Nine lessons to avoid burnout, and ‘boreout’

The folks at Bupa have drawn up nine lessons to maintain your physical and mental health one year into the pandemic



We’ve all had more than enough additions to the lexicon in the last year. Lockdown wasn’t a thing till the first one started a year ago. Then there’s been furlough, pandemic and even zoombie.

Apparently ‘boreout’ is the latest word to catch on. According to Bupa, Google searches for the mental health condition ‘boreout’ increased by 680% in 2020. Other search terms also leapt. Searches for ‘online learning’ increased by 400%.

More pertinently to their health business, Bupa research also found 63% of the UK workforce have injured their back, hips, wrist, and neck over the past year whilst working from home in the last year.

Combining the two bits of research Bupa’s identified nine lessons from the 12 months since lockdown began and they’ve shared advice on how to implement changes to cope with the new way of working.

Lesson 1: It’s important to take regular breaks

With our homes becoming multifunctional spaces for both home and work it has been hard to switch off from the stresses in our working lives. During 2020, searches for ‘burnout’ peaked at 12,100. Burnout is when we experience high levels of stress in work which we’re unable to control – leading to many feeling exhausted. As a result, we lose motivation, feel negatively towards work, and lack productivity.

Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser at Bupa UK has advice. She said, “Taking regular breaks to fight the effects of burnout. Taking five-minute breaks away from your workspace during the day to practice mindfulness or some simple stretches can boost your mood helping you to tackle the day ahead. Spend your evenings doing something you enjoy. And spread your annual leave across the year. Both give you time to switch off for longer periods of time and can leave you feeling re-energised when you return to work.”

Lesson 2: Challenging work keeps us engaged

Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance describes boreout as “a mental health condition often experienced when you feel as though your work isn’t challenging enough or repetitive. Often those who experience boreout feel anxious and fatigued.”

During 2020, Google searches for ‘boreout’ increased by 680%. Boreout can be caused by reduced work hours, workload, and lack of social interaction.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of boreout it’s important to speak to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. Speaking to your manager about any career goals or targets you would like to achieve can help you to feel motivated and overcome boreout.

As a manager spotting the signs of boreout (fatigue, lack of motivation and stress) early can help you to support your team and their motivation.

Lesson 3: Flexibility leads to a happier workforce

With the closure of schools many parents have found themselves juggling their workload and home schooling, meaning workplace flexibility has become more important than ever before.

In March 2020, at the very beginning of the first lockdown many parents turned to Google for advice on balancing home-schooling and work commitments. Searches for ‘working from home with kids’ peaked at a monthly search volume of 12,100.

Over the past year there has been an importance placed on striking a great work-life balance, with 67% of the UK workforce agreeing their employers have been supportive.

Lesson 4: Nutritious lunches fuel us for the afternoon ahead

Over the past year there has been a significant increase in searches for ‘healthy lunch ideas’ with monthly search volumes peaking at 74,000. With many of us spending more time at home it can be tempting to form unhealthy eating habits, turning to snacking and convenience food rather than healthy meals at regular times.

Victoria Evans, Wellbeing Consultant at Bupa UK and Registered Associate Nutritionist says eating a healthy and balanced lunch will help to boost your energy levels, fuelling you for the afternoon ahead. “A Lunchtime meal that include a balance of fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates like quinoa, bread, rice

and potatoes, protein like eggs, fish, meat or dairy alternatives and healthy fats in things like olive oil and avocado can help to beat the lunch time lull”.

If you’re looking for healthy lunch inspiration you can follow a weekly lunchtime meal planner.

Lesson 5: Too many video calls have left us feeling fatigued, anxious, and stressed

Google searches for ‘zoom fatigue’ fluctuated during 2020. Zoom fatigue, describes the stress, tiredness and burnout associated with too many video calls. After a year of video calls as a main method of communication this is something all of us may have experienced.

Processing multiple faces and voices through the lens of a screen requires a lot of subconscious effort. Low video quality can also make it harder to understand facial expressions – meaning our brains must work harder to make up for the lack of communication signals.

For some there is also the additional worry of being interrupting by family members, distracting noises, and poor internet connection. Similarly, if you have many meetings back to back there is less of an opportunity to take a break away from your desk. All these factors can contribute to video fatigue.

Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser at Bupa UK, says, “There are small steps you can take to avoid zoom fatigue. Ask yourself does a video call need to take place – could you communicate via email, teams or skype messages? During video calls, try to avoid multi-tasking such as checking emails or completing other pieces of work. This will reduce any additional cognitive load allowing us to concentrate on that task at hand.”

Lesson 6: Your WFH setup is important

Last year we had to quickly adjust to working from home overnight, with only one in three of us having access to a dedicated workspace.

Research by Bupa has revealed 63% of the UK workforce have injured their back, hips, wrist, and neck over the past year whilst working from home.

Whilst working remotely it’s important to work from a desk or table if you have no access to a dedicated workspace – poor work setup can wreak havoc on your posture, leading to aches and pains.

Many of us also sit at our desks for too long, this can lead to stiffness and muscle pain. Try taking a break for your desk every 5-10 minutes to stretch your legs and rest your eyes, this will reduce the risk of injury.

If you are experiencing discomfort whilst working from home, speak to your employer, GP or physiotherapist they will be able to help.

Lesson 7: Get creative with your virtual events

Making time for your team to socialise is important for both employee wellbeing and promoting company culture.

With the festive season last year being a little different to usual Google searches for ‘virtual team building activities’ peaked at 4,400 monthly searches. With social distancing restrictions in place virtual events remain a great way for your team to stay connected. Virtual events can be as small or as big as you like. This could be a weekly coffee catch up, post work drinks or even a quiz.

However, when planning a work from home event it’s important to consider the different personalities of each of your team members. For example, some members of your team may prefer to join in without being on camera whilst others may have to work around other commitments such as childcare. This will help your event get off to a great start and put any anxieties at ease.

Lesson 8: Career development is a great way to feel a sense of control during unprecedented times

Supporting your team to develop their skills not only helps to boost their confidence but also builds an engaged and motivating workforce.

Last year searches for ‘online learning’ increased by 400%. Career development has given many of us something positive to focus on and reduce the effects of burnout or boreout.

Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK Insurance explains “learning a new skill doesn’t necessarily need to be work related, learning a new language or craft both count towards developing your skillset.”

As a manager you can led by example and share any opportunities of online learning where you feel your team may enjoy or benefit from. However, it is also important to communicate that furthering your skills is not compulsory. Some members of your team may feel as though their time is stretched more than ever right now – especially those juggling home-schooling and workloads.

Lesson 9: A morning routine is important for getting your day off to a great start

Since adjusting to working remotely, many of us have made a habit of snoozing alarms and rushing to log on to our laptop to start our working day in the morning – and we’re not alone in this. Searches for ‘morning routine ideas’ peaked at a monthly search volume of 8,100 in May 2020.

Lauren Gordon, Behavioural Insights Adviser at Bupa UK says “creating a morning routine that works for you is a great way to boost your mood and productivity levels for the day ahead. With the days becoming longer and mornings lighter now is a great time to find what works for you.”

You can create a morning routine around behaviours you would usually do such as making your bed, taking a shower, and having a healthy breakfast. However, you can also try replacing your commute time with a new habit such as a morning walk.

There is no right or wrong morning routine, however creating a routine that works for you is a great way of adding structure to your daily life – reducing stress whilst improving your sleep and time management.

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