The Reality of Occupational Burnout and How to Overcome It
So the new reality for 58% of the American workforce has been the sharp transition to remote workspaces, for some this was a big adjustment (teachers adapting to distance learning) and for others it simply meant: same computer, different scenery. I thought my loudest challenge was how excruciatingly uncomfortable my desk chair turned out to be for a 1hr virtual meeting, but in actuality I encountered a bigger threat to my productivity: occupational burnout.
What is Occupational Burnout?
This buzz word “burnout” circling your social feeds is formally known as “occupational burnout” and has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress with symptoms of “energy depletion, exhaustion, increased mental distance, feelings of negativity and reduced professional efficacy.” Burnout is not a new concept, actually debuting in a 1974 psychology journal article by Herbert Freudenberger saying those burdened by work’s excessive demands unfortunately “look, act, and seem depressed.” Regardless of your role or rank, this affects us all.
Occupational Burnout During a Pandemic
Those symptoms listed are strictly job related, not fully addressing the current pandemic, economic or social distress we are experiencing in tandem. With my role in Social Media, I accept that my digital responsibilities often blur into my downtime- responding to comments and PM’s while I prep dinner is a weeknight norm.
Get Creative with Boundaries and Communication
The fact that my work “follows me home” (social never sleeps especially with global markets) setting up basic boundaries doesn’t affect my quality of work, just when I clock time and when I’m off the clock living my best life. While it’s important to filter out content by blocking, flagging or simply customizing your newsfeed settings, there are other tools that may help you navigate the road to burnout and consciously make a u-turn.
Our close-knit, collaborative agency used to love the open concept office. Now that we are currently honoring the 6 foot rule and have adopted a remote setup, we have embraced creative methods to factor back in the human factor with weekly video check-ins, encouraging texts, and LinkedIn kudos where credit is due.
Tips to Overcome Occupational Burnout:
- Optimize your Workspace: Your “homework” for today is to remember to invest in yourself (and that comfy chair). Retailers know the current situation and often host sales on stylish desks, ergonomic chairs and sleek storage solutions to bring #WFH to life. Make your home workspace work for you more vibrantly so you don’t feel out of sorts or get distracted by piles of old greeting cards or a cat who has conquered your keyboard for his next nap. If you craft an office away from the office, do it some justice.
- Unplug before Bed: Blue Light is evil…not really but it may do more harm than good. It’s sneaky with it’s stimulation, straining your eyes and biologically affects your ability to fall asleep (inhibits the hormonal release of melatonin). Don’t feel ashamed for putting down your devices at least 1 hour before you go to bed. To avoid temptation, charge your phone away from your bedside and engage in an internet free activity like reading a book, unpacking your thoughts in a journal or simply having a one on one convo with a friend or family member. Empower yourself to postpone your Pinterest or LinkedIn scrolling for the next day.
- Set a Schedule: Routine will be your savior here. I am a working mom (to be fair, all mothers are working moms) so I need to budget my time and energy efficiently to coordinate with daycare drop off, household demands etc. I make sure to stick to a predictable schedule that involves taking care of my son, me and my work. If you normally check email between the hours of 8 and 9am, let it be your golden hour to properly set the tone to the rest of your day. Obviously working from home comes with some flexibility but structure is your friend as well as your savior.
- Balance Versus Blend: A palatable sandwich of work/chore/fun should be on the menu to avoid burnout. I wholeheartedly reject the idea that you can blend work and life in a healthy way. Balancing your tasks in this case should function more like an energy barter system. If you expend 3 hours on posting and reputation management, make sure to recharge with 30 mins of mindless laundry folding or taking a well deserved lunch break. Multitasking can be counterproductive to burnout so avoid being “super mom”, at least until you find a more manageable balance, but if pretzels in hand while you customize an infographic is the norm, don’t mess with your flow. Also, creative energy is a hungry beast, so feed it with something non-work related like taking a walk, sketching or painting your toes (whatever muses speak to you).
- Time Out: Be bold and use up your vacation days and physically distance yourself from the demands of work. Whether you choose a staycation or a private rental house on a beach somewhere, treat yourself intentionally. What is all this work for if not to make your downtime more worthwhile?
We’re Here to Help – Contact Us
You’re also not in this alone. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to delegate, outsource and reach out for help. Whether it’s helping you decide what’s the next best step through a consultation, or relinquishing some of your burden to us, we’re here if you need us.