“Every day is blurred”: how to fight exhaustion and find a healthy work-life balance during the pandemic



Vanessa Bohns is one of the lucky Americans who can work from home, but the blurring of the lines between work and home life sometimes takes its toll.

“For my part, I feel exhausted by the constant Zoom
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meetings all day, so having Saturday and Sunday without them seems like a real break, “Bohns said. She also needs to set limits with her coworkers:” When colleagues have suggested a meeting over the weekend, I always ask to find another time, “he said.” It may seem like every day is fading, but that doesn’t mean we should operate as if every day was basically a work day now. “


“For my part, I feel exhausted by Zoom’s constant meetings all day, so having Saturday and Sunday without them seems like a real break.”


– Vanessa Bohns

Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University’s ILR School, said he helps give up checking email for a set time. These times will vary by person, he added.

“For example, I often have to answer emails at odd times because I have young children at home,” he told MarketWatch in an email. “But establishing a period of time when you are not allowed to work or check your work email, which is carved by yourself, is key to reloading.”

Bohns says he avoids scheduling evening and weekend meetings, and recommended preserving traditional weekends as much as possible. She is not alone: ​​American workers were already vulnerable to exhaustion before the COVID-19 pandemic. Confined to their home with additional household responsibilities and increasingly fluid working life limits, they face even more stress and exhaustion.

With restrictions on staying home in many areas to curb the spread of the coronavirus, “all of these things are escalating now,” Bohns said.

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Workers across the country are under pressure to always be available. 41% of employees say they feel exhausted from their work, 45% say they feel emotionally exhausted from their work, and 44% say they feel “exhausted at the end of their workday,” according to a survey of 1,099. American workers held in mid-April by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Meanwhile, 23% report that they often feel “depressed, depressed, or hopeless.”

Women in particular are “exhausted and exhausted” during this public health crisis, as a result of taking on more household chores and care responsibilities than men, Facebook.
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Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and her LeanIn.org co-founder Rachel Thomas wrote in a recent Fortune opinion piece. Women are also more likely than men to report sleep problems and physical symptoms of severe anxiety, according to the recent LeanIn.org and SurveyMonkey research they cited.

“Before the coronavirus crisis hit in the US, many women were already working a ‘double shift’, doing their job, and then returning to a home where they were responsible for most child care and housework “Sandberg and Thomas wrote. “Now, educating children at home and caring for sick or elderly relatives during the pandemic is creating a ‘double double shift.’ It is pushing women to the breaking point.”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, says that “homeschooling children and caring for sick or elderly family members during the pandemic is creating a” double-double shift. “

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What is exhaustion?

Exhaustion, an occupational phenomenon defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as a result of chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully managed,” is marked by exhaustion or energy depletion; greater mental distance or negative or cynical feelings related to a job, and “less professional efficacy”, according to the World Health Organization.

“Burnout is essentially exhausted and overwhelmed by work, often to the point of stopping worrying and starting to disconnect,” Bohns said. “It can be caused by, among other things, feeling ‘on’ all the time, the pressure of being the ideal worker and the difficulty that many of us have to maintain a balance between work and personal life, even in the best moments” .

Now, he added, “people have an even harder time” disconnecting “from remote work.” “People are concerned about layoffs and leave, and so they feel even more pressure to demonstrate their value to the company, or to demonstrate that they are an ideal worker,” Bohns said. “And as we move into living and working at home, many of us with partners and children, the boundaries of working life become more blurred than ever.”

The current situation also leaves us with fewer outlets for recovery and rejuvenation, such as letting off steam in the gym or meeting friends, said Nancy Rothbard, a professor of administration at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Workers now lack certain natural boundaries they once had between work and life, and even those accustomed to remote work are currently unable to seek a change of scenery in a cafe or coworking space, he said.

“We have many additional restrictions on us,” he said. “It’s a very different kind of challenge than the normal challenge of working from home.”

If you’re having trouble setting limits, preserving your energy and mental health, and making time to recharge during this time, here are some expertly recommended strategies that might work for you:

Designate times, places, and devices so you don’t associate them with work.

For Rothbard, using different devices for different blocks of time helps differentiate between “time at home” and “work time,” he said. In general, try to use your computer to work during the day and use your iPad
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if you need to look for something during the night. Some people looking to create boundaries in working life also find it helpful to “separate” and establish a separate and dedicated workspace, Rothbard added.

