Stress gets to us all. Burnout is what follows…
The World Health Organization describes workplace burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” But can you still experience workplace burnout when you’re not even in the office?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. And with the current global situation forcing millions of workers to work from home, those numbers are on the rise. Half of workers are experiencing work-related burnout, according to a Monster.com survey in May, but 52% say they aren’t going to take time off to deal with it. And the Society for Human Resource Management conducted an extensive survey on workers’ mental health this spring; their findings included high rates of employees reporting lack of energy, exhaustion, and feeling emotionally drained. Interestingly, the younger the employees, the higher the burnout rates: Gen Z workers are experiencing burnout at twice the rate of Boomers, with Millennials and Gen X falling somewhere in between.
Even in normal circumstances, you pour a lot of time and energy into your job. But the extraordinary circumstances we’re living in right now make it even harder to handle the demands of work. Here are some of the symptoms of burnout and how to deal with them.
Stages of burnout
- Stage 1: Recognizing you’re stressed out and trying to make positive changes to manage the situation
- Stage 2: Feeling more irritable and cynical but still trying to find ways to mitigate your stressors
- Stage 3: Feeling more disconnected, depressed and less inclined to find solutions to your problems
- Stage 4: Full-blown burnout and dysfunction at work
Signs of burnout
You may already be at the burnout stage if you’re experiencing these feelings:
- You no longer feel productive or even competent at your job
- You’re skating by on the bare minimum of work you need to do
- You feel exhausted from the minute you open up your laptop each day
- You simply don’t like your job anymore
Some helpful tips
Burnout Cause: Your company is inflexible.
Your managers think you should be just as productive as you were when you in the office, and maybe even more so—hey, you’re saving two hours on commuting, right? They try to schedule meetings at odd hours—since everyone’s at home anyway—and expect you to be monitoring email on evenings and weekends.
Solution: Set boundaries.
You may be panic-working to prove you’re a top performer, especially if you are worried that there are layoffs on the horizon. But it is perfectly reasonable to tell colleagues that you’re closing up shop at 6pm and won’t be responding to emails unless there’s an emergency. Longer hours only decrease your productivity and increase your stress levels. You need time to clear your head, cook your dinner, watch some Netflix, and spend time with your family or friends (even if it’s virtually) so you can be rejuvenated for the next day.
Burnout Cause: Too many meetings and VC sessions.
Your schedule is suddenly packed with way more meetings than you ever had in the office. It’s your coworkers’ way of panic-working and compensating for lack of face-to-face time. But virtual meetings are far more stressful than in-person ones, according to UX researchers at Google. The timing is slightly off, making you lose the natural rhythm of the conversation; it’s harder to read facial cues; you’re missing some of the chit-chat and camaraderie that you’d normally experience; and it’s harder to speak up and get your ideas heard.
Solution: Take control of your meetings.
It’s completely fair to make the argument that a schedule loaded up with meetings is decreasing everyone’s actual productivity, not just yours. (In fact, your coworkers may quietly appreciate it.) Ask your teammates the ever-important question whether you’re in the office or not: Can this meeting be solved with an email? Set hard and fast stop and start times. And look for other ways to keep track of everyone’s progress, such as check-ins on Slack or productivity tools.
Burnout Cause: Life is just crazy right now.
Things may be surprisingly OK at work. Or maybe they’re not. Either way, you have never had more of a right to feel disengaged and burned out about having to work than now. Our lives have gone through dramatic changes overnight, so yeah, it might be hard to care about fixing that coding bug or filing that Jira ticket in the grand scheme of things these days.
Solution: Real, honest self-care.
Go for walks in your neighborhood or hop on the bike for some exercise on your lunch hour. (Be sure you’re taking a lunch hour!) Stick to a schedule to prevent your days from blurring together. Keep a healthy diet. Stay socially connected. Learn to power nap to increase your afternoon focus. And if you’re feeling really stuck, reach out to a mental health professional for a telehealth session—and remember that you’re not the only one feeling this way.