Burnout Recovery: The Potential Upside of Coronavirus Remote Work?

Reflection writing

The coronavirus pandemic is a global threat to health, safety, and economic stability.  In response, many countries have imposed “stay at home” mandates to enforce social distancing.  Routines have often been smashed as eligible employees struggle with their new remote work arrangements.

Those who are new to a remote work arrangement are often faced with a long day of unstructured hours.  What to do first?  Should I even get dressed if I’m working from home?  Where do I find a quiet place to work that is free from interruptions?  Who can I talk to when none of my coworkers is readily available?

These workers will often experience greater stress as they try to rapidly adjust to this new “normal” – a change that may not have been wanted.  

For those of us who always or at least sometimes work from home, we’re somewhat unfazed by the mandate to stay at home.  We’ve learned how to create routines, self-manage our work days, and balance competing professional and personal responsibilities.  While there are definitely changes in how often we can leave our homes, there has been little impact on our work lives — even though our overall lives may feel uprooted.  

For many workers, remote work has left them feeling socially isolated. 

To combat these feelings of social isolation, employees are relying on video conferencing to stay connected.  Telephone calls might also be replacing texting as a way to communicate:  according to Mehrabian, 38% of a message is transferred via the tone of voice — which isn’t available in a text.  Technology enables us to keep in touch — if only virtually rather than physically.  There is a big difference between being “alone” and feeling “lonely.”  

It’s important to remember that moving to a remote work arrangement constitutes a significant change that impacts what we do, how we do it, and where we do it — and change is initially stressful as we transition from “what was” to “what is.”

But what was it really like for us in the workplace?  Will some of these workplace stressors be alleviated from working remotely?  Will others continue to stress us out even in our new virtual environment?  Is the need to develop a new way to work a source of negative stress — or can it be the catalyst for positive growth?

I believe that there might be a light at the end of this imposed physical removal from the workplace:  the start of the journey toward burnout recovery.

The First Step to Burnout Recovery 

As horrible and frightening as the coronavirus is, the ability for workers to stay at home might provide them with the ideal arrangement to begin recovering from burnout.  Let me explain.  

According to a recent Gallup poll, 67% of full-time workers have experienced job burnout.  A Kronos survey found that up to 50% of employees have quit their jobs because of burnout.

So it follows that many newly remote workers who have been forced to “stay at home” have experienced job burnout.  The question is whether their new remote work arrangement will exacerbate these feelings of high stress or whether working from home will provide them with an opportunity to recover from burnout.

According to my Burnout During Organizational Change Model (B-DOC), the first stage of successfully recovering from burnout is to psychologically or physically remove yourself from the stressor.  Psychological removal results in presenteeism — or being physically on the job…but mentally somewhere else.  In other words, you’re there but detached and disengaged. 

But when it comes to physical removal from the stressor, this has traditionally been accomplished through voluntary (“I quit!”) or involuntary (“You’re fired or downsized”) termination.  In other words, you’re no longer reporting to work.

The coronavirus pandemic and need for social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus has forced many companies to allow their employees to work remotely from home — perhaps for the first time.  In other words, employees have now physically removed themselves from the workplace while still retaining their employment status.

Working remotely is a physical removal from workplace stressors and is aligned with the first step of burnout recovery.  

The Second Step to Burnout Recovery 

The psychological or physical separation from workplace stressors is only the first step toward recovering from burnout — but simply leaving the workplace is insufficient to fully recover.  

The next step on the recovery journey is critical:  a time for self-reflection.

What was your standard work day like before you began to work remotely?  For many workers, their day was a never-ending race to get here and do that.  Their days were tightly (and often unrealistically) scheduled:  a 10-minute delay could lead to a cascade of missed appointments and deadlines. 

One very common delay is associated with the daily commute.  According to a recent CNBC report, the average round trip commute in the U.S. is approximately 45 minutes — a record high according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Some states (such as New York, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C.) can have daily commutes as long as 90 minutes — adding nearly an additional 8-hour work day to their weekly schedule.  

As of 2018, 10% of U.S. workers commute 90 minutes or more to work.  In addition to creating work-life balance problems, the decreased amount of time for physical activity can lead to obesity and high blood pressure.

With the move to working remotely, employees are suddenly freeing up anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes per day because they are no longer commuting to work.  

