How to buffer yourself from burnout as you return to the office

How to buffer yourself from burnout as you return to the office


One hundred, or 250ish, days of lockdown and most of us adjusted to working from home eventually. And amidst the inevitable challenges, there were silver linings too including, for many people, flexible work, autonomy and more time with the ones we love.

So much so that only one in 10 want to return to work in the office five days a week. Many workers have said they will quit if forced back into the office full-time.

Bounce forward and prevent burnout.Credit:Getty

As Sydney and Melbourne re-emerge from lockdown and people slowly return to their workplaces, there is inevitable resistance and talk of a burnout boom.


“We’re not re-emerging refreshed and ready to go, it’s actually quite the opposite,” says Mary Spillane, a clinical psychologist and the Australian mental health expert for the Headspace app.

This is because many people have occupied their time by working more, boundaries between work and home have blurred, and we haven’t been able to take proper holidays or engage in the activities that provide stress relief, like social connection.

“To add to this the pressures of homeschooling and general uncertainty about the future is a risk factor for stress and may impact on wellbeing,” says Dr Mark Deady, a workplace mental health specialist at Black Dog Institute. “Our recent white paper has shown that since the onset of the pandemic levels of psychological distress have dramatically increased for most working age Australians.”

Research in the US suggests about one in three workers have found the return to the office challenging and believe it has negatively affected their mental health.

With the pandemic already taking its toll on our mental health and leading to burnout – which typically shows up as exhaustion, cynical detachment and a reduced sense of personal or professional efficacy – what can we do to buffer ourselves as we return to the office and some kind of normal?

“There is a lot we can do,” assures Deady who says workplaces, where possible, need to be flexible and allow a transition period or hybrid arrangement to prevent poor mental health and burnout.

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