World Mental Health Day 2020

The theme for World Mental Health Day in 2020 is ‘Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access. Everyone, everywhere’. With the global pandemic affecting so many of us, we're researching into how working from home and lockdown could increase our chances of experiencing burnout, and what you can do to help prevent burnout.

Burnout as an occupational hazard

In May 2019, burnout was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’.

Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion. It can occur when you experience long-term stress in your job, or when you have worked in a physically or emotionally draining role for a long time.

Common signs of burnout:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached/alone in the world
  • Having a cynical/negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed

The burning question

With the help of YouGov, we asked 2,279 adults about their perceptions of burnout and what they think could contribute towards it in 2020, considering the covid-19 pandemic.

Lockdown drastically affected our work-life balance. The lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred. Many of us are working longer hours, have been looking after children during the working day, and for many, having limited social interaction or change in environment.

51% of people felt that they were more prone to extreme levels of stress this year compared to the same time last year, and 1 in 5 people (20%) working full-time felt unable to manage pressure and stress at work.

Why is burnout important?

Burnout doesn’t go away on its own. It will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore the signs of burnout, it could cause further harm to your physical and mental health in the future. You could also lose the ability and energy to effectively meet the demands of your job which could have knock-on effects to the other areas of your life.

As prevalent as it is, burnout is often misunderstood, stigmatised, and costly both to employees’ health and wellbeing, and employers’ productivity.

The role of the workplace in burnout

Our research found that just 23% of people knew what plans their employers had in place to help spot signs of chronic stress and burnout in employees. This suggests that employers need to make more effort to communicate with their employees about the support that is available for work-related stress, and to educate their employees about recognising and managing stress and deteriorating mental health in themselves before things become too difficult to manage

You could use a Wellbeing Plan as a tool to help you identify what good wellbeing looks like for you, as well as what it looks like when things aren’t so good. You could share this with your team so that you can help to look out for each other.

Stress Risk Assessments are another way you can explore stress in yourself and others at work. These work the same way as a regular health and safety risk assessment: you identify a risk, then explore ways of removing or reducing the risk. This could be explored during 1:1s or less formal check-ins.

What contributes to burnout and what can we do about it?

We found 9 factors which could significantly contribute to feelings of burnout in the UK over the lockdown period. We’ve highlighted what these were, and what you can do to help combat them.

Interestingly, not all of the factors were explicitly work-related, despite the World Health Organisation’s definition of burnout being an occupational hazard. This may indicate that the pressures of work, combined with the additional pressures brought about by the pandemic are having a big impact on our wellbeing.

We know that money and mental health go hand in hand, 83% of people agreed that money worries could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas of how you can manage your money and budget:

With much of the population working from home in a variety of conditions, it’s not surprising that nearly half (43%) of people felt that working from home could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas on how to best work from home:

  • Structure your day: You can think of your workday in the same way as if you were going to the office. Try to have a dedicated workspace, ideally a quiet place away from others and distractions. Try to get up in plenty of time to get ready for work. Make sure you have everything you need there for your working day. Plan your start, break, lunch, and end times. Sticking to an end time can be as important as a start time. We all need to recharge our batteries.
  • Make sure to have a break: Breaks are important to refresh yourself and they can help you be more productive. Taking a 5-minute break away from your screen each hour can improve your wellbeing and improve your concentration. Don’t feel that you have to be at your screen all the time to prove you’re working. If you were in the office you would go for regular breaks, and it’s no different when you’re working from home.
  • Set boundaries: If you live with others it might be difficult to separate home and work life. It’s important to set boundaries about when and where you do and don’t work. You can have a discussion and agree on things together. You could write down your work schedule for the week and put it up in a place where all household members can see it. It is important to have clear home and work time.
  • Stay in contact: Working from home doesn’t mean you should silently concentrate on your work all day. You can still talk to colleagues by audio or video call. It’s good for everyone’s wellbeing and it is good to check in with others. Book in regular contact with your manager and other colleagues. Talk about any challenges you have working from home.
  • Manage your time: Time management in your job can influence your wellbeing and mental health. If you manage your time well, you can feel relaxed and in control and achieve the goals you want. But if you manage it poorly you can get stressed and be less productive. When you have a lot of things to do at work, it can be hard to decide what to do and when to do it. Things to think about are:
    • Decide what you want to achieve
    • Assess each task
    • Make a plan
    • Be flexible
    • Think about the 4 D’s when managing your workload: Ditch (does this task need to be done?), defer (could it be done at a later date?), delegate (could someone else complete it?), and do.

 

Nine million people have been furloughed for at least one three-week period since March (BBC), which understandably would leave people worried about their future careers. 80% of people agreed that worries about job security and fear of redundancy could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas on how to ease those worries.