By eliminating the daily commute, workers have been given some ideal time to begin considering the causes of their workplace stress as well as proactive ways to overcome it and move forward.

Here are four questions to consider as you proactively use this extra time to begin your journey to recover from burnout:

  1. What do you believe is the most stressful aspect of your workplace?  Is this still stressful as you work from home?  Consider these 10 workplace stressors that have been linked to job burnout.
  2. Since physical distance from the stressor often provides greater clarity into it, what have been your assumptions as to the reason why this workplace situation has been so stressful for you?  Remember:  Stressors are external and neutral — how you react is based on your assumptions about that stressor.  (Be brave in answering this one — getting to the underlying root assumptions can be challenging because our egos tend to thwart our efforts to see them!)
  3. Now that you have identified the assumptions that have caused you to stress out over this workplace situation, how can you reframe your perspective?  In other words, how can you change your paradigm and see this from a new, less stressful perspective?
  4. Here’s the litmus test:  how much control do you have over this workplace stressor?  The only thing that we can ultimately control is our reaction – and you are ultimately responsible for effectively managing your career.

As you embark on this period of self-discovery (perhaps during the time when you would normally be commuting to work), you will be faced with a decision:  have I found a new way to deal with the stressors of my current job OR should I consider updating my resume, contacting my network, and find a new opportunity?

I believe that many people will begin questioning their current work situations and the high levels of job stress they may have been experiencing as they begin working from home, decreasing their commutes, and (finally) have the time for reflecting on their careers.

Good luck, stay safe, and be healthy!

© 2020 G. A. Puleo 

 

Transform Fear Into Courage

You can do it better than you think - Jimmy Carter

As global citizens, we are communally responding to the coronavirus pandemic — but we are doing it in a variety of ways.

Some of us are frozen by fear of the unknown…fear of the radical changes in our daily habits…fear for ourselves, others, and our community.

But fear can only grow through the continuous repetition of negative self-talk  that emphasizes the “what ifs,” the “if thens,” and the belief that we are incapable of effectively responding to these challenges.

Yes, we would like that this pandemic miraculously disappears.  We pray that the number of fatalities subsides.  We mourn for the destruction of our routines and daily lives.  And we recognize that the world has been transformationally changed as a result of this virus — even though we can only speculate as to what will replace it.

It’s no wonder that many of us “tune out” the warnings, disregard the recommendations, and blindly attempt to conduct “business as usual.”

But this is not “business as usual.”

To overcome fear, we must shift our focus.  While I do not recommend putting a “happy face” on our very real emotions, I do recommend that we take an objective look at what is causing our stress and grief:

  • Are we faced with financial difficulties arising from salary reductions or decreased hours?
  • Are we fearful that our current health (and that of our loved ones) will be compromised some time in the future?
  • Do we feel ill informed and frustrated by the rapidly changing statistics, projections, and recommendations on a daily basis?

In all of these situations, we are trying to develop a new set of habits.  A new routine.  A new way of living our daily lives.

In other words, we are faced with profound changes on an individual, professional, and global basis.

Ignoring the current realities does not remove them.  

As we face what might be one of the biggest challenges in our lifetimes, we need to focus on what we can control — and in this (like any other situation), we can only control ourselves and our responses to this external stressor.

We must decide to continue to enjoy each moment of our lives.  We must recognize that nothing is permanent:  life is not permanent and neither is the coronavirus epidemic.

Courage is, therefore, a decision.  We can pull through this.  We not only have to, but we want to…we need to.  And in so doing, we can unleash the creative human potential that exists in each one of us.

  • We can become aware of our roles as citizens of a global community.
  • We can help others where we can.
  • We can search for ways in which we can be kind to one another.
  • And we can use this time for much needed self-reflection on what we want the legacy of our lives to be.

We can consciously address our fears and transform them into the courage we need to move forward to combat this pandemic.  We know that the coronavirus (like everything else in life) is impermanent.  This too shall pass — but how it will affect us will be determined by how we respond to it.

The coronavirus is not only a referendum on organizational leadership, but it is also a “pause” for us to individually question the nature of our current lives.  Life as we know it is bound to change as a result of this pandemic.  Old paradigms about the “nature of things” will be replaced.  We are uniquely positioned to make a profound difference in the world in which we live.

