We’ve all experienced the challenges surrounding workplace burnout. These feelings of exhaustion can creep up on us and affect us before we realize what’s happening. For many, simply pushing through these feelings is the first instinctual move. Doing this for a short period allows us to remain productive by feeding off momentum. Unfortunately, our bodies are not machines and are not meant to be worked endlessly, despite how far we want to push ourselves, especially when advancing our careers.
Research has shown a close relation between burnout and a decline in workplace productivity. This often leads to additional issues such as missing work, having a lack of focus and motivation, and even a desire to quit the workplace.
So, how do we combat this? As much as we may want to continue working, it’s perfectly healthy and responsible to take some time to rest, recharge, and reassess your current work-life balance. Here are a few helpful tips for treating your burnout and returning to work in a rested and mindful way.
Acknowledge the Burnout
One of the first steps toward returning to work after experiencing burnout is identifying and acknowledging the key factors that caused the burnout in the first place. Some symptoms of job burnout include a lack of energy, trouble starting work-related tasks, or a more negative or cynical attitude towards the workplace. Outside of these work-related symptoms, there are health-related ones too. Many sufferers experience persistent headaches, digestive issues, and other physical ailments. There tends to be a lack of concentration among those with burnout as well as increased irritability and poor eating and sleeping habits. These warning signs can help you determine the proper steps toward a healthy reentry.
Overlooking or even denying any of your burnout symptoms could prolong these side effects and push you to your breaking point. Take some time to reflect on your work habits. Are you working overtime consistently, even when it isn’t essential? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with tasks to the point that actionable items are continuously overlooked? Jot down a list of your daily pitfalls and target how you can address them. By writing your daily challenges down on paper, it becomes easier for you to create a plan of action for your return to work.
Like any situation in which we tell ourselves that we are doing fine, the first major step to recovery is acceptance. Once you’ve determined how you are feeling and what triggers have caused you to feel exhausted and even depressed then you can seek the help you need. Take some time to distance yourself from your work and any job-related thoughts.
Create a Plan for Your First Week Back
Now that you have recognized your burnout and the triggers that have caused it to begin with, it’s time to create a maintainable and realistic plan of attack for your first week back.
Take a look at your work schedule. Make sure you’re allowing enough time for yourself before and after work. Factor in your allotted break time, when you need to do personal errands, and how long it takes to commute to your on-site workplace. If you’re one of the many Americans still working from home, you may not need to worry about an on-site commute, but that doesn’t mean that time management is any less important. You’ll still need to account for time spent walking the dog, taking meal breaks, and tending to or contending with your loved ones who may still be home with you.
By breaking down your week and adhering to a planned schedule you’ll be able to limit the amount of burnout you experience. Once you’ve decided on a schedule, share it with your supervisor and your loved ones. Not only will they help you maintain your new plan, but you can also share some of the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Make sure you communicate with your loved ones to eliminate some of your stress of the week.
Knowing what your responsibilities are for the week (both at work and home) will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. Additionally, you can take some time the day before you start back at work and prepare your meals for the week. Not only will this be one less thing you have to worry about during your busy workday, but it helps develop a consistent routine. Just another step toward eliminating those stressors before they evolve into an eventual burnout.
Take Breaks from Technology
Always being plugged into our digital media devices is decidedly not good for us. There are plenty of good reasons to take a break from screens. As you begin breaking the habit of being glued to your smartphone or laptop 24/7, you’ll find yourself free to harbor stronger personal connections with your coworkers. Another advantage to less time spent on your devices is a renewed sense of present-moment awareness. A key factor to the success of any employee is their ability to effectively implement feedback in their work. Without being present and in the moment, there is a great chance of miscommunication or disconnection.
Remember that schedule you just created for your week? Be sure to set aside social media breaks throughout your week to recenter yourself. Communicate with your team that you will have a designated time where you need “radio silence” to properly stay on task. Keeping your supervisor and coworkers in the loop will help everyone stay on target without compromising results.
Taking tech breaks in and out of work helps all aspects of your life. According to this study, nighttime exposure to blue light-emitting devices can impede circadian rhythm and incur negative effects on your sleep. If your workplace burnout is impacting your sleep cycle, avoid using anything that could increase your eye strain right before bed. Instead of checking Facebook before falling asleep, sit up with a good book. If you use an eReader for your books, just make sure your device does not contain any blue light as that could be one of the key triggers causing your burnout. Make sure you are well rested before you start back to work.
Prioritize Your Health
Even if you feel like you are getting a great night’s sleep, there is the possibility that other aspects of your health are contributing to your burnout. Life’s moments were not meant to be filled so tightly that we can hardly breathe. No matter how crucial your workload is, spend some time investing in yourself. Pick up a new hobby or dust off an old one. Take a morning walk, meditate or practice tai chi before and after your workday. By refocusing your mind you can clear some of the brain clutter that could be fueling your burnout.
Mental health practices will help you feel more at ease and relaxed which can only help you better focus on the responsibilities of daily life. It doesn’t matter how you practice your self-care habits, only that you have something that can support you. Many working professionals will take some time for a vacation, a day at the golf course, or time at home with family and friends. Others seek out more professional help from a licensed therapist, a wellness trainer, or their family physician. Just like accepting that you are suffering from burnout, seeking an outlet for help is essential to defeating your fatigue.
Remember, it is perfectly normal and responsible to take some time for self-care. Make sure you communicate to your supervisor what time you’ll need to recover. Create a guide for yourself on how you’d like to schedule your time once you return. Instead of continuing to work extended hours, clock out when the workday is done and leave the stress of the day at your workplace. Unless it’s an emergency, you will find a comforting release in putting off tasks to the next day. This will alleviate the mental strain and mental tension you’ve been experiencing. All in all, by establishing a manageable schedule, prioritizing mental wellness, and unplugging from technology for break periods, you’ll be well on your way to returning to work in a more healthy and sustainable method.