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Coping with Work Burnouts in Lockdown

From wearing pyjamas while making business calls to having your loving pet sit on your lap during meetings, working from home has proven to have its perks. However, there is a phenomenon happening that has been rarely talked about which is called ‘the burnout’. Being burnt out has been happening to everyone for years, however, due to COVID-19 keeping us isolated in our homes, it is happening now more than ever, and researchers have found that it is actually occurring in women more than men. A report found that women are 43% more likely to have increased their hours beyond a standard working week than men, and 86% of women who are doing a standard week of work on top of childcare.

From online school to working from home, there are numerous people expressing their mental health decline since the beginning of lockdown. All over social media people complained about not seeing their friends, family and significant others, most just taking a stroll outside for a few minutes to find some peace and fresh air. An article by Vogue interviewed a teacher who expressed that her workday starts at 6:30 am and ends at 6 pm to help the transition of kids going online. Explaining the perpetual cycle of stress and anxiety, Dr. Schaffner, even mentions that from working at home causes people to ‘work more and harder… self-policing in a way that is much stricter than any external management expectations would be.’ 

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But what exactly is a burnout? Before the lockdown, we were living in a world of ‘workism’, a term mentioned in the Evening Standard, which suggested that our jobs were now where we looked to for meaning. We were already heading down the path of a large upscale on burnouts, the lockdown just happened to be what pushed us over. According to the World Health Organization, a burnout is a specific syndrome occurring from ‘a chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. 

Burnouts happen mainly because of the high demands a job has but does not provide the proper tools for the employees to succeed, therefore the employees are often left working harder to achieve the demands for the company. With a new change from the office to home, while also relearning how to communicate through video calls, it would make sense that burnouts are happening more now.

The main cause for women to burnout is the different working conditions that genders face such as unequal treatment. Research also says that women tend to get less credit for their ideas than men, so the unfair treatment tends to hasten the process of burning out. The UK is known to work the longest hours in Europe, however,  an Independent article has shown that women bear the ‘brunt of childcare responsibilities, household chores and homeschooling during lockdown.’ Another study focuses on millennials and their reason for burnouts which consist of longer working hours, inability to separate work and personal life, and an uncertain job market. 

Here are a few signs of a burnout 

Exhaustion: You are feeling both physically and mentally tired but are also unable to sleep through the night, or don’t have a proper sleep schedule. You have no energy all day. This exhaustion also appears from a state of depression and constant worry that happens during burnouts.

Lack of motivation: You’re losing interest for the job and are not contributing where you once were. It’s harder to start your day in the morning and harder to accomplish tasks like you used to. You also are starting to slip on the performance of your work. 

Negative emotions: You tend to be more cynical and detached than usual, more pessimistic and frustrated. You think that everything you’re doing doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Cognitive problems: With chronic stress comes with having trouble paying attention or concentrating on tasks. Your focus narrows, which usually helps in situations to get problems solved, but only for short term. Chronic stress creates this narrow focus for a longer period which impairs your ability to focus on other things. 

Not taking care of yourself: Some people get in a coping strategy of drinking more, eating unhealthy and not exercising like they used to.

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Here are some ways we can combat it

Take care of yourself: the first step is taking care of your mental health and relaxing. 

Set a schedule: holding yourself to a schedule will help you get a grip on work while also taking care of yourself with proper breaks, when to start work and when to get off, as well as a decent sleep schedule to keep yourself from exhaustion

Place boundaries: it’s always hard to know when enough should be enough, especially if you want to do a great job at work and show your coworkers and superior that you can handle working but saying yes too often can lead to a faster burnout. Saying no will help you save time for yourself and make sure you aren’t spending too many hours on overtime.

Get healthy: make sure you eat nutritious foods that can make you feel energised and prepared for the work day, as well as scheduling some time to stretch, take a stroll or do some yoga throughout the day or evening to keep your body active.

Reflect your environment: burnouts happen because of the job demanding a certain amount of work but with lack of available resources or proper treatment to employees. In order to produce your best work, you must be in the right environment for work with the proper tools and the desire to do so. 

So, while the world is still on lockdown, there is no reason why we can’t enjoy the safety of our homes, the comfort of our loved ones, while still staying mentally healthy and involved in our jobs. Taking care of yourself should always be put first, especially if this career is not bringing you enough joy. Always seek help if you are having mental health difficulties and set time away from some relaxation!  

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