Tag Archives: Burnout

Work-from-home-burnout

The real dangers of Work-From-Home burnout and how to properly tackle them

Work-from-home (WFH) burnout is a real, serious, and increasingly common risk for remote workers across the globe. Learn the signs of WFH burnout, how to combat it, and where employers/virtual managers and employees can reach out for help.

The world is grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to take a toll on nearly all aspects of people’s lives. The vast majority of the workforce across the globe has willy-nilly adapted to a new work environment — the new “normal” in the context of the pandemic. But working from home has also opened a Pandora’s box of workaholic tendencies, anxieties and fears, proneness to overworking and burnout, and potential mental health problems.

While the virus itself poses a risk to our physical health, the impact of the whole unnerving situation on our mental health is anything but negligible, and this is especially true for remote workers whose home has transformed into their office. Between working harder and longer hours from home and juggling family responsibilities, people who have been working remotely due to government-imposed restrictions are facing an increased risk of WFH/ lockdown burnout, with potentially long-term repercussions.

Work-from-home-burnout

Different Remote Workers in Different Industries, All Overworked and Burned Out

What used to exclusively be their own oasis of relaxation where they’d spent quality time with their loved ones and unwind has also become their work environment for several months now. In a recent BBC News video, three professionals working remotely in different industries share their WFH experiences in terms of feeling the signs of burnout and overworked during lockdown in the UK.

 

“When I used to work at the gym I’d finish my work at the gym and then get home and rest but this just feels like there’s no end”.

Ana, a young personal trainer living in the UK, has been intensely working from home since March. Stuck at home, she started posting more educational content and live streaming workouts on Instagram, which quickly increased the number of clients from different countries. To provide her services online to clients in different parts of the world, such as the US and Australia, she’s been working almost round the clock. “I’m constantly working”, confesses Ana. From 30 sessions per week, Ana now manages 50-60 sessions per week.

 

“Because I lost all the gig income, I had to really buckle down”.

For David Altweger, a middle-aged musician and owner of an independent record label, the pandemic has had a devasting impact on his gig income. Running a record label online requires a lot of hard work and longer hours, so it’s no wonder that David’s workload significantly increased. He starts his day at 5 a.m. with a strong coffee. David’s workday is around 16 hours, as he’s got to handle every aspect of his business himself, including design work, office work, and, with his distributor closed due to lockdown, even CD deliveries, which are quite time-consuming, taking him at least 2 hours a day.

“Sometimes I feel like Covid Father Christmas delivering music to people’s door”, confesses David. His Moka pot is his “secret weapon”, but at the end of the day, he feels “completely knackered”.

 

“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

Abbey, a young art director working remotely for an ad agency in the UK has been feeling the pressure to stay productive and has been experiencing the effects of overworking due to fear of losing her job too. “I’m doing ten times more because there’s so much uncertainty around jobs and everything”, laments Abbey, for whom “the need to keep working” at all costs is so strong and deeply embedded that she oftentimes refuses to tend to her physiological needs for food.

She finds it difficult to take a break just to have lunch because she “doesn’t know how to switch off”. A major contributor to her inability to switch off is the fact that work and relaxation take place in the same environment i.e her home. Separating the two is as difficult for Abbey as it is for other remote workers around the globe.

In America, where over 30 million people have filed unemployment claims since March, the pressure to stay productive and even be more productive than prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of overworked people working from their homes. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll , 45% of US adults say that this whole situation associated with the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

I find myself working all the time, even when I should be getting ready for bed”

41-year-old New Jersey resident and mother-of-two Alana Acosta-Lahullier is overworked and feels burned out to the bone. Alana says she feels “an obligation to get everything done right”, even if doing so is detrimental to her mental health and well-being. Between her full-time job, working remotely for an electrical contractor, parenting, and helping with the schooling of her daughter and son, who has ADHD on the autism spectrum, she’s “constantly on the verge of a panic attack”.

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

Even Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, MD, and associate professor of organisational behavior at the Business School for the World (INSEAD) admitted in late March that “by the time I went to bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted, edgy, and miserable” due to “panic-working” from home.

