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How to combat workplace burnout (and prevent it before it happens)

If you feel like you're struggling to balance everything, it's time to take a step back.
March 10, 2021 1:38 p.m. EST
March 10, 2021 1:38 p.m. EST

As we exhaustedly enter year two of the pandemic, we need to tackle our work-from-home dynamic from a different mindset. The past year was a shock to our systems as we had to change the way we do nearly everything in our lives. There were a lot of firsts and we were adjusting to a lot of changes- social, political, and climate.

This year ahead will continue to look much like last year. And as human beings, we can only control the controllable. And being unable to control so many parts of our lives unsurprisingly contributes to anxiety and depression. If we look at the stats, anxiety rates have quadrupled, depression has doubled, and alcohol abuse has gone up by atleast 25%. Healthy behaviours have gone down, so now is the time for people to take charge - especially in the workplace.

Where to start

Have vulnerability within your set of people. Find out how the members of your team are doing, how are they managing, and if they need additional support. Understand that there is a range of emotions people are working through - from worry to sadness and more. Brushing those feelings off, and ignoring the warning signs from people on your team will only make it worse. Have the courage and vulnerability to start and continue having difficult conversations in our work environment.

Major contributors to workplace burn out

  • Work-life balance has been hugely disrupted
  • Feeling disconnected from employees and leaders


Find work-life harmony: Balance is unlikely right now, but you can get clear delineations between work and home life. Doing things like not taking your laptop into bed, shutting the door when working, and creating a separate working space to whatever degree possible will help set some physical boundaries that are important. 

Setting rules and parameters around our device usage: The reality is that a lot of us have to get our hours in at work, and manage a lot more during that time as well. From home-schooling, to extra housework, to the needs of children or parents, and more - these are all added components to our day that used to be handled by a 'village' of sorts and now we have to manage on our own.

Try adding flow activities into your day: For example, singing, playing an instrument, painting or drawing, or playing with your pet. Look for activities that naturally ignite a sense of mindfulness and joy.

Increase virtual social connection: Right now people are very socially disconnected. We're all communicating through technology rather than in more casual, in-person situations in the office. We're losing out on the small talk and important moments for personal connection. Try creating new opportunities to make up for this - like a monthly social. If you have a monthly team meeting in place already, dedicate the first ten minutes to catching up, rather than diving right in. Or even better, turn the hour following the meeting into a social hour - whoever can stay, stays, and everyone has an opportunity to relax and chat. If your company uses instant messaging platforms like Slack, create channels with fun activities or places to share what makes people happy. It could be a new recipe they tried, or a playlist they made - a place to share and a place to feel part of a community.

Leadership support

Anyone who is a people leader must pause and check in with their team. One-on-one meetings are more important than ever. See how people are doing, how are they managing, and if they need additional support.

Reach out to single parents, and parents in general -  especially to employees who are having competing demands with elders and kids. Make sure that you are asking the questions and understanding the demands, and offering to have flexibility and support in the work environment. That could be shifting hours, reducing or re-scheduling meetings, allowing them to block off time when their kids are on ther virtual school lunch break, and so on. It won't be the same for everyone, so practicing agility and compassion will go a long way for everyone on the team.

Recognise your own needs

Finding time for yourself and incorporating self-care is so important for mental health. Recognise what brings joy to your life - It could be as simple as catching up on your sleep, and it could be finding time to be in nature each week. Find the things that feel restorative.

Be a bit more flexible, too. You don’t have to always a perfect three-course meal, and instead choose to catch up on your sleep. Be gentle to yourself and listen to your body. If you don't have the energy to cook, it's ok to order takeout. Physical activities or enjoyable activities help maintain that important balance. Find time for those however you can. If you're always taking care of other people, make sure you're dedicating time to take care of yourself too.


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