18 May 2022

How To Battle Workplace Burnout

Just this week I saw a screenshot of a participant in a leadership training program (not mine, haha) who was not only lying in bed during the program, but fast asleep with his camera on.

Just this week I saw a screenshot of a participant in a leadership training program (not mine, haha) who was not only lying in bed during the program, but fast asleep with his camera on. So, one of two things must be happening, I thought. Either this guy really didn’t care about his economic community, or he’s so burnt out digitally, that he’s entirely detached from reality. He’s a “Top Talent” in his organization, so I chose to believe the latter rather than the former. Perhaps you, like Mr. Snoozey-Pants, have become so digitally burnt out and jaded that you too are in danger of completely losing the plot, and showing up to a meeting wearing just a towel, or worse.

Routine: Humans love routine. Too much routine is boring, but too little is what leads us to become mentally overwhelmed. So even if your commute now consists of a meander from the bedroom to the dining table, you need to be going to sleep and getting up at regular times, eating at regular times, checking email and making calls at regular times, and taking breaks at regular times. Sticking to a routine will keep your brain and body happy in a stable pattern, and this will reduce your cognitive load, and improve your general state of mind.

Daily check-in: Humans need connection. That goes for you, and for your team. So make a point of checking in with your boss, teammates, and other key stakeholders each day. It doesn’t need to be a long talk, but a short chat will help to keep you and them all feeling more humanly connected. And remember, text is the lowest form of communication, so try using your phone as a phone instead and add some tone and cadence to your words. You and your team will appreciate a bit of voice to voice contact.

Breathe: Humans forget to breathe too often. You are living in the most incredible time in human history, and most of what you face in your life is manageable, and very little of it is a real threat to you or your wellbeing. I mean, how serious is it that you have a deadline to meet? Is anyone going to die? Not likely. I’m not saying you should miss your deadline, but I am saying that there’s a way to work quickly without all of the adrenaline and cortisol that your brain produces when you have a stress response. Remind yourself that whatever you are facing now is not a real threat, it likely won’t kill you no matter what happens, and ask that stressed out piece of your brain to take a step back, and breathe. Taking 5 deep breaths can significantly reduce stress hormone production and help to clear your thoughts.

Organize your Tasks: Many people use a notepad for this. I use Trello. Putting tasks on to-do lists serves 2 purposes. First, it reduces cognitive load by removing information from your pre-frontal cortex. Your brain knows you’ve recorded the information elsewhere, so it allows itself to let go of it for now. Second, when you check items off of your to-do list, your brain gives you a hit of dopamine, the most pleasurable chemical on the planet. One of the best mental highs you can get comes from a good steady pace of checking things off of your task list.

Curate your environment: Humans are biopsychosocial creatures. That means that our bodies, minds, and environments are all connected in our experience of the world. As tempting as it is to run your staff meeting from bed in your PJ’s with last night’s Cheetos bag still lying beside you and your camera off, make an effort to put your body into an environment conducive to your work. Put on nice clothes. Brush your hair. And sit down in an space that helps your brain to recognise that it’s time to focus on your economic community for a while. Having a specific chair in your house that you only use for work is a great start to bringing your mind, body, and environment into sync.

Remote working has become a common practice, and it looks like for many companies, it’s here to stay. Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet (Google) says that a good balance would be 3 days in the office and 2 working from home. I agree with him, but we haven’t taken the time to adapt slowly to all of this remote working, and humans are fundamentally both social creatures and resistant to change. This is leading many of us to experience some kind of digital burnout or another. We’re simultaneously increasingly isolated, chocking on the volume of Zoom meetings, and gasping for clearer communication on collaborative projects. In short, we haven’t adapted to all of this change yet, but making small adjustments to your daily behaviour can make a massive difference in your mental wellbeing.

Article by: Dr. Corrie Block
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