Recognising and addressing Fatigue and ‘Burnout’
The concept of burnout is evolving in the time of Covid-19 with many of us managing a new remote working environment and juggling home responsibilities whilst finding ourselves surrounded by social media pressure to make use of our time at home to bake the perfect sourdough and finish that first novel.
In these strange times with ever changing guidance, it is easy to start to experience decision fatigue with everyday activities requiring additional assessment e.g. am I structuring my work day effectively? How do I keep the kids occupied or manage home-schooling? When will it be quieter for me to do the food shop?
|What is burnout?||
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress that has not been successfully managed.
Burnout is defined by the World Health Organisation as follows:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
|Working from home fatigue and burnout||
Many of us are navigating a prolonged period of working from home which has meant adapting and adjusting to new working structures and technologies, a loss of connection and natural energy from being around colleagues and changes to the dynamic in working relationships. Underlying this for many is a sense of anticipatory anxiety about exactly when, and what, a return to work will look like.
Working within this context over a long period may promote feelings of vulnerability, leading to individuals overcompensating and working harder and harder, losing their sense of the boundaries between work and home and becoming unable to completely switch off.
|Spotting signs of burnout in colleagues||
Burnout occurs when we forget to take time for ourselves to relax and practice self-care.
There are some tell-tale signs of burnout, Health Assured outline some key changes to look out for in colleagues:
Common symptoms are prolonged and include:
|Changes individuals can make to practice self-care and avoid the risk of burnout||
|How to support individuals who have reached burnout||
Have a Conversation
If you recognise a colleague is displaying symptoms of fatigue or burnout, inviting them to discuss their wellbeing can be a helpful first step. Approach the conversation with understanding and compassion, avoid making assumptions by asking what they need from you so you can provide genuine support and signpost to available resources. If they are feeling vulnerable make sure to tell them what they do well and help them recognise that self-care is not selfish.
If you feel uncomfortable in initiating such a conversation, you may wish to enrol on the ‘How to have a Wellbeing Conversation’ module to get some tips. More information is available here.
Encourage colleagues to use annual leave to help lessen the risk of burnout and exhaustion. Taking time away from the work environment will help refresh and recharge those individuals who have been stuck indoors with no change of scenery.
Identification and Management of Sources of Stress
If you are responsible for people management, there are a variety of resources available to help support the wellbeing of your staff including:
Staff Helpline - 0800 028 1947
The staff helpline and counselling service is provided by an independent external provider, Health Assured and is a means for all staff and their immediate families to access practical help, information, advice and support to address and resolve problems and issues they may be facing at home or at work.
The service is free, independent, confidential and available 24 hours a day.
More information is available here.
Looking for more tips and insight?
Listen to this Mental Health First Aid Podcast with Tony Piper, a Stress & Burnout Coach to learn more about what burnout looks like, what questions you can ask yourself to spot if you are nearing burnout and how you, your manager and the workplace can work together to help prevent burnout.
Watch this short webinar from Health Assured on the common symptoms of burnout, the changes that we can make to avoid the risks and the ways we can assist someone who has reached burnout: