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Return to Work After Lockdown| Preventing Burnout and Creating Resilience

The brakes are slowly easing off and a return to work after lockdown is sitting on the not too distant horizon for many of you.

What does that feel like? For some of you, a return to work after lockdown will no doubt be a race out of the door as soon as you can. For others there may be an understandable reticence to return to ‘what was before’. And for others, you may decide that returning to work isn’t something that you want to do.

Whatever the reasons there’s a sense of change in the air. 

Are you burnt out or ‘bored out’?

In 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) took the step of classifying burnout as an occupational phenomenon (1). So, it isn’t a medical condition per se, but it is something that’s recognised as influencing your health.

Burnout has its roots in chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed and typically manifests with:  

  • Feeling exhausted or lacking in energy
  • A drop in your professional performance
  • A sense of detachment from your job
  • Feeling negative or cynical toward your role and your colleagues

But, here’s the thing, workplace stress can arise not just from too many demands but also too few demands. And, in many ways lockdown has created the perfect conditions for burnout.

On the one hand you’ve been juggling home life and work life in one space, and playing your part in keeping a business going in tough times. But, there’s also the boredom from being in one place, of maybe there being ‘only so much you can do’. Boredom, social isolation and not enough fulfilling work can be as destructive as having too much work!

How Are You Feeling Really?

How are you is a simple question isn’t it? And yet, consciously or subconsciously people sometimes don’t want to offer or indeed receive an authentic answer.

So, when you ask someone how they are or they ask you, do you answer with the ‘standard’ ‘I’m fine’? As I was writing this I took a break to read my regular Thrive Global update (2). I smiled when I saw the words from chief revenue officer at Qualtrics, Eric Stine (3), reflecting what I had already been writing, in his ‘on point’ message:

“When we’re fine are we actually fine? Or is it a catch all to stop further intrusion?….
….Please only ask ‘How are you?’ or any question like that if you really want to hear the answer and answer the same question, transparently, yourself….”

Eric Stine Chief Revenue Officer Qualtrics

Really, how are you and your team? Taking time to explore that question and recognising how you and your team are right now is vital.

It’s a significant step in preventing burnout (or ‘bore out’) and creating resilience as you return to work after lockdown.

Preventing Burnout and Creating Resilience.

Resilience is our ability to ‘bounce back’ from the setbacks that life throws at us. And, from my perspective good resilience is about being to be able to respond positively to the conditions created by a setback.

In other words, how you respond to a given situation is as significant as the situation itself.

Being able to ‘bounce back’ is also an important part of preventing burn out.

5 Qualities That Resilient People Have:

Even during the most adverse conditions, resilient people continue to thrive emotionally. What resilient people tend to have in common are qualities that help them through ‘tricky times’. A resilient person will:

  1. Keep things in perspective. One of the areas I explore with clients is developing a sense of perspective and not catastrophise.
  2. Have a fantastic network of people to support them, often a mix of family, colleagues, friends and mentors.
  3. View challenges and obstacles as opportunities from which to learn and grow.
  4. Be positive in their outlook and be able to look beyond the ‘grey of today’.
  5. Schedule and practice self-care to ensure optimum physical and emotional wellbeing

Covid-19 and a New Normal

The rigours of change that COVID-19 has brought have tipped the world on its proverbial axis. They have left many of us reeling in their wake and continue to challenge us. 

There’s no doubt that many of us will continue to experience uncertainty, insecurity and disruption. But, now more than ever, as we return to work after lockdown there’s an imperative for adapting to and finding a ‘new normal’ that works for each of us.

How Resilient Are You To Adapt to a New Normal?

Many of us will continue to embrace working remotely and meeting virtually, but as we return to the workplace, there’s a societal and cultural change beckoning.

Social distancing will be the norm, and how and when we work will change, perhaps permanently. How does that sit with you right now?

Whilst resilience is partly inherent in whom we are, the good news is that resilience is something that you can develop.

What Can You Do To Increase Resilience in a New Normal?

Like most of us I take inspiration from experts and leaders in my area of work, and Robertson Cooper’s model of resilience resonates with me as a burnout coach (4). Its 4 key components of confidence, social support, adaptability and purposefulness are all relevant in preventing burnout or further burnout, and creating long lasting resilience.

For those of you that are returning to an office environment after months of remote working it may feel a bit like a coat that you haven’t worn for a while. It’s strange at first but becoming more familiar with time, and gives you a chance to explore new ways of working.  

So, as you find your way back into the work environment in the next few months here are 10 ways in which you can increase your resilience and prevent burnout.

10 Ways to Increase Your Resilience:

  1. Exploring how a challenging situation like Covid-19 has impacted you. How did you respond?
  2. Thinking about what you’ve learnt from your resilience being tested. What can you to improve or change your response in the future?
  3. Identifying your support tribe, in work and outside of work. You may be surprised by who they are.
  4. Developing collaborative work relationships, leveraging each other’s strengths to set clear achievable goals and objectives.
  5. Identifying your priorities to help balance your workload and how you can bring positivity to the changes that are happening.
  6. Feeling unsettled with your role? Revisit your job description and review it with someone impartial like a career coach or mentor. How does it feel to you? If things don’t feel ‘right’ what opportunities are there for change?
  7. Avoiding a diary that’s packed back to back with meetings and schedule regular time to focus on reflection and deep work.
  8. Setting boundaries and taking a break. So for example, if you’re working remotely don’t fall into ‘perma-work’ and be answering e-mails 24/7.
  9. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, to ‘own it’ and ask if you need help. These are unprecedented times providing an opportunity to give and receive kindness and empathy.
  10. Improved resilience doesn’t happen overnight. It will happen with one micro-step at a time so keep taking those steps each day.

To find out how I can help you to prevent burnout and increase your resilience book a call with me.

Resources and References:

  1. World Health Organisation (WHO)
  2. Thrive Global:
  3. www.qualtrics.com
  4. Robertson Cooper

Image: Shutterstock

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