According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” that can be seen across the global economy. But what is it, exactly?
Well, research shows that burnout is the result of chronic workplace stress and anxiety that has not been managed properly. The WHO1 notes that while burnout is not a medical condition, it can be identified by the following:
- Consistent low energy or exhaustion
- An increase of negative emotions towards one’s occupation
- Reduced productivity in the workplace
What’s the driving force behind everyone’s excessive exhaustion? Studies show that the secret to successfully preventing fatigue lies in the development of a healthy work-life balance. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this list of 10 tips to prevent occupational burnout AND we’ve included an icon set for FREE.
At Work: 5 Tips to be productive but not overwhelmed
Blurring the boundaries between work and home life is a slippery slope to burnout.
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- Set realistic goals that align with your working style. If you want to feel more accomplished at the end of the workday, take time to figure out when you are most productive. Be realistic and honest with your self-evaluation. Are you bursting with energy and ideas early in the morning? Or does the idea of opening a spreadsheet at 8AM make you want to scream? When possible, use your preferred time of day to work on high-priority tasks or schedule brainstorming sessions with your colleagues.
- Organize tasks by levels of urgency to prioritize your time. If you often feel rushed to complete projects at work, you need to restructure your to-do list. You may have 80 tasks to conquer this quarter and dozens of deadlines coming up; but there are ways to manage it all. Consider organizing your responsibilities into the following categories:
- Time sensitive and high priority
- Time sensitive but low priority
- Important but not time sensitive
- Neither important nor time sensitive
- Be strict with yourself about work hours. Everyone works late from time to time. However, this behavior should not become a habit2. If your job has set work hours for you, fantastic! Advocate for your wellbeing by sticking to your schedule and communicate with your manager if you’re being burdened with too much responsibility. On the other hand, if you manage your own schedule, work from home, or your company offers flexibility; learn when it’s time to call it quits.
- Take several small breaks to quickly recharge throughout the day. It may sound counterintuitive, but taking a break is highly beneficial. Don’t believe us? Studies3 have shown that taking breaks in small bursts throughout the day or at lunchtime, can help reduce stress and decrease the risk of fatigue.
- Use allotted time for vacations, bereavement, maternity or parental leave. Let’s face it, balancing work and life can be complicated, especially when unexpected events arise. Are you feeling overstressed? Has your family expanded or experienced a loss? Talk to your employer about taking time off.
At Home: 5 Tips to detach from work and learn to relax
Failure to find a good work-life balance can lead to a lack of a social life and loss of time with loved ones.
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- Mentally detach from work. How can you relax at home if you never really leave the office? While careers are important and work makes up a considerable part of your week; it is only one aspect of life. Focusing too much on work, after you’ve already clocked out, will create an imbalance. Instead of complaining about what was said on a conference call or obsessing over the details of your workday; try to take your mind off of work when you’re at home.
- Make time for your passion projects. One way to manage work-related stress is to develop hobbies outside of your career. When was the last time you dusted off a passion project or learned something new? Don’t let your personal life fall by the wayside because of work – schedule time for yourself! As former First Lady Michelle Obama4 once said, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to-do’ list.”
- Avoid overstimulation by unplugging. Technological innovations have led to scientific breakthroughs, global communication systems and more. But when you’ve been working on a laptop all day long, scrolling through your social media feed or scouring the internet after work, can be overwhelming. Take a tech break, even if it’s only for a few hours. Consider reading a tangible book or find something else that will stimulate your brain without straining your eyes.
- Exercise, but in a way that works for you. There are tons of studies on the benefits of keeping your body active so it’s no surprise that exercise can help rid your brain of undue stress. If you’re wondering whether to run or do yoga, we’ll leave that up to you. While some studies5 indicate that cardiovascular exercise is best for combating stress, everyone’s fitness journey is different.
- Harness the power of saying “no.” Does the site of your calendar make you anxious? Over-committing yourself is one of the easiest ways to get overwhelmed. While it may be tempting to say yes, you should avoid making impractical promises to hang out with friends. Instead, keep your calendar clear. Your mind will benefit from having a moment to relax.
Want more than tips? Here’s a FREE Icon Set that illustrates work-life balance.
1. “Burn-out an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’: International Classification of Diseases.” WHO | World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.
2. “Long Work Hours, Extended or Irregular Shifts, and Worker Fatigue – Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Home | Occupational Safety and Health Administration, https://www.osha.gov/worker-fatigue. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.
3. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Apa PsycNet. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 30, 2021, from http://doi.apa.org/getdoi.cfm?doi=10.1037%2F0003-066X.56.3.218
4. “The 20 Best Michelle Obama Quotes That Apply to Business.” Money Inc, 26 June 2020, https://moneyinc.com/michelle-obama-quotes/.
5. “Reducing Workplace Burnout: The Relative Benefits of Cardiovascular and Resistance Exercise.” PubMed Central (PMC), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4393815/. Accessed 30 Dec. 2021.