  • Talk to your employer: If you are worried about your job security, you can speak to your manager. You can ask them if your job is at risk. And you can ask them to be honest with you. You can ask your manager what the next steps are and when you will know more information.
  • Get advice: It can help you to get expert advice on the situation to know more about what your rights and options are. You can contact ACAS for free confidential advice. You don’t have to give any personal details if you don’t want to.
  • Look for another job: If your job is at risk you could prepare to look for another job by updating your CV. You can get more information on writing a CV by clicking here.
  • You can contact the National Careers Service for careers advice. They provide information, advice and guidance to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities.
  • Make a plan: If your job is at risk, it might help you to make a plan of the things you can do if you lose your job. Making a plan can help you to:
    • Take control of the situation,
    • Know what your options are, and
    • Reduce stress, knowing there are practical things you can do if you lose your job.

Feeling lonely can have a negative impact on our mental health, which is bound to impact our work. 79% of people agreed that feeling isolated could contribute to burnout. If you’re worried about isolation:

  • Support lines: Talking about how you are feeling can have big benefits. People who care about you like friends and family are usually happy to listen and support you. But you can also call the following lines to talk about how you are feeling: Samaritans, Support Line, A.L.M, Silverline (for people over 55) and The Mix (for people under 25).
  • Online forums: You may find it helpful to use an online support forum, such as Clic. On Clic you can access quick chat, discussion forums, information, videos and support contacts.
  • Support groups: Mental health support groups help you connect with others who have mental health issues and their carers. The following organisations provide support groups, so you can see if there’s one in your local area: Rethink Mental Illness, local Minds and Carers Trust (for support groups and services for carers). Please note that some support groups may be online only due to covid-19 restrictions.
  • Investing in relationships: The Mental Health Foundation’s Guide on relationships explains what you can do to create better relationships with yourself and with the people around you. This can help to reduce isolation.

Doing things that help us to relax, make us feel happy or calm such as exercise, eating well and sleep are a normal part of taking care of ourselves and they contribute towards our mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health and they influence each other. 81% of people felt that poor physical health could contribute to burnout. Here are some ways you could improve your physical health.

  • Eat healthy foods and have a balanced diet. Find more information on the NHS website.
  • Keep physically active. Exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can increase the levels of serotonin and endorphins which are your body’s natural ‘happy’ chemicals. Visit the Mental Health UK website for more information.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Avoiding alcohol, drinking only moderately, or cutting down. Visit the Rethink Mental Illness website for more information.
  • Avoiding smoking or cutting down. Visit the Rethink Mental Illness website for more information.

Problems with sleep can affect how you feel physically and mentally, and how you feel can also affect how you sleep. 86% of people felt that poor sleep could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas on how to improve your sleep:

  • Diary: Using a diary can help to see if there is a pattern to your sleep. It may also help to see what may be affecting your sleep. You may find using our 7-day sleep tracker helps you to do this.
  • Routine: Having a set routine before bed can help with having a better night’s sleep. You may have to try different things before you find the right routine that helps. It can help to do things that help you relax before going to bed. Click here for more information.
  • Relaxing techniques: Finding the right activity that can help you relax can help you with your sleeping. You may need to try different activities before you find the right one that helps you. You can try things such as yoga, meditation, art, listening to soothing music.
  • Speak to your GP: If you are having problems sleeping, going to see your GP could help as they may be able to suggest some options to help you.

It’s important for our wellbeing to have good relationships so that we can share our hopes, fears, confidence and happiness and, keep us going when we need extra support. 76% of people felt that problems in relationships could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas on how to improve your relationships.

  • Your relationship with yourself: Having a healthy relationship with yourself is as important as your relationship with others. To have a healthy relationship with yourself self-care is important. Self-care can be different for everyone. Self-care can include resting, exercising, spending time outside, speaking to others and reflecting on the good parts of your day.
  • Your relationships with others: The Mental Health Foundation’s Guide on relationships explains what you can do to create better relationships with others.
  • Your relationship with your partner: If you have a partner, it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with them. Ways to do this can be:
    • Give time
    • Be present for each other
    • Listen to each other
    • Share thought and feelings

Although most children have returned to school for the Autumn term, home-schooling children was something that 65% agree could contribute to burnout. Here are some ideas on how to manage homeschooling if you need to do it again.

  • Take each day at a time: Try not to plan too far ahead it may cause more worry. Deal with each day and challenge at a time.
  • Setting routine: Setting a routine for the day can help you and your children cope better with the day. It can help to get the children involved with writing the routine. The children may be more likely to stick to the routine if they have had a say in it.
  • Use apps: Trying to make sure your children are doing the right schoolwork can be a worry. You don’t have to do this on your own. There are several apps online that children can use. Some schools will have a list of suitable websites and apps.

For more tips and ideas, read our blog post.

77% of people agreed that increased caring responsibilities, such as looking after elderly parents, could contribute to burnout. If you’re worried about looking after someone with a mental health problem, our founding charity partner in England, Rethink Mental Illness, have provided some fantastic advice.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2279 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd – 23rd September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Downloadable images

Share our images on social media about burnout this World Mental Health Day.

Managing pressure

Prone to extreme stress

Money worries

Working from home

Home-schooling children

Job security

Relationships

Physical health

Isolation

Caring for others

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