Burnt Out From Changing Return to Work Plans? You're Not Alone — Here's How to Manage

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 19, 2024 at 6:31PM UTC

We are exhausted. After dealing with one of the scariest times in recent history, we thought it would be over soon — only to have the Delta variant swoop in and send us down a spiral of uncertainty and fear all over again. In light of the uptick in cases, including breakthrough cases, many employers are rethinking their return-to-work plans.

Twitter, for example, has closed its physical offices in New York and San Francisco and is halting its plans to reopen other offices. Google is delaying returns until at least October, a month. Lyft is pushing reopenings until February 2022.

The return to work was already impacting people’s mental health. According to a McKinsey & Co. survey in June, 1 in 3 workers said it was detrimental to their mental health. With the constant back and forth, frustrations and anxiety abound.

How can you deal with burnout? Here are tips for coping.

1. Consider your options.

Depending on the employer, you may have multiple options when it comes to returning to the office or staying home. Even if your employer is relatively rigid in terms of expectations for remote work vs. in-person work, it’s still possible that they will make an exception for you based on your personal circumstances, such as if you have a health condition that would endanger your safety if you were to interact with others who potentially have COVID.

No matter what, take some time to consider the options you have available to you and think about what would be best for you and your mental health. If you’ve missed the human interactions, you may want to return, provided that’s a possibility. Or, maybe a hybrid situation would put the least amount of strain on your life.

2. Prioritize your health and wellness.

Put your mental and physical health first. Burnout is not uncommon, and often, it results from people not putting their needs above work demands. This is a particularly stressful time, and it’s critical to take stock of how different decisions and circumstances will affect your health and wellness. 

Some employers provide wellness benefits, so make sure you take advantage of them (and while we’re on the topic, take your PTO, too!). Moreover, if you have particular needs that your employer isn’t meeting, don’t be afraid to raise the issue, as long as they’re within reason.

3. Focus on self-care.

Create a self-care routine, and make sure you follow through with it. One of the difficulties with the pandemic is that with so many of us working from home, it can be hard to separate work from our personal lives. Implementing a plan to actually undertake these self-care activities will help you draw better boundaries. 

Writing out a schedule for yourself, providing yourself with time for breaks, will encourage you to follow through. Make a list of self-care activities you enjoy — running, meditating, cooking, reading or something else — that you can refer to when it’s time to take a break.

4. Don’t keep your feelings to yourself.

Friends, family, colleagues and even managers may be feeling similarly frustrated and burnt out. Commiserating with one another and simply talking it out can be a great source of support for you and them. We’re not saying you should vent all the time (although it can be cathartic on occasion), but even simply discussing your feelings can be soothing.

And don’t overlook therapy as an option. This, too, is a resource for helping you and your mental health. Remember that just because others are in the same boat, your feelings and needs are still valid, and support from a professional, however temporary or long-term, can be a mechanism for getting you through challenging circumstances.

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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