Beware

“Personal care right now is essential,” said Lori Whatley, a clinical psychologist who specializes in the impacts of using digital devices. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated, exercise, and interact with other people regularly, even if it’s just by text message, he said.

Mindfulness practice, he added, “is one of the best tools we can have in our toolbox to ease anxiety about things we can’t accept.” Whatley recommends the Calm meditation and relaxation app. For more meditation apps, check out the 2018 MarketWatch summary.

Stop working when your workday ends

Make a plan and stick with it, Rothbard said: If you plan to work until 6 p.m., stop working at 6 p.m. .. “If you’re really, really on a hot streak, you can deviate from that,” he said. “But if you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you haven’t done enough but are really crawling, you want to stop.” You want to take a break.

If you maintain normal working hours at this time, follow typical instructions for disconnecting at night, Bohns said, how to set up your phone so that it doesn’t send you email messages to work and sleep with your phone and laptop in a room. different. When you have a chance to go for a walk or take a long bath, she added, leave your phone somewhere else.

“It’s a little bit harder for people whose working hours have had to change, for example, because of child care. Sometimes the most productive time for those people is at night when the children are asleep,” he said. ” However, taking part of your night, or some time during the nap, or the time assigned to a child’s screen, is key. “


If you are a remote worker who puts on work clothes to feel more productive, changing clothes at the end of the day can help you “shut down.”

If your job involves meeting deadlines, be proactive about scheduling breaks. “To take enough breaks to maintain your energy, you have to plan for that,” Rothbard said. Otherwise, you will run out of time and face the wall. Constantly chasing the deadline is another way of running out. “

And if you’re a remote worker who puts on work clothes to feel more productive, changing clothes at the end of the day can help you “go off,” Bohns said. “It is a physical sign that something has changed, you are no longer in work mode, and that mode really feels physically different,” he said.

Make each day a little different from the day before

Humans enjoy structure, but we can also modify parts of our daily routine “so it’s not just walking one identical day after another,” Whatley said. Even small changes can make a significant difference, he said: try swapping your coffee for green tea someday, he said, or instead of eating your 4 p.m. apple, try an orange.


“Vary the walk you make, vary the television program you watch, vary the book you are reading.”

Plan for variation in your social interactions, too, Rothbard suggested: Maybe you can connect with an old friend from college tomorrow, a friend from work the next day, and a family member the next day. “The walk you do varies, the TV program you watch varies, the book you are reading varies,” he added. “Those are really good ways to build in variety and combat the monotony of everyday experience in this more limited world of working from home.”

For Bohns, having things to look forward to next week goes hand in hand with supporting local restaurants that still offer takeout. “We have made plans for, say, lattes and bagels to be delivered for breakfast on Wednesday, or to be ordered at our favorite pizzeria on Friday,” he said. “Planning ahead like that allows for anticipation, and it’s also a good incentive to keep track of days, as you count down to your favorite café’s latte.”

Don’t work too hard (and don’t be afraid to ask for help)

More than one in five respondents to the SHRM survey said the pandemic had threatened some aspects of their jobs, including personal opportunities, wages and benefits, job security and safe working conditions, “in large or very large measure”.


“Try to avoid worrying about how other people live their lives, especially from the incomplete point of view of social media.”

But “these are the exact circumstances that can lead someone to feel the pressure of working all the time to demonstrate their worth, or refraining from asking for help when they need it because they are concerned about admitting any weakness,” Bohns said.

“Preventing burnout by making sure you give yourself time to go offline is consistent with maintaining productivity,” he said. “Burnout is the enemy of productivity, so working all the time is not good for either of you.” If he needs additional flexibility to avoid burnout, he added, “you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it for fear of being judged harshly.”

Avoid comparing yourself to coworkers

It may appear that her coworkers act together and even find time to bake bread and learn a new language on the weekends, said Cathleen Swody, an industrial / organizational psychologist and partner at consulting firm Thrive Leadership. But try to avoid worrying about how other people live their lives, especially from the incomplete point of view of social media, and focus on what’s feasible for you and under your control, he said.

Find ways to progress

During work time, focus on your top priorities rather than on the busy job – address “what’s really important that will give us a sense of accomplishment,” Swody said. Out of the clock, grab a little hobby or project (or even a puzzle) to help you feel like you’re working toward an achievement or new skill. “Progress is very good for our brains,” he said. “It tells us that we are making progress.”

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