How to Combat Workplace Burnout in the Digital Age
Here at UpCity, we correspond with several small business leaders on their tips for preventing and minimizing workplace burnout in the digital age.
There can be no question that the coronavirus pandemic has changed the current nature of work, and may have reshaped the future of work. And as people adapt and adjust to find a balance between professional efficacy and their personal lives, the risks to employee well-being have not gone away. Instead, they have shifted, and with them so has our understanding of employee burnout and work-life balance.
The World Health Organization recently updated its definition of burnout and list of burnout symptoms and has developed tools to help people address occupational stress, burnout, and fatigue. The connection between chronic work stress and burnout is becoming more well understood, even in fully remote work environments without regular face-to-face contact.
That’s why we pulled together several of our expert partners and contributors and asked them for their tips on combating workplace burnout in the digital age. Their tips, ideas, and feedback touch on critical areas, including employee retention, wellness at work, burnout, remote work practices, and the new work environment.
First Steps for Battling Burnout in the Digital Age
There are, of course, any number of places to start. Whether you are looking to prevent personal burnout from setting in, or you lead a team or run a business and want to ensure that employee burnout is addressed and minimized, our panel of experts mentioned a few different ways to get started.
“The first step to avoiding burnout is to take a step back and look at where you’re spending your time and energy. What’s not working? What could you let go of? Setting healthy boundaries with yourself and your clients is key to achieving a balanced lifestyle.” – Meg Mothershed, Co-owner & COO of Mothershed Design Co.
It’s best not only to examine where your time and energy are being spent but continually reexamine and refine the structure of your workday. This way, you can avoid your feelings of energy depletion and burnout symptoms, and of course, help your team or colleagues do the same.
“In an age where WFH is the new norm, the boundaries between work and personal life have drastically blurred. While sometimes working outside of standard hours may be necessary, it should not be a regular occurrence. Setting boundaries, ensuring your employees have the flexibility, and encouraging employees to take time off can greatly improve burnout.” – Mallory Donaldson, Account Manager: Paid Search & Social at X Agency
Speaking of the first steps that you can take as an employer, one of the best suggestions we received was to consider giving and encouraging people to use mental health days. Just as important as physical health and recovery, mental health often gets cast aside when it comes to working time off. And many employees can use some encouragement to ensure that they are taking care of their whole selves and taking steps they can to strengthen their mental wellbeing.
“When you’re working remotely, it can be incredibly easy to ALWAYS be on, responding to slack messages and emails – there’s no separation between work life and home life when your work life is your bedroom. But providing your employees with monthly mental health days without judgment or guilt will allow your employees to take time to focus on themselves and have a life outside of work.” – Kaitlin McMillan, CEO & Creative Director at McMillan & Phillips Digital Creative Agency
Top Tips for Preventing Personal Burnout
As colleagues, coworkers, and individuals, our feelings about work, our stress levels, and our risk of burnout are all areas where each of us can take action and exert more control. And our expert contributors had several suggestions for recommended practices and simple things that can help prevent personal burnout.
“Get enough sleep! You shouldn’t be afraid to listen to your body and let yourself rest. Sleep is so important for being able to focus and work creatively. I think it’s easy to fall into the mindset that allowing yourself to slow down is unproductive, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Self-care and taking a step back when you need to is so much more productive than running yourself ragged.” – Kevin Rider, Editor at Galileo Media Arts
Even if sleep is sometimes difficult to come by, rest is still one of the most critical areas that we can all improve. And taking a break can do wonders for both your mind and your body.
“Take a break! While we are all used to the daily grind and trying to get as much done as possible, that constant hustle is just not sustainable. Learn how to take a break every couple of hours by physically removing yourself from your work environment. Even if it is a quick 10-minute walk to refresh your mind.” – Katya Vakulenko, Founder of Soup Agency
And while it may sound contradictory to the advice about rest, movement is also incredibly important to coping with workplace stress and battling burnout. Individuals and employers may consider adding movement initiatives as part of their workday, such as creating a calendar time for movement or instituting regular opportunities to move a part of the day.