The obsession with staying productive at all costs is considered a “manic defense” by psychoanalysts. Panic-working gives us a false sense of security and the illusion of being in control. It numbs us in the short term but this defense comes at a high price – feeling disconnected from reality, our experiences, and other people, and completely burned out.

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

Remote workers are oftentimes pushing themselves too hard as a way of coping with their anxieties and fears caused by the pandemic and the recession. But overworking in an effort to stay productive does not serve them well; in fact, it’s akin to self-sabotage because it eventually leads to burnout, more anxiety, depression, and other repercussions on their mental and overall health.

Both employers/virtual managers and remote workers need to be aware of the increased risk of burnout associated with working from home, recognise the (early) signs, and effectively combat it as early as possible.

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

Transition to a work-from-home culture has been challenging for managers across the globe. Finding new ways to ensure that their remote teams stay productive is one of their main priorities. However, instead of worrying about their teams’ underperformance, virtual managers should be on the lookout for overperformance, which has been found to be productivity’s enemy rather than its ally.

According to a 2017 working paper published by researchers at Harvard Business School, task selection is a common way through which workers manage their increased workload. More specifically, they tend to complete easier tasks, a behavior labeled as Task Completion Bias (TCB). Although TCB has been found to improve short-term productivity, it negatively impacts long-term performance measured by revenue and speed alike. Workers who do not exhibit this behavior tend to be significantly more productive than those who exhibit TCB.

Research shows that the vast majority of remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. They work harder and longer hours than ever before for different reasons, including the fact that employers apply increasingly more pressure for efficiency purposes. for financial rewards, and out of fear. Remote workers fear for many things – they fear for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones; the economic fallout and uncertainty of the future; they fear for losing their livelihood/financial security and no longer being able to provide for themselves and their family, and more.

But the reality is that overworking makes a remote worker more prone to WFH burnout.

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

Work-from-home or lockdown burnout refers to a state of exhaustion on physical, emotional, and mental levels caused by prolonged and excessive stress associated with panic-working/overworking from home and disruption to the work-life balance.

Although burnout is still not classified as a medical disorder, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included it in ICD-11 last year as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as “a syndrome” that results from chronic and unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

What to watch out for:

  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion and apathy
  • Depression and/anxiety worsening over time
  • Constantly elevated stress levels and reduced energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained all the time
  • Inability to focus and forgetfulness/memory issues
  • Lack of motivation, feelings of negativism toward one’s job
  • Declining performance, avoiding work or inability to switch off
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
  • Irritability, anger, and sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia)
  • Dizziness and headaches/migraines
  • Loss of/reduced appetite and/or gastrointestinal issues

Early recognition of these signs via virtual channels such as chat apps and video calls is of the utmost importance. It’s worth noting that a worker who is affected by WFH/lockdown burnout does not necessarily have to exhibit all of the above signs, because it manifests differently in different people.

Burnout can also weaken a remote worker’s immune system, which in turn may increase the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

  • Establish clear boundaries that separate work from personal life to prevent work-life balance disruption
  • Set office hours and create a schedule designating work, free and family time to regain control
  • Avoid the tendency of being the perfect worker, which adds extra pressure
  • Take time off to unwind and discover a new hobby
  • Maintain social interactions/connections to avoid social isolation and detachment
  • Don’t suffer in silence -Talk to your team, virtual manager and reach out for help
  • If you are a manager or supervisor, make sure you can provide first aid for mental health incidents involving anxiety, stress and burnout.
  • As an organisation, provide workplace mental health training and resilience building skills training for your managers, supervisors and leaders.

