Learning to Launch: How to Prevent Burnout at Work While Prioritizing Wellness

September 14, 2023
  • Private Banking
Relationship Associate Brooke Royer and Associate Maddy Pellow explore five ways you can increase your productivity, prevent burnout, and promote wellness at work.

Spending the majority of our weeks working means we develop habits and routines that can quickly become deep-rooted. And while these habits may be intended to improve efficiency and productivity, in some cases, they can actually work against our wellness goals and become warning signs of burnout.

If you feel yourself approaching burnout, consider some of the following methods to reframe your workplace behaviors to better support your mental health and physical well-being.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break

Sometimes taking a break during the workday can feel like the antithesis of productivity. You may even find yourself working through your lunch hour attempting to “get more done,” but is this really serving you or your workplace? It’s been found that prolonged attention to a single task can hinder performance.

Instead of skipping lunch or forgoing a short afternoon break, consider taking time away from your desk to recharge. Taking breaks helps with stress management and can lead to increased productivity and sharper decision-making skills. Even a short break can help to restore motivation, prevent the risk of burnout, and improve memory.

One way to maximize breaks is to fit other healthy habits into the time. For instance, enjoying a nourishing lunch followed by a quick walk outside allows you to give your brain a break, fuel your body, and enjoy the benefits of vitamin D and movement. Even with limited time, a five-minute walking break can help to reduce fatigue and lift your mood.

Use Food as Fuel

It’s no secret that food affects how we feel throughout the day, so how can we use food to optimize our productivity? Each meal you eat has a direct impact on your cognitive performance, as food is converted to glucose in order to provide fuel for your brain.

However, different types of foods release glucose at varying levels. Foods higher in carbohydrates and low in fiber (like simple carbs or processed foods) spike blood sugar and are followed by a sharp drop, often felt as a “crash.” Fats can provide more sustained energy, but if eaten in excess or in a refined form (fast or processed food), they are harder for your digestive system to break down, leaving you to feel more tired.

So, what should we consider when planning out our meals and snacks throughout the workday?

  • Ensure that every meal or snack is balanced with fat, fiber, and protein – together these will provide sustained energy and better moods.
  • Focus on whole foods rather than processed foods, which provide limited nutritional benefits and require more energy to digest, leading to feelings of low energy.
  • Don’t wait until you’re “hangry” to eat – be strategic about your schedule and time meals and snacks periodically throughout the day to sustain energy and prevent drastic spikes or drops in blood sugar.

Support Your Eyes

After staring at computer screens all day, many people end the workday with tired or dry eyes and blurry vision. There are a few adjustments you can make to your habits and work setup to alleviate some of these symptoms and support your eye health:

  • When the lighting in your workspace is too harsh, your eyes need to work harder, leading to eye strain. Adjusting the brightness, color, text size, and contrast on your laptop settings can ensure better viewing comfort.
  • If within your control, check that lights in your office are not too powerful and windows are shaded to avoid glares.
  • Consider trying blue light glasses or eye drops to relieve some discomfort in your eyes.
  • Try following the 20-20-20 rule throughout the day. Every 20 minutes, take a pause from staring at your screen and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Be Strategic About Scheduling

A recent study from BOSTONtec found that 70% of employees admit to feeling distracted on the job, and multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%. It is difficult for our brains to work on multiple tasks at one time: Even if we think we are successfully multitasking in the moment, often in reality we are just switching from one task to another before completing it, limiting our progress.

Checking social media is the most common distraction. After this “social break,” it takes employees more than 20 minutes, on average, to refocus on their previous task, leading to stress and frustration.

Organizing your schedule through time blocking can help you complete tasks more efficiently and eliminate time for distractions. Time blocking is a time management method in which you divide your work into blocks, with each block dedicated to accomplishing a specific task. Start each morning by creating a list of the tasks you need to complete, in order from most urgent to least urgent. Follow the schedule, re-evaluate your progress at the end of each day, and adjust as priorities shift throughout the week.

It is also helpful to set timers for 20 to 30 minutes where you avoid your phone or other distractions and allow yourself to fully focus on the one task ahead of you. Time blocking can keep you on task, save you time, and lead to a healthier work-life balance.

Optimize Your Workspace

A clean workspace can optimize productivity, eliminate distractions, and reduce stress. Research shows that our physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior in the short and long term, which in turn affects our decision-making and relationships. Not only can a cluttered space distract us and lead to decreased productivity, but it can also take a toll on our stress and anxiety levels, eating choices, and sleep.

At the end of each day, try spending just five minutes cleaning your workspace. Make sure the area by your keyboard and mouse is clear. Split your paperwork and workspace tools up, so that only the files and the office supplies needed for the next day are in sight on your desk, and anything else is filed away. A desk that is free of clutter will help clear your mind and reduce distractions.

Based on your preferences, there are a variety of tools and gadgets to aid your workspace setup. Two-tiered riser platforms can be used if you have monitors and a laptop, clearing up open desk space while also easing some neck pain by shifting your gaze up. Standing desks have countless benefits, including encouraging good posture and helping you maintain higher energy levels throughout the day. Some people have even installed treadmills under their desks to get those extra steps in throughout the workday!

As projects pile up and weeks get busy, it can be easy to neglect wellness practices throughout the workday. However, taking just a few minutes to experiment with the above strategies to reduce burnout can not only benefit your personal wellness, but can also support your efforts to effectively tackle your challenges at work.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to enhance your physical and mental well-being while remaining productive, reach out to our Next Generation Experience team.

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