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How to prevent your employees and yourself from burnout during quarantine
We all hoped that it would end by Fall. We were wrong. So, let’s talk about how to cope with it yourself and how to help your employees avoid burning out during quarantine.
The pandemic problems
As the pandemic reality augments, a lot of people are under a ton of stress. Surely it influences the working process. The job of a manager is not just to look after your own emotional well-being, but to help your employees to avoid burnout during the quarantine. In this article I would like to share some advice on how to face change during the quarantine. You may use these points yourself or pass them to your employees.
First of all let’s talk about the reasons why people suffer during the quarantine. I will talk about the most frequent of them:
The usual way of living is changing. Most of the common things are inaccessible. People are normally having rest after work in different ways. Some go to a bar, others walk around town. People may go shopping or go skateboarding. When all these actions are inaccessible, the ways a person is used to have rest disappear. For those who normally blow off steam by meeting with someone and going out this whole situation may be a problem. Our brain gets used to the routine and when the usual rituals change, we are stressing out.
The scope of people you constantly see is decreasing. Normally we meet a lot of people – from friends during the night out to the colleagues by the cooler. During the quarantine we see only our family and colleagues during meetings. When constantly interacting with the same people you see all the colors of them – here come the conflicts. This may be especially destructive for family ties, but when it comes to the work relationships, the effect is the same. Especially when you don’t have your usual rituals like getting some coffee together or having lunch in order to defuse tension;
A lot of people lack activities they can spend time on at home. This topic correlates with the first one. If you have hobbies you can do at home, you can pay more attention to them instead of outside ones. However, if a person doesn’t have a hobby whatsoever, (s)he can’t fill the time with anything (especially considering (s)he may have more time now since they don’t need to travel to work or anywhere else);
A lot of people have had to switch to a remote or partly remote work (and this is quite unusual for them. A lot of processes become uncomfortable; talking to your colleagues is sometimes inefficient in comparison with seeing them in person (remember that some people absorb visual information better). This may cause more stress. Some people may suffer some work-related problems (lack of remote-work adaptation and the loss of income by someone at their family, for example);
Resting space is the same as working space. For some of us it’s difficult to think about rest when it happens in the same surroundings as the working process. You see the same objects, the same computer and your mind goes back to your tasks automatically. It may absorb you into work at the evenings and interfere with rest;
Someone in your family got ill. The most difficult problem you can have is battling the illness of your family member. It’s a huge stress, especially in terms of self-isolation when you can’t always be around. In this case talking about work efficiency is hard.
Surely it’s not the exhaustive list of everything. Everyone has their own points to add.
What can you do as a leader
I must say that a good leader should pay attention to the situation around the world and help his/her team to get over it. Otherwise you may lose the efficiency and concentration and, as a result, burn out. You always need to check your employees’ wellbeing and pay attention to those in trouble. In terms of quarantine, or any other change of setting, you’d better call in with your subordinates and see how they’re doing or what’s on their mind. Try to help and encourage your employees, give advice and help to overcome their issues. Don’t forget to also check the progress. It’s important to make people understand that you acknowledge their difficulties and that their loss of efficiency is logical (so they should not be afraid to talk about it with you and try to fix it).
Despite the difficulty and peculiarity of the situation there is something one can do. The most important is relationships. Surely there are some difficulties and you may have already missed something, but there is still a chance you can take. Try to focus on it.
The most important problem (and the easiest to start with) is your time at home, which you now have more. When you have more opportunities to have rest, you are much more able to release stress and set your mind off work. Here I am going to give you some advice on how you can make quarantine a bit easier on you. Try to pass this advice to your team as well.
Organize your working space. It’s really important, especially if you spend your whole day off the table with your computer on your knees. Thus, you are going to be more irritated and will harm your health enormously. The first thing you should do when starting working remotely is to try to squeeze in a comfortable table and a chair into your apartment. Don’t think you are going to be fine with any pose. Even the shortest time in an uncomfortable position is going to be felt immediately. After you have arranged your working zone think about the rest of the house. Since you spend a lot of time there, it should be cozy enough for you. If you rent an apartment and can’t do anything major or don’t have money to buy a new cupboard, you will find something rewarding with almost no money spent. It is going to fill your time and get your mind off work as well.
