Burnout isn’t just about being physically tired.
It’s a legitimate medical condition recognized by the World Health Organization, characterized by three things—feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.
With the onset of the pandemic and imposition of physical distancing measures, people are mostly at home and have become more dependent on screen usage to continue working, holding virtual meetings, using it as an alternative platform for learning, staying informed, and even finding entertainment at home.
As a result, the feeling of exhaustion and anxiety may be more apparent. For those who are working remotely, almost all aspects of work are now done through the intermediation of a screen, and the demand for output can sometimes feel almost instantaneous. This may lead to employees feeling unable to escape and separate work as it spills over into their personal space.
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.
“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,” said TELUS International Philippines Vice-President for HR, Jeff Dela Cerna.
Take back control
With almost 30 years of managing HR teams and supporting employees in fast-paced industries, Dela Cerna has mentored hundreds of professionals to manage stress at work and even in their personal lives. According to him, 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 shares three practical ways to lessen your screen time and focus on yourself and even defeat burnout.
Schedule your breaks and take your leaves. During workdays, it’s imperative to establish your work hours. If you’re working from home, you may try to adapt hours as if you are in the office. This should be done in agreement with your immediate team or supervisor so everyone knows each other’s response window, and you can build a more effective routine. Talking to your leader about scheduling your vacations so you can rest and recharge is also critical to keeping yourself in peak performance shape, both in mind and body.
Don’t skip your breaks. Carve time to enjoy your coffee in peace, eat a healthy meal, or take a 5-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,” said Dela Cerna.
Nurture your bond with your work friends. Face-to-face interaction is surely missed during this time but you can still connect with friends, thanks to messaging apps. Try sending 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.
Dela Cerna shared, “Taking a bit of downtime with co-workers also builds a reliable support group that will help you cope with challenges with work.”
Learn to disconnect. Social media and instant messaging apps make disconnecting challenging. Try intermittent social media fasting. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, the lighting used in mobile devices can throw off our 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 your 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,” shared Dela Cerna.
Maximize company benefits and programs
Many companies these days are revisiting their brand of people management and workplace culture. Apart from offering basic health care benefits, employers have become more creative in keeping people motivated, engaged, and productive.
Beyond the fun activities and learning opportunities, TELUS International Philippines, one of the leading providers of customer experience (CX) and digital IT solutions in the country, also takes a strong and proactive approach towards getting team member feedback and transforming these insights into timely actions to address gaps in the work-from-home experience and provide support during this unique pandemic situation. The survey was conducted to get in-depth information from the team members themselves about what the company is doing great on, and what else they can improve for the benefit and welfare of their team members. The survey also proved helpful in identifying potential stressors for team members 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,” said Dela Cerna.
In extending its caring culture offsite, TELUS International Philippines 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, TELUS International Philippines has included mental and emotional health teleconsultation in the basic healthcare package team members can access through their healthcare provider, along with additional psychological wellness sessions open to team members 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,” said Dela Cerna.