In the modern world of work, a lot of emphasis is placed on productivity. How can we get the most out of the hours we commit? It’s a sensible concern, but one that’s vulnerable to short-termism. If we work too hard for too long, then we’re vulnerable to chronic workplace stress, or burnout.
The WHO’s 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases considers burnout to be an ‘occupational phenomenon’ rather than a medical condition. It’s characterised by feelings of exhaustion, ‘mental distance and cynicism’ toward the job, and reduced personal efficacy.
So what can be done to address this problem, and ensure that employees remain as productive as possible while they’re at work? Let’s look at some simple measures.
Take a Break
Taking frequent breaks from work can help workers to feel refreshed. It’s this principle that’s behind the famous pomodoro method of productivity, which sees workers focus for twenty-five minutes and then take a five-minute break.
Turn off Emails & Phone
Compulsively checking emails, and scrolling through your phone, can eat up a lot of time without ever really de-stressing you. Manufacturers and software developers aim to keep their users ‘engaged’ for as long as possible – to the extent that users even experience withdrawal symptoms when the phone is taken away.
The easiest way around this is to establish a ‘no phones’ rule and enforce it. Ideally, keep the phone somewhere where it can’t be easily accessed during a moment of weakness.
Get fresh Air
Going for a walk is a powerful way of refreshing your mind, and reducing stress. If you can walk somewhere that’s outdoors, and ideally green, then the effect will be proportionally more powerful.
Write a To Do List
Keeping a journal is an incredibly powerful means of recognising the thoughts and feelings that give rise to stress in the long run. It’s also great for planning what you’re going to do with the coming day, and assessing how you spent the time in reality.
A to do list is something that you can write using pen and paper, though there are dozens of apps which serve the purpose, too. Bear in mind when you’re taking on work that there’s a natural tendency to overestimate how much you can get done, and to say ‘yes’ to everyone. Your to-do list will allow you to place hard limits on your capacity, and help you to avoid burnout.
Asking for Help
If you’re feeling burned out, then it’s time to ask for help from your employer. If they understand the problem, then they’ll offer help. If they don’t, then it might be time to consider your options elsewhere. If you work for a larger organisation, then you might be able to use specialised HR software to seek help without drawing attention to yourself.