With lots of us working harder than ever before, even though our office set-up may have changed, the term ‘burnout’ is being used a lot more. But what does this mean and what can you do to stay work-fit?
What Does Burnout Look Like?
Burnout usually occurs after an extended period of intense emotional, physical and/or mental stress. It is often work related, but your personal life can also contribute or even be the primary cause of burnout. If you feel emotionally and physically exhausted, extremely unproductive and unable to focus, you are probably experiencing burnout. Another signifier is if you are getting sick more often than usual and are feeling particularly negative about your work.
10 Tips to Combat Burnout
So what can you do to keep burnout out at bay or send it packing?
1. Have a Designated Work Space
Do your best to find a sufficient work space that is separate from other areas of your home. This space should be ergonomically sound and stocked with everything you need to complete your tasks. It is best to work in an area outside of your bedroom or living room, as these are places where you would typically relax. If you get used to working from your bed or couch, you will find it harder to wind down in these spaces at the end of the day.
When working in an office, make sure you can sit comfortably and focus. This may mean talking to your employer about things like swapping out furniture but the increase in productivity and employee satisfaction is well worth it.
2. Stick to Regular Hours
When we work from home, it can be tempting to start late or take longer breaks. The trouble with this is that we often end up working later into the day to get everything done. Alternatively, you may find when you’re in the office, you want to stick around until you get everything done, even if it means overtime. But, this isn’t the best way forward. Try to stick to your regular hours and schedule specific times for your breaks. Don’t allow yourself to work beyond closing time. If you take a day off, make sure to switch up your routine so that it feels like a real break from work. These techniques will help you maintain a decent work–life balance, particularly if you work from home.
3. Turn Off Your Web Camera Preview
Watching ourselves constantly on our web camera can actually make us feel fatigued and increase the likelihood of burnout. This practice can also increase negative feelings about ourselves, as we are generally not used to seeing our faces so consistently throughout the day. If possible, talk to your employer about having audio-only meetings.
4. Work On Your Self-Care
While work is important, you should be prioritising your mental and physical wellbeing too. Make sure that your daily schedule includes time to do something you enjoy. You should also be getting enough sleep and regularly practising mindfulness to keep yourself happy and healthy.
5. Bookend Your Workday to Mimic a Commute
Lots of people use working from home as an opportunity to wake up 5 minutes before they need to clock on. This might sound ideal, but, realistically, this technique doesn’t sufficiently prepare you for the day. Instead, try to start and end your day with something to mimic your usual commute. Take some time to do household chores or take a walk while listening to your favourite podcast. This will help you make that mental transition from home to work and back again.
And even if you aren’t working from home, take advantage of that transitional period in your commute. This is a time for you to prepare for the day or wind down as needed. It may even become something you look forward to!
6. Set Achievable Goals
Setting goals for yourself can provide incentive to stay on task and get everything done in a timely manner. You can break big jobs into smaller, more achievable tasks so that you can feel consistently productive throughout the day. You can even create a reward system to keep yourself motivated. This could be something as simple as getting to enjoy a favourite snack after a regular meeting, or something larger like ‘saving up’ for a big purchase.
7. Take a Walk
Walking is a great way to clear your mind and force yourself to be in the moment. Spending time outside away from screens is effective in relieving stress, and exercise is always good for your physical and mental health. You may like to schedule a walk as your ‘commute’ time if you work from home, or you may like to try incorporating walking into your commute.
8. Have Someone to Keep You Accountable
If you have a friend or coworker who is also having difficulties working from home or in the office, find a way to support each other. You can keep track of each other’s schedules, set similar goals or simply check in from time to time. This will help keep you accountable and serve as a reminder that you’re not alone in your struggle. If you continue to have difficulties, it may suggest a larger problem in your workplace or workload. Don’t be afraid to speak to your employer about issues you are having and potential solutions.
9. Plan Time to Eat
On particularly busy days, it can feel necessary to eat at your desk or order takeout. While this is okay occasionally, it is best if you give yourself time to eat a satisfying, nutritional meal away from your work space. Make sure you eat regular meals throughout the day to keep yourself energised and on task. Cooking can also be therapeutic and a great way to clear your head. Even taking time out to visit a local cafe for a coffee or just the staff break room for a change of scenery can help.
10. Be Realistic
Burnout can sometimes make us feel lazy or insufficient at our jobs. It’s important to remember that many people struggle with the same issues, whether they work from home or the office. Be realistic with your goals and understand that you can’t be perfect all the time. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, not reasons to quit.
There’s Light at the End of the Tunnel
It takes dedication, discipline and patience to move past burnout. It’s not easy, but if you’re kind to yourself, you’ll get there. Good luck!