Battling burnout

Struggling to focus, lacking motivation or energy and feeling overwhelmed can all be signs of stress and burnout

51% of UK workers recently surveyed by TOG even admitted to crying as a result of feeling burnt out, with nearly a third needing to take time off work.

Left untreated or unsupported, burnout can impact job retention - with 49% leaving a position because of it. Interestingly, of those who went on to change jobs due to burnout, 9 in 10 found themselves experiencing a renewed sense of engagement. But the good news is, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you.

Be flexible and communicate

So why is this important?

Prioritising our wellness at work is essential in remaining healthy, happy and more productive. In addition, being happy in the workplace pays dividends to our personal life. If we experience less stress in the workplace, then we are less likely to carry it through to our personal, family and social lives.

Research has shown that flexible working environments and office spaces can reduce psychological demands on individuals. Workplace happiness initiatives have been shown to positively impact workers’ performance, help them cope better with stressful events, experience increased job satisfaction as well as reducing their susceptibility to burnout. Studies have shown that individuals with higher levels of wellbeing are more cooperative and have more satisfying relationships. 44% of those surveyed by TOG admit they have taken their frustrations out on family – the very people who can actually help us make sense of those stresses and minimize the impact they have on us.

Adopting a more flexible approach to working and feeling empowered to communicate how we feel openly and honestly is crucial both in and out of the workplace for optimal mental wellbeing.

Set boundaries and learning to switch off

Almost a third of workers surveyed by TOG felt that lockdown had brought them closer to burnout, and 34% said that they struggled to separate work and home life. With more of us working from home and relying on more flexible ways and places to work, it can be all to easy to blur the work/life boundaries. This is not altogether surprising, given that many of us may not have the luxury of a home office, instead having to fashion a work station out of what is usually a communal, social or relaxing space.

Waking up in essence in your office may very quickly blur the boundaries, firing emails off before you’ve got out of bed and not knowing when to switch off come the end of the day.  With fewer of us having to contend with the usual commute to work that creates a natural pause in the day, 38% of workers felt ‘always on’ during the lockdown period, with over half working above contractual hours. In addition, 26% felt that they didn’t take adequate time away from screens.

This fits with a recent study conducted via The Mental Health Foundation, where 80% of HR managers surveyed believed working from home encouraged e-presenteeism – a culture where workers always felt they had to be ‘on’ and available to others, often working above their contracted hours.

Working longer hours has been shown to increase symptoms of depression and anxiety and negatively impact sleep. Putting routines in place and having consistent clock on/off times can help make clear distinctions between day and night, and avoid us running in to the trap of working every waking hour without pause.

Routine is just as crucial come the evening. Winding down the same time each night, setting yourself a screen curfew (laptop and phone screen emitting blue light can delay the processes necessary to get some decent shut eye) and a regular bed and wake time are all crucial to getting a good night’s sleep.

Take a break

Over a quarter of those surveyed said that life has become more monotonous, and the same number said they don’t take enough breaks. Taking regular breaks, perhaps even incorporating exercise during longer stints, will offer a natural pause and break the monotony.

Breaks can be hugely restorative. Studies show that taking a break during the working day prevents stress from accumulating early on, improves performance and reduce recovery at the end of the day.

Opting to exercise can lift our mood, boost confidence and self-esteem, and improve concentration and sleep. The change doesn’t have to be great – just start by getting some extra steps in, explore your local area during lunch, or if you’re in a flexible office environment, work from different spaces throughout the day.

If you’re a TOG member, you might even choose to make use of a TOG meditation space, such as the newly created immersive Mindful Lounge at United House, to reset and de-stress during the working day. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that mindful meditation can make us more resilient to stressful psychological challenges.


It’s true that there is plenty that we as individuals can do to help prevent burnout - by recognising the signs that we are struggling, sticking to work/play boundaries, and making sure we are taking breaks and communicating early on when we feel overburdened or on the brink. But there is also a responsibility on the workplace, to offer spaces consistent with improving mental wellbeing and maintaining happy, healthy and more productive staff – yet worryingly, 7 in 10 of those surveyed said their workplace hadn't offered any ways to improve their wellbeing at work.

Initiatives like those being implemented by TOG, namely supporting active commutes to work (with bike storage and shower facilities), variety of work environments and proactively encouraging members to engage in mindfulness practices, is certainly a step in the right direction.

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