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Career Coach: How to fend off WFH burnout and pandemic fatigue

By Aileen Yu


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2021 has just begun yet many employees have reported signs of pandemic fatigue and work from home (WFH) burnout, which was a pressing topic widely discussed last week during McKinsey and Company’s webinar: Reenergizing the Workforce. This year, more people have felt the effects of Blue Monday as we all spent 2020 coping with the disruption of our routines and lifestyle habits. As the world waits for the Covid-19 vaccine to rollout, many of us are becoming disillusioned and grappling with emotional grief that the norms we were once accustomed to may never return.

Forbes reported that over 25 percent of Americans have symptoms of depression and a recent LinkedIn study found that Brits are putting in an extra 28 hours a month while WFH. As lockdown looms, curfews are imposed and travel bans continue, how can people prepare themselves to combat the permanent changes to our work and home life? FashionUnited rounds up helpful tips from mental health experts, published authors and HR journalists on what we can do in our everyday life to renew our mindset and motivation for the coming year.

Fake commute: Break away from monotony, set work vs home boundaries

After months of WFH, it turns out people are actually beginning to miss the routine, according to a report published this month by The Wall Street Journal. For working parents, quiet time on the train was their only ‘me time’. Other professionals spent time driving to work aligning their mindset or listening to motivational podcasts to set the mood for their workday. “People are trying ways to mark the start and end of the work day; ‘There needs to be a contrast’,” Jennifer Levitz covered in WSJ’s article “Welcome to the Fake Office Commute”.

“Fake commutes have real benefits. It can be a walk around the block. It can be a stop at your local coffee pickup counter or your favorite drive-thru. Many workers have replaced their pre-coronavirus commutes with allotted time around work shifts where they break away from what can be the monotony of working from home, also known as the pretend or ‘fake commute,’” wrote editor, Monika Fike, in a piece she published for LinkedIn.

Mental health care: Practice positive affirmations, self-care, be kind to yourself

“It’s a mental health epidemic inside a pandemic,” Dr. Gregory Jantz, renowned psychologist and the bestselling author of 7 Answers for Anxiety stated in a recent Forbes article. “The Covid crisis has dramatically changed our lifestyles. People are anxious and stressed thinking about the future. There has also been an increase in anxiety dealing with your home life. Some are alone and too isolated. Others are dealing with kids home more, remote school, and unemployment,” Jantz added.

Author and Feature Writer for The Observer and You Magazine, Elizabeth Day, recently shared in her Mail on Sunday column, “Why My Lie-ins are Not Lazy”: In pre-pandemic life, we measured ourselves according to productivity. But in lockdown, we are successful if we survive each day with our mental health intact.

Be kind to yourself and as well as making sure you set aside about two hours a day where you are not doing anything work related. Continue that hobby you picked up, listen to inspirational podcasts, meditate, take a bath or indulge in beauty products that make you feel happy. Write down positive affirmations and recite them aloud. Dr. Jantz also advises to ‘renew your mind’, and practice self-awareness which means: be honest to yourself if you’re adopting bad health habits to cope with lockdowns such as drinking too much alcohol. Most importantly, he suggests to surround yourself with positive influence and not let fear rule how we treat ourselves. Watch the negativity: If possible, stop associating with emotional drainers in your life and stop being hypercritical of oneself during this time of great social anxiety.

Plan a digital detox and unplug

Technology is overwhelming people’s lives. “So much Zoom, social media, and technology are digitizing your brain,” Dr. Jantz told Forbes in “Psychologist’s 9 Tips To Cope With Pandemic’s Mental Health Impacts”. He further expressed, “it is blunting your emotions. You are losing empathy for others, not seeing other people’s needs, but instead are becoming very self-absorbed. That self-absorption leads to an increase in anxiety and depression. It also leads you deeper into more stress.” Dr Sarah Vohra, a consultant psychiatrist behind The Mind Medic, has been working with The Office Group to find ways to mitigate burnout. "Studies show that the more tasks we commit to simultaneously, the lower our attention span is," Dr. Vohra stated in Refinery 29’s “WFH Burnout Is Real, Here’s How To Beat It”.

Besides setting boundaries between work and home life during the week, when the weekend arrives, consciously plan a day or two of digital detox where you don’t check your phone, upload to Instagram or only Netflix binge. If you can still travel domestically, drive and spend time connecting with nature, go fruit picking, hiking and turn off your notifications. If a change of scenery is not an option, put away all devices, and build something with your hands through activities such as pottery, painting, crocheting, carpentry. According to an article published by Psychology Today, working with your hands does wonders for your brain and relieves stress. Dr. Herbert Benson, a Mind-Body Medicine expert and the author of The Breakout Principle stated in his book, “when we engage in a repetitive task, completely taking our minds off whatever problem or issue we have been struggling with, the solution will often magically appear.”

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