By objectively addressing our fears and harnessing our innate courage, we can boldly move forward toward the lives and legacies that we envision.

I hope and pray that you are safe, healthy, and courageous as we combat this global pandemic.

© 2020 Dr. Geri Puleo

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Resilient at Work?

The dirty little secret in many organizations is burnout — but most companies refuse to admit it.  Instead their managers focus on building the resiliency of their employees.  It’s a positive spin on an ever-growing workplace challenge.  

But the truth is this:

Resiliency cannot exist if you are burned out.  

I focused on this issue in my keynote address for the Pittsburgh Human Resource Associations’ annual conference, where I spoke about How to Stop Workplace Burnout and Build Employee Resiliency.

I also inadvertently presented a real-time case study on “resiliency in action” when the technology CRASHED — about 10 minutes into my hour-long presentation!

Rather than stressing out or waiting for the tech guy to fix the problem, I adapted.  Since I was prepared and passionate about spreading my message on eradicating workplace burnout, I went “old school” without PowerPoints or any other tech.

Being resilient means being prepared AND being conscious that “life happens when you’re planning something else.”  Since part of my business is presenting keynote addresses, I was able to “walk the talk” that being resilient is critical to doing your job well — and enjoying what you’re doing!

In this post-keynote interview, I share some of my insights into the symptoms of burnout, why its victims are often professionally stigmatized, how companies can help build employee resiliency, and how I personally avoid burnout.

P.S.:  This keynote is published on PHRA’s YouTube channel.

©2020 Dr. Geri Puleo

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© 2020 G. A. Puleo

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

How NOT to Be a Grinch This Holiday!

Feeling “blue” during the holidays? You’re not alone. The holidays add even more to our “To Do” Lists — but there ARE ways to manage your holiday stress at home and at work!

Click here to find out more in my free eCourse by going to https://dr-geri-puleo.teachable.com/p/de-stressing-the-holidays/.

Ho, Ho, Ho!

© 2019 G. A. Puleo

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Gratitude + Thankfulness = Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2019 Meme

An environment in which gratitude and thankfulness are freely expressed creates the true spirit of Thanksgiving — but sometimes I think that this spirit has been lost in our mad rush to do it all, fix it all, and be everywhere at once.

For many people, Thanksgiving is a long weekend filled with obligations and familial duties that must be performed.  This creates a hyperactive, “rush rush” pace that misses the true intent behind the holiday.

  • Are you grateful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life?  Even if you are facing challenging situations, there is always at least one thing that gives you peace and sparks joy in your being.  Find it.
  • Do you naturally express the thankfulness that you feel for all that is in your life?  Far too often, a simple “thank you” for an expression of kindness (large or small) is overlooked or simply assumed.  Express it.
  • Have you set aside even a few minutes for quiet reflection some time during the Thanksgiving weekend for all the blessings and advantages in your life?  Although it is said that it is better to give than receive, receiving graciously and giving freely are the cornerstones of a life of fulfillment and joy.  Live it.

This Thanksgiving, I urge you to think about more than just the turkey with all the fixings.  To think about more than the football games.  And to think more about the people in your life rather than the breakneck travel to see them.  Instead, really consider how your family and friends enhance the quality to your life. 

And don’t forget to spread the kindness of the season to your coworkers, bosses, and employees.  Thanksgiving in the workplace is a time to express your gratitude for how those with whom you work enable you to do your job well and succeed.  After all, the people with whom we work are just that:  people who want to feel grateful and appreciated.  Recognize them.  

By consistently combining gratitude with thankfulness, Thanksgiving expands beyond a single day in November and instead becomes a way of living and being in the world.

© 2019 G. A. Puleo

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Change Your Perception…Change Your Stress

Stress is result of your estimate - Marcus Aurelius

Your experience of the world reflects your perspective of it.  Far too often, we become stressed out by what’s going on in our environment.

But have you noticed that some other people might not be feeling the same stress?

It all has to do with your perception.  Your estimate of what is happening and what it does or may mean to you gives your environment power over YOU.  By simply changing your estimation of what is going on, you can unleash your creativity and strength to deal with the situation…more proactively and with less debilitating stress.

So flip your perspective:  the world that you think is upside down, might actually be right side up!

© 2019 G. A. Puleo

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com