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

It’s absolutely crucial for virtual managers to learn to recognise the telltale signs of work-from-home burnout as early as possible in order to minimize its long-term impact on remote workers’ mental well-being as well as to properly address it in a timely and efficient fashion. The Workplace Mental Health Institute ( WMHI) is here to help virtual managers across the globe with a suite of tailored, top-tier and results-driven telehealth training courses and services, counseling, and coaching sessions on mental health, well-being, and resilience of employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re an employee working from home and you’ve been feeling the effects of burnout and overworked during lockdown, it’s in your best interest to take some time off to decompress and to speak with a qualified therapist. In case your job offers free counseling sessions through an employee assistance program (EAP), then do yourself a huge favor and take full advantage of it for the sake of your mental health and well-being in these uncertain and difficult times.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Mental-Stigma-And-Stress-In-The-Workplace

Mental Stigma And Stress In The Workplace: Employers Need To Pay Attention To Workplace Stress Factors

Why employers should manage the mental health of the workplace

Employees undergoing mental distress affect most, if not all, organisations. This trend explains why people often take a day or two off work. To make matters worse, many individuals often experience anxiety when faced with the thought of confronting and discussing the subject because mental health continuous to be a taboo subject. Promoting mental health at work is beneficial to all parties involved including the supervisors because poor mental health will ultimately affect corporate productivity levels and, with it, the bottom line.

Mental-Stigma-and-Stress-in-the-workplace

Although companies are bound by law to protect the physical and psychological well-being of their employees, they often lack specific guidance as to how to go about improving and protecting employee health. Issues in the workplace that impact on the mental stability of an employee include:

  1. Stigma or any form of discrimination
  2. Professional burnout
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Bullying and abuse in the workplace

When the mental health of employees is secured in the workplace, it means that the employers care for their employees and that they are interested in promoting their wellbeing. One of the best ways to safeguard the mental health of employees is to eliminate or handle negligent and reckless behavior that may add to an employee’s stress level. Another way to promote the mental stability and safety of employees is by eliminating anything that induces chronic anxiety and excessive fear among employees.

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The process of safeguarding people’s mental health at work should be initiated by top executives. Employers must take active steps to improve their workplace culture as the culture is often a triggering factor for inducing stress among employees. Alternatively, companies can also create comprehensive strategies aimed at promoting mental wellness. Procedures should include initiatives and policies that promote psychological safety.

Employers are advised to consult their employees before developing strategies aimed at protecting their mental health. The end result of well-formulated policies is a progressive workplace where the employees are encouraged to empower themselves. Comprehensive strategies that are implemented properly will automatically improve productivity levels significantly. Other advantages of improving employee mental health at work (in addition please read our discussion paper – Silent Expectations) include:

  • Levels of creativity are improved, which also improves their level of engagement.
  • Encourages employee retention and low turnover.
  • Drastically improves employee satisfactions and morale.
  • Opens the lines of communication between subordinates and supervisors.
  • Improves the levels of recruitment for your organization.
  • Reduces the culture of absenteeism and promotes increased attendance.
  • Reduces workplace injuries
  • It cuts down the amount of grievances that come up at the workplace.

Too many employees suffer in silence due to poor mental health at work, and it is the responsibility of business leaders to take steps to improve the situation.

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self assessment to find out.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Dear-Stress

Learning to handle stress like a pro – techniques to avoid Professional Burnout

Last Tuesday we videoed a Mental Health Essentials Masterclass. One of the attendees asked, “How can we take care of ourselves when we seem to cop so many complaints within such a short time?”. She was concerned about being able to withstand the pressure. She was afraid of professional burnout.

Her concerns are well founded. No matter how much you enjoy your job, there are times when pressure or stress can start to take an emotional toll on you. It is important to be able to spot the symptoms associated with professional burnout.

Burnout occurs after a prolonged period of stress under which a person feels that their emotional resources are not good enough to endure or overcome the obstacle. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and a host of emotional and physical symptoms.

Let’s take a look at Jim, for example. Jim is a healthcare professional who is very committed to his job and genuinely cares for the patients he sees on a daily basis. His job is rewarding but he is also often witness to pain, confusion and sadness as his patients are often ill or dying.

Dear-Stress

Jim works long hours and often takes work home with him or comes in on days off just to check in. Over time the emotional strain begins to build up until eventually Jim starts to feel exhausted, unmotivated, and helpless. He starts to experience sleepless nights, jaw clenching, and elevated blood pressure. His family and friends worry that he “isn’t his usually happy self.”


You can read more on workplace stress….


