How to mitigate the symptoms of burnout whilst WFH

By Anna Golawski - November 19, 2020

Mental Health Coach, Anna Golawski, talks handling pressure and stress while WFH and how to build resilience.


2020 has been a year of uncertainty and change with lots of us leaving our daily routines within busy offices and adapting to a ‘new normal’ whilst working remotely. WFH has many benefits such as more flexibility and less time spent on long commutes, however, as the UK government continues to enforce restrictions, it can lead to burnout, stress and anxiety. Those who typically enjoy their jobs can begin to feel overwhelmed and lack motivation. It is important to remember this is completely normal as we are all at home to stay safe and trying to work. For managers and team leaders, it is crucial to acknowledge everyone has different struggles and how each of us copes differs.


Research from the University of Warwick found that we are 12 percent more productive when we are in a positive mood. If we have a positive mindset we are more creative, solve problems faster and are better collaborators. So, if you’re stressed or suffering from burnout, you’re not going to be performing your best.


Whilst wellbeing has been a top priority for many companies over the last decade the pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis. Mind recently reported that “more than half of adults said their mental health has deteriorated during the period of lockdown restrictions.” Therefore, employers are now having to reassess what is important and invest in funding wellbeing initiatives.


So why are we feeling so stressed at the moment? In Daniel Kahneman’s book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ he suggests we have two brain systems. System 1 is the brain's automatic, intuitive, and unconscious thinking mode. It requires little energy or attention. System 2 is a slow, controlled, and analytical method of thinking where reason dominates. Unlike system 1, it requires energy and attention to think through all the choices. During the upheaval of the pandemic, we have had to use our system 2 brain a lot more and the cognitive ease of life has been disrupted. So, if your mood and energy levels are up and down, it’s because we're all having to be extra vigilant. ‘Have I washed my hands?', 'Have I got my mask?', 'Am I standing far enough away?.’


We all need a bit of pressure at work to keep us motivated and to help us hit our goals, however, when our stress bucket overspills, we need to take action.


What makes us stressed?

  • Protecting things that we care about (safety, home, job, loved ones)
  • Social evaluation (failure, being seen negatively by others)
  • Lack of control (the situation or success seems beyond our power)


We all react differently to stress, but what is your stress signature?

  • Body – headaches, aches/pains, fatigue tension
  • Mind – worrying, negativity, indecisions, poor concentration
  • Emotions – irritable, tearful, angry, apprehensive.
  • Behaviours – drinking, smoking, eating patterns, insomnia, restless


It’s important to recognise what stress looks like, especially for managers who will have to decipher their team’s mood through a screen. Below are some of the signs to look out for.


Signs even when you’re working remotely

  • The key is to look for changes in behaviour which are out of character.
  • Increased worrying
  • Headaches or unexplained aches and pains
  • Negative language – think about what words are they using
  • Sudden loss of confidence
  • Apathy/tone of voice -flat or monotone/sighing
  • Quality of the work had declined/missing deadlines
  • Lack of participation on calls or avoiding them altogether
  • Change in appearance and not making an effort


What can you do?


If you’re a team leader or manager, a great idea is to implement a Wellness Action Plan (WAP), this can include:

  • What keeps you well at work
  • Identify triggers and early warning signs
  • Steps you could take to keep yourself well
  • Support/adjustments needed from your line manager

There are also a number of platforms available for employees to help encourage wellbeing and provide tailored information to support employees e.g. Cigna, Unmind and Welbot.


What can you do to manage your stress bucket?

  • Vigorous physical exercise - promotes serotonin and reduces stress symptoms
  • Breathers and restorers - rest and leisure activities can calm you down
  • A healthy diet - helps your body cope in its heightened state


Most importantly you need to deal with the source of the stress whether that be a situation at work or home. We’re all looking for that magic solution to reduce stress, but, it can be easy to overlook the basics!


5-a-day for your mind

1. Have I had enough sleep?

2. Have I drunk enough water?

3. What did I eat today?

4. Have I had enough natural light?

5. Have I been physically active recently?


See how the Concirrus team have been coping with WFH this year in our blog ‘Ensuring balance whilst WFH'

Learn more about Stratus Coaching here and get in touch with Anna here.


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