Work burnout becoming increasingly common as pandemic continues

Work burnout is an increasingly new term which has become more and more popular as the pandemic begins to create a new normal for our work lives.

The sudden impact of the pandemic saw many workforces move to remote working to stop the spread of the Coronavirus in the workplace.

Dr Deirdre O’ Shea, a Senior Lecturer and Chartered Work and Organisational Psychologist in the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick (UL), spoke to Limerick Voice on what burnout is.

“Burnout is a concept that was coined probably about 40 years ago now maybe. It is defined as an end-stage of stress, so it’s not something that comes about overnight, and it has three components.

“If you have too much work to do without enough resources in your environment to do it or in your job to do it, then over time you may develop a sense of burnout, and so it’s described as an end state of stress for that reason,” said Dr O’Shea on the timeline of developing burnout.

A study conducted by the Kemmy Business school in UL on behalf of OMT Global on 590 respondents found that 60 per cent of employees feel increased levels of stress since the start of the pandemic.

The survey identified that 45 per cent of employees faced issues with balancing work and home responsibilities.

Dr O’ Shea adds that through the research conducted, it was discovered that if we have high demands in our jobs with lots of resources to deal with the demands, then we experience work engagement and not burnout.

“The other thing that comes in there is whether people have different preferences for what we call segmentation strategies.

“So, the extent to which people like to have strong boundaries between their work life and their home life and of course if your somebody who prefers to have those segmented, having them all in one place now it can be quite challenging, so that’s called work home segmentation”, said Dr O Shea

Dr O’Shea added that through research conducted by German researcher Sabine Sonnentag which, demonstrates daily recovery from work is needed, that detaching physically, mentally, and emotionally from work is an important aspect of work recovery.

To do this, Dr O’ Shea recommends shutting down the computer, taking the email off the phone and not checking it in the evening.

“There is research to show that doing a little bit of mindfulness at the end of the day when you finish work can actually help to create that segmentation between work and life.

“The idea of that is you kind of finish all your thinking to do with work and you do a little mindfulness exercise which brings you into the present moment and then it moves you sort of into the evening.”

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