Jim is experiencing burnout caused by prolonged stress that he did not take the time to deal with properly. There are two important actions Jim needs to take: a) review his work and look for improvements where possible, and b) make sure he obtains relief from the pressure on a regular basis. There are several self-care actions that you can put into place before letting burnout take hold. Self-care is the practice of activities that individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being. Jim was dedicated to his career and to his patients, but he neglected to take care of his own personal needs.

You can start by taking the first few minutes of each day and making them about you. Most people rise from their beds at the sound of an alarm clock and immediately start to “work.” They might get dressed, check e-mail, care for a spouse or child and rush out the door quickly. Instead, take the first ten or fifteen minutes of each day for meditation, or reflection. Spend time mentally preparing yourself for the day by focusing on positive thoughts.

Another way to practice self-care is to be mindful of your diet and exercise. Proper nourishment gives us energy and stamina to get through our day. Building a healthy body through wholesome foods and physical activity decreases the chance of sickness, improves sleep and makes us feel happier.

Limit the burdens you place on yourself. Do not take on more than you can reasonably do in a day and enlist the help of people that care about you when you feel overwhelmed. Do not stay connected to your technology all day long, occasionally take a break. It’s alright to be “unreachable” from time to time. Remember that by not focusing on your own needs and your own health you could be impacting your ability to do your job or take care of your loved ones. By practicing self-care you will become healthier, more positive and more focused than ever before.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
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Jim-Avoiding-Professional-Burnout

Avoiding Professional Burnout

No matter how much you enjoy your job, there are times when pressure or stress can start to take an emotional toll on you, particularly if you are in a service or healthcare related field. It is important to be able to spot the symptoms associated with professional burnout.

Burnout occurs after a prolonged period of stress under which a person feels that their emotional resources are not good enough to endure or overcome the obstacle. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and a host of emotional and physical symptoms.

Let’s take a look at Jim, for example. Jim is a healthcare professional who is very committed to his job and genuinely cares for the patients he sees on a daily basis. His job is rewarding but he is also often witness to pain, confusion and sadness as his patients are often ill or dying. Jim works long hours and often takes work home with him or comes in on days off just to check in.

Jim-Avoiding-Professional-Burnout

Over time the emotional strain begins to build up until eventually Jim starts to feel exhausted, unmotivated, and helpless. He starts to experience sleepless nights, jaw clenching, and elevated blood pressure. His family and friends worry that he “isn’t his usually happy self.”

Jim is experiencing burnout caused by prolonged stress that he did not take the time to deal with properly. There are several self-care actions that you can put into place before letting burnout take hold. Self-care is the practice of activities that individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being. Jim was dedicated to his career and to his patients, but he neglected to take care of his own personal needs.


You can also read:


Don't forget to subscribe to our monthly eMag - WorkLife

Expert insights and tips on how to build resilient and mentally healthy workplace cultures delivered straight to your inbox each month.

You can start by taking the first few minutes of each day and making them about you. Most people rise from their beds at the sound of an alarm clock and immediately start to “work.” They might get dressed, check e-mail, care for a spouse or child and rush out the door quickly. Instead, take the first ten or fifteen minutes of each day for meditation, or reflection. Spend time mentally preparing yourself for the day by focusing on positive thoughts.

Another way to practice self-care is to be mindful of your diet and exercise. Proper nourishment gives us energy and stamina to get through our day. Building a healthy body through wholesome foods and physical activity decreases the chance of sickness, improves sleep and makes us feel happier.

Limit the burdens you place on yourself. Do not take on more than you can reasonably do in a day and enlist the help of people that care about you when you feel overwhelmed. Do not stay connected to your technology all day long, occasionally take a break. It’s alright to be “unreachable” from time to time. Remember that by not focusing on your own needs and your own health you could be impacting your ability to do your job or take care of your loved ones. By practicing self-care you will become healthier, more positive and more focused than ever before. And obviously you can consider attending to our Mental Health First Aid training where you will learn the signs and symptoms of these mental health problems, where and how to get help, and what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Facebook-logo Podcast Icon LinkedIN-logo