Expert foresees rise in cases of work-from-home burnout

Large numbers of people are at risk of burnout especially those who continue to work from home.

PETALING JAYA: A mental health expert has predicted that the new surge in Covid-19 cases will put large numbers of people at risk of burnout, especially those who continue to work from home.

Sheila Menon, the principal of London College of Clinical Hypnosis (LCCH) Asia, said the possibility of another lockdown and the inability to conceptualise an end to the pandemic after eight months have contributed to emotional fatigue in some people.

She told FMT her institution had seen an increase in the number of patients with symptoms common to emotional burnout over the last 18 months, mainly among young adults, healthcare professionals, teachers and managers.

She said the symptoms included tiredness, headaches or muscle pains, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, loss of motivation, self-doubt and the tendency to procrastinate and withdraw from work responsibilities.

Sheila Menon.

“People experience burnout when they have been exposed to a prolonged emotional, physical or mental ordeal,” she said.

“It is particularly challenging for people who have competing demands such as small children and work or those with family members who assume that because you are at home, you are accessible to their demands or household needs.”

She added that working remotely and losing human connection could lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from the workplace.

“It can also mean that you don’t get affirmation for your efforts or have a colleague to share the frustrations. Problems which were previously shared or talked about now become the individual’s problem and have to be managed in isolation.”

She suggested clinical hypnosis as a form of treatment for burnout, saying it could rebuild one’s confidence and restore emotional resilience.

Ko Teik Yen.

Ko Teik Yen, the director of Pantai Hospital’s LCCH Therapy Centre, said it was important to establish physical boundaries within the house, such as setting up a dedicated workspace to ensure family members understand and respect one’s personal privacy.

He said those working remotely should learn to turn off their computing devices to help prevent burnout.

“Working remotely creates a unique pressure to appear busy and productive,” he said. “Because you’re not present in an office, you may feel the pressure to be online every hour and be constantly available for virtual meetings, answering messages to prove you’re spending your time in a productive way for the company.”

Ko, who is also a mindfulness coach, recommended setting aside a specific time to reply to emails and managing group chats to ensure the ability of all participants to add value to conversations.

He also urged those working from home to rearrange their mobile applications on the home screen and change their notification settings to prevent distractions.

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