Prevent the occupational phenomenon by striking balance in your lockdown habits

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

The term was coined in the ‘70s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, using it to describe the consequences of high ideals and severe stress in “helping” professions. Doctors and nurses, for instance, who sacrifice themselves for others, would often end up being burned out.

The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical condition, mainly characterize by feelings of energy depletion, increased mental distance from or feelings of negativism toward one’s work, and reduced professional efficacy.

Herbert Freudenberger, photo by Lana Jean 

From the onset of the global health crisis and the imposition of social distancing measures, most of us have been stuck at home and become excessively reliant on technology to continue working. The digital space has become the platform with which we conduct video meetings, where we learn and stay informed, as well as our primary source of entertainment.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, (ASHA), these practices can lead to screen time fatigue. This is contributing to people feeling the brunt of the lockdown burnout.

Many of us are working remotely, and almost all aspects of our jobs are done through the intermediation of a screen. This may lead to employees feeling unable to escape and separate professional from personal life. 

“Burnout is a real challenge, especially during this time, and companies are striving to be proactive in reducing stress for those who are needed to report into the office and those who are working remotely,” says Jeff Dela Cerna, TELUS International Philippines vice-president for Human Resources (HR).

Regain control

With almost 30 years managing HR teams and supporting employees in fast paced industries, Jeff has mentored hundreds of professionals to manage stress on the job and even in their personal lives. He highlights that taking a step back and reassessing your work situation, however daunting it may be, can help confront the condition and eventually address it. “While it’s not guaranteed, listening to your body and using simple techniques to decompress help ward off burnout,” he saus.

He shares three practical pieces of advice to lessen screen time and overcome burnout.

1. Schedule breaks and take leaves.

It’s imperative to establish working hours. You may try adapting hours as if you are in the office. This should be done in agreement with your immediate boss and team so everyone is familiar with each other’s response window, and you can build a more effective routine. Talking to your supervisor about scheduling vacations so you can rest and recharge is also critical to keeping yourself in peak performance shape, both in physically and mentally.

Don’t skip breaks. Allot time to enjoy coffee in peace, eat a healthy meal, or take a five-minute break every two hours away from your computer, tablets, or phones.

“Even while you chase incentives, remember that you are given time off to let your mind and body recover,” says Jeff.

2. Nurture bond with friends.

Face-to-face interaction is limited but you can still connect with friends. Send your friends care packages or support local small businesses by getting occasional treats delivered. Schedule game nights and host them through apps like House Party, have a Netflix viewing party, or just video chat with friends while having coffee from your kitchen. Friends are definitely a welcome source of laughter and encouragement during this time. 

“Taking a bit of downtime with co-workers also builds a reliable support group that will help you cope with challenges with work,” the HR veteran explains.

3. Learn to disconnect.

Social media and instant messaging apps make disconnecting challenging. Try intermittent social media fasting. A study by Harvard Medical School reveals that the lighting used in mobile devices can throw off sleeping patterns. After clocking out, avoid taking action on work messages that can wait until the next day. You can even go off the grid during off-time. 

“Admittedly, this is the most challenging thing on this list, but disconnecting once in a while refreshes your mind and lets you become sharper when you’re back at work,” Jeff muses.

‘Burnout is a real challenge, especially during this time, and companies are striving to be proactive in reducing stress for those who are needed to report into the office and those who are working remotely.’

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Maximize company benefits and programs

Many companies these days are revisiting their brand of people management and workplace culture. Aside from offering basic health care benefits, employers have become more creative in keeping people motivated, engaged, and productive.

Take for instance, Jeff’s workplace. Beyond the fun activities and learning opportunities, one of the TELUS International Philippines takes a strong and proactive approach toward getting team member feedback and transforming these insights to timely actions to address gaps in the work-from-home experience and provide support during this unique pandemic situation. The survey was administered to get in-depth information from the workers themselves about what the company is doing right, and what else they can improve for the benefit and welfare of their team members. It also proved helpful in identifying potential stressors for employees and creating real solutions to address them. 

“We recognize that getting through burnout is also a team effort. Each individual experiences a unique challenge during this time and it’s important to extend a little more understanding and kindness above all,” says Jeff.

In extending its caring culture offsite, the institution ensures that there is a regular stream of virtual culture building activities that team members can take part in to break the monotony and have fun. There is also continuity in professional and personal growth by migrating learning sessions and workshops to digital platforms.

On the health front, mental and emotional health teleconsultation are included in the basic healthcare package workers can access through their healthcare provider, along with additional psychological wellness sessions open to staff and their families. 

“It’s through this dynamic and holistic approach that we help our team members achieve balance. More than our desire to have motivated and healthy team members, we want to ensure that they are empowered to be the best version of themselves always, both in and out of the workplace,” concludes Jeff.

Source: Manila Bulletin (