Beating burn out as ‘return-to-office’ ramps up

An easing of restrictions in NSW and Victoria means cities are ramping up for a return to office-working. But as we face another change to our routine, how can Aussies best prepare for a mentally healthy workplace?

The festive period may not have brought the opportunity to rest and reset that many were hoping for. Increased restrictions and heightened community transmission of the Omicron variant left people isolated, events and trips cancelled and families spending Christmas and New Year apart from their loved ones again.

For our frontline workers, in some cases holidays were shortened or postponed as they attended to the increased demand. Many essential workers have faced the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic with no WFH option.

Settling back into a ‘normal’ routine is always challenging after the holiday period. However, the lack of a true ‘break’ combined with returning back to office environments could be leaving many feeling fatigued, demotivated and disengaged.

As we adjust to routines, this is an important time to be conscious and mindful of our wellbeing. Despite the challenges we may face at this time of year, it’s often a period where people are much less likely to reach out for support. In fact, almost half the amount of people sought AccessEAP counselling services in January 2022, when compared to November 2021 - indicating that many could be suffering in silence.

Employers must be mindful and sensitive to their people. For anyone feeling demotivated or fatigued, here are some tips you can share to help keep mental health and wellbeing front-of-mind.

1. Set realistic goals or intentions for the year ahead 

Having goals helps give us a sense of purpose and can motivate us as we have something to work towards. The more specific and achievable the goals, the more likely we are to stick to them. Not sure where to start? Speaking to a coach or counsellor, or checking the resources available from your EAP provider could help steer you in the right direction.

2. Communication is key (to colleagues as well as family & friends)

Communication is paramount to developing a healthy and thriving workplace. Whether it’s external or internal factors, we all experience challenges when it comes to our workplace wellbeing. Keeping these feelings or concerns to ourselves can make us feel alone and isolated. Confiding in a trusted manager, colleague or friend can help us get perspective and realise others may be going through similar things. If you want to make sure the conversation stays confidential, then reach out to your EAP provider.

3. Stick to a routine

With so much change happening around us, finding a routine that works for us can help keep a sense of control. A routine of exercise, healthy food and sleep will help us cope with change, create healthy habits and reduce stress - all of which contribute to our overall well being both in and outside of work.

4. Identify what you can control

Understand that you cannot control other people or everything happening around you, so relieve yourself of that pressure and responsibility. Instead, identify the elements of your work and environment that you can control and focus on those first. There could be some small considerations in your day to day work life that would help you feel more in control. For example, are you able to create a flexible work schedule? Can you switch up your commute to the office? Is there a more efficient way to manage your ‘to-do’ list? What are you doing outside of work that nourishes you and have you created strong boundaries with your work to ensure you complete them?

5. Be kind to yourself

Most importantly, be easy on yourself and others. For some of us, working life may not have changed much in the past six months, for others, we’re navigating completely new environments and routines. If you’re feeling particularly stressed or overwhelmed, there are some immediate steps you can take that can help - such as mindfulness practice and breathing techniques. Learning something new also helps your brain plasticity and reinvigorates your sense of purpose. Reach out to your EAP provider for more information and tips.

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