Don’t have lunch or rest at your workspace. If you live alone and you can’t share a meal with someone and you watch the movies from your corporate computer, try to find a different setting for having rest. Your brain will get used to the working surroundings and it’s going to be difficult for it to relax when your “out of work” place is the same. If your apartment is small, try to be creative – sit at a different side of the table, use smells or move to another spot, so your brain could switch to an off-work mood. Use an aroma lamp – you can turn on one smell when you are working and another when you are having rest. Thus, your brain is going to switch quickly. Some different rituals are also of use. For example, have dinner before getting some rest and drink coffee or read news before starting work. Surely, you need some time to get used to it. However, when your brain accommodates, you’re going to benefit from this regime switching.
Think about stuff you’ve always wanted to do. Choose something you can do at home. It’s individual. Probably, you’ve wanted to redecorate some part of your apartment for a long time, start cooking, get a 6-pack, learn to play a guitar or embroidery or just assemble a puzzle. There are a lot of things you’ve thought about but haven’t had time to do. Here is some time. Seize the moment. Consider this sentence as a sign if you believe in them :)
Try online education. Surely it’s not easy considering the work (where you are tired of learning something). However, it’s good to think about investing into self-development. You can learn some new skills inside your professional area or far beyond.
Find new (unexpected) hobbies. There are some hobbies that take a lot of time. For example, some difficult board games as Warhammer. If you live with someone, it’s a good option for you. Often it’s not just about the game itself, but thinking about strategy and talking to like-minded people. Even if you haven’t done this before, try. Probably you will find a hobby for years. If you don’t like it, you can always drop it as soon as the quarantine is over.
Read a book. There is always not enough time for books, however, they are a very good way to switch and take your mind off work. You also learn a lot. Here comes fiction or any similar topics;
Do some sports. Practicing sports is a good way to overcome stress. You can use some extended programs at home, there are a lot of apps, courses you can try. It won’t hurt to strengthen your body during quarantine. As a bonus – doing sports is good for your brain.
Use some apps to video call your friends. There are a lot of options: Zoom, Skype, Telegam, WhatsApp. Surely it won’t substitute your usual meeting, however, it will give you some feeling of community. You can throw parties; play games, or just talk. There are also some initiatives such as doing yoga, meditating or having breakfast via Zoom and so on. So, you will surely find something you like and meet new people;
Meditate and develop awareness about stress. Stress is harmful because even if we are at home, we rethink some situations and troubles. Here helps awareness you can practice through meditations. They will help you to feel the moment, manage your thoughts, switch and get your thoughts together. There are a lot of apps and instructions for that, so you learn this without any prior skills;
Visualize and create atmosphere instead of traveling. One of the major problems during quarantine is inability to travel. Surely, to substitute traveling with something at home is difficult, but there are some hints that can help. Some people use various nature streaming. If you use the projector, you can create a really persuasive atmosphere. You can also use mats imitating grass, aroma oils, projector with some starry sky on or home planetarium. All these along with nature sounds (sound of the forest or birds tweeting) can create a unique atmosphere of camping – and you don’t have to leave your room. The most important is to put away your gadgets and dissolve with this atmosphere;
Get some pets. If you’ve always thought about getting a pet but have been busy looking after it during his/her first year of life (since you need to train, accommodate and pay a lot of attention when it’s little) it’s a good time for you. Pets are also really good when it comes to overcoming stress or getting destructed from work. It’s also going to be less lonely at home. Also think if you will be able to pay enough attention to your pet after quarantine. Although it’s a bit easier when it comes to an older animal, they still need some care.
To conclude I will say the most important thing. You need to find some new hobbies that are going to substitute the things you can’t do now. You have to find new ways of communication instead of the forbidden ones. As Dale Carnegie said: “Keep busy. It's the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth - and one of the best”. If after work you switch to various different activities, you’re going to get more quality rest and decrease your stress. If you think that you’re tired and don’t have time for something, start with the easiest task. You will be surprised how it will evolve you and how fresh you will feel afterwards. Remember that a human adapts quickly. So, you’re going to get used to this new setting, if you won’t try to fight it but start using it. Let your free time (and your colleagues/subordinates’) be a guide to efficient work. Stay healthy!
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