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Have you ever worked too long without taking a break? Picture yourself sitting at your desk, staring at your computer screen. Your eyes and brain are tired, and despite your best efforts, it is hard to string together a cohesive thought, let alone focus on the task at hand. We’ve all been there before. Imagine doing this to yourself day after day and the toll this would take on your physical and mental health, your feelings about work, and your ability to perform. 

Though the pandemic has fundamentally changed the workplace, one fundamental fact has not changed: people need time to recharge or we can risk burnout. While it’s pretty universally recognized that breaks are important and work-life balance is something to strive for, the pressure to be productive often interferes with the best-laid plans to recharge and take some time for yourself. The duty to put yourself first and find time to recharge will likely fall on you. Read further to learn the importance of taking time to recharge to prevent burnout in the workplace and change your perspective about what it means to recharge. Remember, everyone needs a break sometimes. 

Your Work Quality Could Improve

Unsurprisingly, running on fumes does not produce the best results, and if you do not recharge, you will not create the best quality work. When you are nearing burnout, even simple tasks can feel like a huge burden, increasing the amount of time you spend on them and the risk of errors. Not only that, burnout is a vicious cycle that can result in stress compounding regularly and lead you to resent the work you do because you are not enjoying your job. While it might seem counterintuitive to spend time away from work to be more productive, when you can return to work refreshed, energized, and excited you may find yourself more ready to take on anything with the extra energy you got from recharging.

Your Physical and Mental Health can be Affected

Burnout can have severe impacts on your physical and mental health. The increase in stress can cause high blood pressure, increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and has been shown to weaken your immune system. Many overworked people are sedentary, and too much spent sitting behind a desk is not only bad for your body, but it can get in the way of your ability to be active, increasing the risk of obesity and slowing your metabolism. Prolonged work-related stress also increases the risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide. By taking time to recharge, you invest in your physical and mental health to build a healthier, more sustainable future for yourself. Even short breaks to get some air or take a walk make a huge difference and are excellent practices for future recharging efforts.

Working From Home Does Not Make Burnout Less Likely

With so many of us working from home during the pandemic, burnout is at an all-time high. Pre-pandemic, remote work was a less familiar concept reserved for inclement weather or special occasions. A year ago, it would have been hard to imagine why working from the comfort of your own home could be so draining. In reality, working from home can mean being home all the time with no physical barriers between work and the rest of your life. In the past, it was much easier to leave an unfinished project on your desk at the end of the day and return to it in the morning, but many people are finding themselves working longer hours and struggling to create work boundaries. For this reason, it is crucially important to make time to recharge if you are working remotely.

Ways to Recharge

A common misconception is that you need to relax to recharge. Recharging to prevent workplace burnout means creating some space between you and your work, regardless of how that space looks. Taking a nap or watching an entertaining show are great options to recharge. Focusing on a hobby, exercising, or calling a friend are likewise effective ways to restore energy. Even working on another non-work project or chore can help you recharge because you have taken your mind away from the workplace. When trying to revive your energy, try not to compare yourself to others. As long as you do something that works for you and makes you feel good, you are taking a step in the right direction, doing something good for yourself, and investing in yourself and your work. 

Take Responsibility for Recharging

Finding time to recharge can be challenging. You may have a seemingly endless queue of competing deadlines, meetings and appointments. Add to that an inbox that never seems to stay empty, and there can always be a compelling reason for you not to take the time to recharge. The thing is, you are the only person who can force you to take a break. Even if a manager, colleague, or loved one suggests that pause, if your internal drive compels you to keep working, you will likely keep working. It is easy to get fixated on your work or get caught up thinking about all the tasks ahead. You might even make promises to yourself that you never keep, like “once I finish this report, I can…” or “as soon as I clear out my inbox, I will…” If you remember that recharging will make your work better and more efficient; that boundaries are something to be embraced, not feared; and that your health and well-being must come first; finding time to recharge might seem much more valuable.

Normalize Taking Time to Recharge

Hustle culture is not sustainable and while being a hard worker is an excellent quality, glamorizing working longer and longer hours sets unrealistic expectations and bad examples. Some of us are very lucky in that we love what we do for work, and while this is amazing, it is still essential to try to create a divide between time spent working and time spent recharging or enjoying the rest of life.

Investing time in recharging comes down to changing your perception. Some suggest thinking about recharging yourself just as you would your phone. If you see that your phone battery is low, you plug it in to charge because otherwise, your phone will die. Others suggest normalizing talking about your time spent recharging, especially when you come back to work. This might mean sharing what you did to recharge with your colleagues, holding each other accountable, or fostering a work culture that respects that time off is time off. By openly talking about taking time and scheduling time for yourself throughout the day, you can make yourself more resistant to burnout. 

Bio Card 2 - Cate Lemmond