Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that often leads to decreased productivity. The term is often used in the workplace where it can be caused by high job demands, lack of control over one’s work, unsupportive or coercive organizations. Burnout can occur from single or repeated events that might not seem particularly stressful.
A sense of accomplishment and engagement is replaced with feelings of apathy and detachment. In the age of virtual workplaces, this burnout is replaced by digital burn out or zoom fatigue. Digital burnout can occur with prolonged and overuse of electronic devices. It is characterized by a lack of motivation, social withdrawal and negative thoughts about the usage of technological devices. The high amounts of screen time, especially at night when melatonin levels increase and should help a person fall asleep, leads to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, obesity and diabetes. There may also be an underlying Obsessive-compulsive disorder that requires treatment.
Negative feelings about technology may include anxiety, stress, anger or sadness when using electronic devices or being online. These emotions can cause negative thoughts or an inability to focus on other tasks. Many people who suffer from digital burnout stop using technology as a means of expressing themselves. This result in feelings of depression, isolation and inadequacy.
Although burnout can be caused by excessive emotional stress, it can also be a self-perpetuating cycle with low levels of environmental stimulation. Overuse of work technology can lead to high levels of anxiety as well as repetitive tasking leading to feelings of tedium and monotony.
The solution to digital burnout may lie in the fact that people need time to disconnect from the digital world. Time is required for people to refocus on other tasks and refresh their minds and their energy levels. Here are a few tips to protect yourself from burnout
- Take breaks: take short breaks (30-60 minutes) throughout the day. Set a timer or use a reminder app to remind you when it’s time to take a break. Digital devices can cause stress due to the expectation to be constantly available and always connected. Take regular breaks give you time to relax and refresh. During these breaks concentrate on something other than what you are doing. You may even play a few free bingo games during your break to de-stress. It may even be beneficial to plan a long weekend with little or no technology usage in order to give your mind time for new ideas or tasks and help avoid burnout from overuse of technology.
- Practice mindful technology use: Mindful Technology use means using technology in a non-anxious way. It also means keeping track of your activity levels and setting appropriate limits. Being aware of how you are using technology will help you to regulate your usage and enjoy it more. Pay attention to the amount of time you spend on each application (email, social media, etc.). Set limits on the amount of time you spend on these activities each day or week.
- Change your mind-set: Many people have problems with digital devices because they feel a sense of urgency or obligation to keep connected with work or friends through technology. The solution to digital burnout is not to disconnect from technology but rather to remind yourself that you need time for other activities and a healthy mind. It may be beneficial to set up a task list and check off the tasks you complete every day.
- Let go of your fear of technology: People who use technology are often concerned about their security, fear of hacking, data breaches or viruses. However, most people’s fears are unfounded. When using new forms of contact with others such as social media there is always the risk of being hacked or attacked by someone else but this can be avoided if one maintains positive passwords and security settings. As long as precautions are taken it is unlikely that your information will be misused.
- Set boundaries: Explore your options with your employer in order to set limits on certain devices such as phones and other devices you work with at work, such as audio/video equipment and computers. If you feel you are being pressured to upgrade or buy new technology because you feel it is necessary, speak to your employer about how to handle this situation.
While technology can be helpful for many different jobs, the proliferation of excessive phone calls or emails in a work environment can cause stress and cause burnout. It is important for employees to set limits for how much phone calls they receive and how much email they receive from different sources. In some cases, it may be necessary to talk to your employer about this issue or request a new role that does not involve excessive contact with co-workers.
- Digital detox: A digital detox is a period of time in which a person stops using his or her technology for a certain amount of time usually 24 hours. This is beneficial to gain a sense of balance between your digital and physical worlds by allowing the brain time to rest and de-stress. A digital detox also allows you to reflect on and better understand your emotional and physical relationship with technology.
Digital detoxes should not be a long-term strategy but should rather be a short-term solution to using technology in an unbalanced way. It is also beneficial to take some time off work or schedule a day off each week in order to relax from work and enjoy your free time.
A majority of people think that they are overwhelmed by the number of emails, phone calls and texts they receive. However, the real issue is a lack of organization. An excessive amount of communication from different sources could cause feelings of anxiety for the person on the receiving end. Technology may provide a way to help organize and prioritize the messages or calls one receives but this can be done on a day-to-day basis for each person or department.
The benefits of technology in the workplace are undeniable due to the ease of access and high efficiency it offers. However, these same technological advances can be very negative in terms of how they can disrupt work routines, cause anxiety in employees, and cause burnout if overused. The key to being a successful employee is to take control of your time and control what information you give out through social media