Summary Burnout Module 3: Changing Your Work Structure

Tackling Burnout Through Work Structure Changes

This is a summary of the module Tackling Burnout: Work Structure Changes for your reference.

Changing Your Work Structure

Having an overwhelming workload can lead to burnout. Irregular shifts, long hours, and overtime work can add to your symptoms.

This module will talk about these factors. Then, you will learn about ways to modify your work structure to reduce burnout. 

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Irregular Shifts

Shift work (working outside the hours of 7 AM to 6 PM), especially changing shifts, may disrupt your routine and worsen your sleep. Both of these factors can affect burnout.

This disruption is greatest when you go back to “normal” hours on your off days (or when you don’t have regular shifts). Constantly switching between sleeping during the day and sleeping during the night is hard, both emotionally and physically.

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Long Hours

Working long hours increases your likelihood of experiencing burnout. For example, nurses who work more than 10 hours per day are up to two and a half times more likely to have burnout. Long working hours take away from your time to recharge and rest after work. This creates a cycle of recurring exhaustion.

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Working from Home

Another factor that may add to your burnout is working from home. Working from home makes it hard to separate your work and home responsibilities. You are more likely to experience emotional and physical fatigue as a result.

Think about your work hours - how do your work hours affect your stress?

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You may be struggling with your workload even if you’re not working long hours or doing shift work. Taking on additional projects, trying to make deadlines, or training a new hire can add to your burden at work and can cause you to feel overwhelmed.

Think about your current workload. What feels reasonable, and what feels overwhelming?

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Create Better Work-Life Boundaries

Setting up boundaries to give yourself true time away from work can lessen stress and increase job satisfaction. Boundaries are a way of protecting your time and energy.

Here are some ways to create boundaries:

  • Don’t check your work email after working hours

  • Avoid working during your lunch break

  • Take vacations without doing work

  • Clearly communicate your working hours to your colleagues

  • Avoid taking on too many projects and realize it may be okay to politely say “No”

  • Commit to a set number of hours a week (within reason)

Which boundaries can you strengthen between work and your activities outside of work?

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Take Effective Breaks

Taking breaks during work hours, especially if you work long hours, helps prevent stress. Breaks also lower your risk of workplace injuries. An effective break is one that allows you to return to work feeling refreshed - encouraging you to be more productive. Signs that you may need to take a break:

  • You're unable to focus

  • You feel tired, whether mentally or physically

  • You feel irritable

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Ideas for Effective Breaks

Some people find it helpful to talk to someone during their breaks, while others do better with quiet rest. Exercising, meditating, or practicing mindfulness during your breaks can lower your stress.

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Self-Compassion Practice

Self-compassion researcher, Dr. Kristin Neff, created a type of meditation known as a Self-compassion Break. It is a way to gently allow yourself to feel stress or any other difficult emotions while offering yourself kindness in return. Your Goodpath program includes a guided self-compassion practice for you to use.

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Mindful Activity Break

As you learned in other parts of your program, mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions. A mindful activity break might be practicing gratitude, doing some mindful breathing, observing the sounds around you while staying present - i.e in the moment. These activities should be restful, while engaging your senses in a positive way.

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Exercise Break

Taking an exercise break during your workday can lower your stress. It doesn’t have to be a full workout - even a 10-minute walk can be refreshing. You might also try gentle stretches at your desk, or taking the stairs a few times.

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Use Your Available Time Off

It is important to take time away from work. Those who take fewer holidays and paid days off are more likely to experience burnout. For women, the likelihood of depression lowers significantly when they take vacations. 

Spending time outdoors on your days off can also make it easier for you to recover from fatigue.

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How to Use Your Time Off

Think back to previous vacations and days off. What trips or activities have felt recharging for you? Try to recreate those experiences with your future time off. 

Even the process of planning a vacation can lift your mood. If you’re not able to travel soon, you can think about and visualize your next trip, or create a “bucket list” of places you’d like to visit.

You can also consider other re-charging options for your time off. Maybe plan a trip to the park with your children, or simply take the day to yourself to stay in and unwind.

When can you schedule some time off? What would be the best way to spend your time off?