Burnout Is On The Rise: Here’s How To Avoid It

From finding therapeutic relief through hobbies outside of work, to getting a full night’s sleep, here are some strategies workers can use to avoid burnout.
  • New research reveals that three-quarters of workers have experienced burnout at work, with 40% specifically during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Worse, only 21% of employees felt they were able to have “open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout.”
  • The survey shows what type of help employees would like to receive through the workplace, and what workers can do to avoid burnout.

A recent survey from FlexJobs and Mental Health America has found that three-quarters of workers have experienced burnout at work, and 40% of them say they’ve experienced burnout specifically during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Considering that as many as 37% of employees reported working longer hours since the pandemic started, the rise in burnout isn’t too surprising. 

Add to the longer hours the stress and anxiety that many are currently facing for a variety of reasons: fear of losing their jobs, uncertainty because of the pandemic, increased workload as many companies have laid off employees, the struggle of physical distancing, and getting used to working from home, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for burnout. 

The Problem Isn’t Just Burnout…

While burnout is a big problem in and out of itself, it’s not the only problem. More worrying is the fact that only 21% of employees stated that they were able to have “open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout.”

This means that almost 80% of employees are not getting the support they need from their employers to cope with burnout and work-related stress. 

This is particularly alarming considering that workers’ mental health has significantly declined since the onset of the pandemic. According to the survey report, “prior to the pandemic, just 5% of employed workers and 7% of unemployed workers said their mental health was poor or very poor. Now, 18% of employed and 27% of unemployed workers say they are struggling with mental health issues.”

In times when organizations should be lending support to employees, the reality is far from the ideal. The survey found that 56% of employees would go so far as to say that their HR departments did not encourage conversations about burnout. 

Why This Needs to Change, Now

“Mental health as a whole is suffering since the start of the pandemic, but stress is of particular concern to workers. Of employed workers, 42% say their stress levels are currently high or very high, while 47% of those who are unemployed report high stress levels.”

Top employee stressors include:

  • Personal finances
  • Current events
  • COVID-19
  • Concern over family’s health
  • Economy
  • Job responsibilities. 

Why should this matter to employers? 

Simple. Because mental health and work are intertwined.

“For better or for worse, the work environment has a direct impact on mental and emotional health. More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents agree that workplace stress affects their mental health, leading to depression or anxiety, and 17% strongly agree.”

Moreover, if organizations want their employees to perform their best and reach their full potential, they need to make sure that they are supporting them in the ways they need it the most. 

Currently, that means providing mental health support. 

How Organizations Can Support Mental Health

According to the survey, the top ways employers can support mental health of their employees include:

  • Allowing for flexibility in the workday
  • Encouraging time off and offering mental health days 
  • Increase PTO
  • Access to better health insurance. 

Survey respondents also reported that they would be interested in participating in virtual mental health solutions if these are offered through their workplace:

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  • Meditation sessions (45%)
  • Healthy eating classes (38%)
  • Virtual workout classes (37%)
  • Desktop yoga (32%)
  • Webinars about mental health topics (31%). 

Warning Signs that You May be Suffering from Burnout

  • A change in attitude to the negative
  • Not feeling motivated
  • Dreading going into work
  • Having little interest in your work
  • Being easily irritated by colleagues and minor issues
  • Thinking your efforts don’t really make a difference
  • Emotionally disconnecting from your work and/or colleagues
  • Wanting to quit or change roles. 

What Workers Can Do to Avoid Burnout

Below are some strategies that can help you prevent burnout. 

1. Exercise

Exercise has been proven to be great for our physical health, but also our emotional and mental health. 

You don’t need to spend hours at the gym or have an intense workout in order to reap the benefits of exercise. Sometimes something as simple as a walk or a few stretching exercises can do the trick. What’s important is that you find some activity that you enjoy and that you stick with it. 

2. Set boundaries

It can be hard to set boundaries when you’re working from home, especially today as experts continue to advise that people physically distance themselves. 

But setting boundaries is key in order to prevent burnout. Otherwise you will find yourself working lingerie hours and having a harder time unplugging from work. 

Some ways to create boundaries include:

  • Having a dedicated workspace within your home
  • Turning off work notifications on your phone after a specific time
  • Taking the time to eat away from your desk
  • Establish a routine

3. Clock in more Zzz’s

Studies have found that there is a direct link between stress and lack of sleep. Not only does stress make it harder for people to sleep, but lack of sleep can worsen stress. It’s quite the vicious circle. 

To prevent burnout, you need to make sure that you’re getting some quality shut eye every night. Below are some tips that can help you get a better night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
  • Have a relaxing bedtime ritual 
  • Avoid screen time for at least one hour before you head to bed
  • Consider using white noise

4. Reach Out to People Close to You 

Considering how many people are struggling with physical distancing and how many are increasingly feeling lonely, reaching out to those close to you should be part of your weekly routine. 

Sometimes the best therapy we can get is talking to those close to us; even if you don’t talk about what’s stressing or bothering you, simply having a friendly voice and a nice conversation can go a long way in boosting our mood. 

5. Engage in Activities Outside of Work 

When working from home, it can be really hard to turn off our work mindset. This is why it’s important that you find and engage with activities that you enjoy outside of your work. 

Whether you enjoy cooking, reading, coloring, cleaning, organizing, ceramics, etc., the goal is for you to immerse yourself in an activity that you fully enjoy and that provides some therapeutic relief.

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