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Engulfed By Burnout

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The Great Resignation during the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down this year. However, quit rates are still higher than before the pandemic and can, to an extent, be traced to high stress levels

According to a survey released in February this year by Future Forum, more than 40% of white-collar workers feel burned out at work. This is concerning.

While not considered a mental health illness, burnout is recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been well managed. According to WHO, the “occupational phenomenon” is characterised by “feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion, increased mental distance or cynicism towards one’s job and reduced professional efficacy”.

The good news is that burnout can be prevented. This is because it often manifests in physical symptoms that can be nipped in the bud. Also, growing recognition of the importance of mental health in the workplace means that employers are more open to helping employees address problems. Employees, too, have become more proactive about looking after their own needs.

SPOTTING PHYSICAL CHANGES
High levels of prolonged stress can affect the body in various ways. Early signs include an impaired ability to fall asleep, fragmented slumber, and developing extreme behaviour when it comes to diet — either craving for junk food or a total loss of appetite. Experts advise watching out for these signs and taking action when you notice them.

Make time for a hobby you are passionate about, and relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation or tai chi. You may feel you are too busy for these activities, but you’ll feel rejuvenated after indulging in them. Also, make sure you get enough sleep.

IMPROVING EMPLOYEE WELFARE
Many employers today acknowledge that burnout is a major factor in employees quitting, and are making strides towards improving employee welfare, especially since the COVID-19 virus swept across the world.

For example, the civil service, which is the largest employer in Singapore   encourages its supervisors to set clear expectations for officers on work availability and hours, and to check in with them regularly, reported The Straits Times. Some organisations have also created chatbots, portals and websites for employees to tap on reliable resources and best practices in mental health.

By getting their employees to pay attention to their own mental well-being, employers are ensuring that burnout is averted and productivity maintained.

MAINTAINING WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Spurred by the pandemic, there has been a shift in the way employees think about work. A global study by Oracle reveals that 92% of employees prioritise

  • work-life balance;
  • workplace flexibility; and
  • mental health as indicators of success.

According to an article by personal finance website dollarsandsense, the top three voluntary reasons for leaving one’s last job were

  • long working hours/work too demanding;
  • low pay; and
  • poor working conditions.

This shows that more employees are willing to resign when faced with lack of job satisfaction.

Being able to manage both work and personal responsibilities is important not only for health and relationships, but also for productivity. Employees who feel bogged down at work should address specific concerns with their supervisor and work together to reach a compromise with regards to their workload. They may also want to take time off where needed; while not a permanent solution to burnout, this can give them a feeling of autonomy in their job. “Anything you can do to regain an element of control can be really helpful,” Dr Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University, was quoted as saying in a New York Timesarticle.

While not a terminal condition, burnout is not something to be taken lightly. With the right help and support — be it medical, personal or work-related — burnout can be mitigated and kept at bay.

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