, take the extra step to reach out and share that gratitude openly. This will add an extra feel-good moment for the recipient, and for you too!
In addition to enjoying an activity that helps you close the day, when you make this a daily habit, you can gain an additional new benefit. At the end of two or three months of doing this daily punctuation, review your responses to look for themes. Clearly, every day, you accomplish a lot, learn a lot and appreciate a lot. But by writing just one response each day, you’re making a choice. When you look back on the collective responses to each of the three questions, you’ll start to see some trends. They provide insights that will be helpful to you in making career decisions. Collectively, you’ll also see how much progress you are making. You can switch from groaning about your never ending do-list to acknowledging yourself for the things on your done-list.
9. Don’t work during playtime
These days, it is very easy for work to follow us outside of work. You perhaps can hear your email notifications going off while eating out for dinner or receive a work call while you are relaxing at the beach.
The truth is, while there are perks to being easily connected, there can be some serious downsides to the increased difficulty of creating clear boundaries between your work and personal life.
One study found that being unable to detach yourself from work during non-work time increases chance for burnout and stress, so be wise and mindful and make healthy choices.
Don’t think about work when you are not working. Much like you set limits and boundaries with coworkers and managers, you can say “no” to yourself, too.
So preferring to stay in bed and read a good book is not an indicator that you need a new job; it is an indicator that you need to slow down, relax and respect your boundaries more, so that you can give your best self to your work, your family and yourself.