Avoiding burnout whilst working from home, during and after the Covid 19 pandemic
To be “burnt out” is a phrasal verb that we tend to abuse when making use of the English language. Due to the hustle and bustle of a daily grind, we tend to experience stress and exhaustion. However, the majority of workers who use the term “burnout” (generally humorously) haven’t become accustomed with what Organizational psychologists currently define burnout as. Burnout is the end state of a prolonged state of chronic stress, and this can manifest in the form of three different behaviors — those being, emotional exhaustion, a cynical perspective, and depersonalization.
Surprisingly enough, burnout tends to occur more frequently when working from home, due to the lack of “home” and “workplace” division mentality. According to a recent survey carried out by Gallup, where 7500 employees participated, 23% participants said that they have experienced burnout, and 44% reported “feeling” burnt out.
We plan to share with you our three top tips for the prevention of the three burnout characteristics whilst working from home!
Self-promotion of work engagement
The opposite of burnout is a term coined “work engagement”. According to organizational psychologist Shaufeli in 2002, employees who experience a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind tend to show vigorous energy and healthy absorption.
Sounds divine, right? Promotion of positive work engagement is my first tip for decreasing the risk of burnout, and you can do this is by generating your own positive feedback. As humans, it is within our nature to look to external sources for positive validation — in the case of employment, we seek the advice and reward of bosses, clients, and colleagues.
However, by writing down our own positive feedback after a long work shift, or by engaging in verbal feedback and positive self-talk after an energetic client call, we improve our internal validation and decrease our need for external validation. This lessens the risk of emotional exhaustion, as we are actively congratulating ourselves rather than waiting for someone else to do it.
Actively monitoring our self-talk also reduces exhaustion, by changing words such as “have” or “should” to “want” or “will”. Wanting to jump on the virtual meeting sounds much more positive than having to join. We would recommend keeping a written work log and jotting down a few small achievements each day as a way to congratulate yourself and sustain your positive work engagement. It may sound ridiculous, but clinical psychologists regard it beneficial! Mayo Clinic expertise currently advise that positive self-talk can reduce the risk of burnout, increase life span, and reduce the risk of developing depression.
Balancing demands and resources
Oh, cynicism. Sigh. Our cynical perspective as humans is a valued protector, yet a destructive force. Having a distrustful view of your organization is the ultimate enemy when working from home — and can ultimately lead to burnout. Usually, cynicism has roots in having too many demands within your work. Having “too much” to do, physically and mentally, can result in a pessimistic work attitude and destroy your identity as an employee. My tip for reducing cynicism within the at-home work environment is by actively seeking resources that you can turn to for help, if needed, per each demand you have within your job. Psychologist Demerouti et al in 2001 theorized that if we have too many demands within our job and too little resources, we will burn out — and I could not agree more.
Common resources per demands include feedback, mentoring or training, social support, and autonomy or freedom. While working from home, research what your company has to offer in terms of these support systems. Reach out to your boss and/or managers for feedback. These resources can also involve personal safe spaces as well as professional. Going back to the emphasis I put on internal validation, engaging in optimistic self-talk and actively working on your personal life/relationships can also reduce cynicism towards your external.
Actively recover from work
We all have the one irritating colleague that, quote on quote, “has it together”. Switches off the laptop by five, engages in meditation till six, and yoga after the gym before being in bed by 11 on the dot. As irritable as they may be (you should probably address that envy, by the way), they may be on to something. The third and final component of burnout is depersonalisation, which is a process whereby we remove the identity from a human and just view them as that — a person. Suddenly, the client is no longer a mother with three kids and a nice smile and a terminal illness, they are just the client. Depersonalisation is emotionally draining and terrible to experience. It can go as far as turning us into an empathy — lacking monster, and nobody wants that.
Depersonalisation usually results from work fatigue, which is a state of being extremely tired. A survey report in 2018 of the US labour force by the NSC showed that more than 69% of workers feel fatigued at work, due to lack of work recovery or rest. According to psychologist Sonnentag et al, the main way to recover from fatigue is by engaging in one or several ‘recovery experiences’ at least once a day. Our brain capacity can only stretch by so far in a day, so in order for these recovery experiences to be effective in preventing burnout, you must engage in them every day — not just on holidays. Recovery experiences include psychological detachment from work, relaxation in order to experience serenity, and accomplishing mastery experiences.
It is clear to see that burnout is a prevalent problem when working from home — so why not take action to prevent it today? At Workee, having your work materials and contacts in one location can easily prevent future work stress and emotional exhaustion. Our platform has been created to provide you with positively convenient work engagement. Check out our website to find out more.