“When working remotely, I will move around as much as I can to prevent burnout. In the summer, for example, I often like to work outside in the sun or shade. I take breaks to do chores or exercise when feeling tired. And moving around between different workspaces can help prevent you from feeling bored or tired while working.” – Jeffrey Miles, Owner of Jeff Social Marketing
Without the built-in breaks in a standard office workday (lunch, meetings, leaving for home, etc.), it’s even more important for remote workers to manage their time in ways that help them avoid overwork.
“The fast pace of life, and long work hours with a large amount of information – all of these tire the nervous system. Therefore, you need to be able to rest and get rid of stress. By taking care of yourself, and helping yourself, you protect yourself against emotional burnout and help maintain your health.” – Alex Schedrov, CEO at Five Jars
Hear From Industry Experts
Read the latest tips, research, best practices, and insights from our community of expert B2B service providers.
“First off, you want to set boundaries for your use of technology and digital devices and decide when you will and won’t respond to work-related emails, notifications, and other communications. Be sure to take breaks throughout the day to move your body and get some fresh air, and make time for yourself and for activities that you enjoy outside of work.” – Andre Kay, CEO at Sociallybuzz
Scheduling your day is tremendous freedom, and is very helpful for helping people maintain the work-life balance that we’re all in search of. It’s important to establish your routine and practices, especially if you start to notice warning signs of burnout in yourself.
“In order to avoid burnout, there are a few things you can do. Have a daily routine that includes blocking out times to work on specific projects, taking meal breaks, getting exercise, or even practicing meditation. And speak up, too, for yourself and your coworkers. When you see another person burning out, taking the opportunity to help others can strengthen your team and your own morale, and also prevent burnout.” – Nicole Denson, Marketing Manager at Big Leap
Managing and Preventing Employee Burnout
Finally, if you’re managing a remote team, a hybrid team, or any combination of employees, you’re in a unique position to create a work culture that values self-care and that strives to keep burnout from becoming a serious or disruptive issue. Communication is one of the key places to start as you work toward these goals.
“Identify the signs of burnout, open up conversations with employees, and avoid the mentality that hustles are more important than our personal lives. Additionally, it’s important to be tolerant of occasional workplace disruptions and create a sense of community for remote workplaces.” – Blake Nolan, Founder & Chief Operating Officer at Storm Brain
And as you strive to create and maintain that healthy workplace culture and sense of community, don’t be afraid to “think outside the cubicle” and introduce new ideas and practices intended to support and improve everyone’s experience.
“Providing your employees with monthly mental health days—without judgment or guilt—is just one of several great ideas that can have an immediate impact. These days allow your employees to take time to focus on themselves and have a life outside work, without feeling any sort of guilt in doing so.” – Kaitlin McMillan, CEO & Creative Director at McMillan & Phillips Digital Creative Agency
Resources for Countering Burnout and Digital Burnout in Today’s Workplace
These are just a few examples of the terrific advice that our panel of business leaders and experts shared with us. But there was far more information about how you can combat workplace burnout in the digital age than we could fit into one article.
For further conversations, consultations, and expert advice on helping yourself and others avoid burnout in any work environment and any team setting, reach out to our team. We can connect you with dozens of HR advisors who have extensive experience in preventing, addressing, and reversing workplace burnout, especially in remote and hybrid work settings.
About the author
Rebecca helps keep all things content running at UpCity. Prior to joining, she was a magazine editor at an agency for several award-winning publications based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and a content specialist for several brands within the SMB/B2B landscape. She also has significant experience in digital content creation, most notably targeting hunters and anglers (despite being a vegetarian) during her time at Gander Outdoors. Rebecca has also worked in PR, covering a diverse terrain of products and events, including the promotion of local musicians and music festivals and the latest craft beer offerings from local breweries.