Burnout in 2020 – Three Ways to Take Back Control

Oct 12, 2020

by Deanna Parkton


2020 has been a big year. Between a global pandemic and social and political upheaval, staying at our best mentally, physically and emotionally can be a challenge. If you are feeling like it is hard to focus at work, you are not alone. According to a July 2020 Monster survey, 69% of workers are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home during COVID-19, a 35% increase since early May (51%). 


The Science of Burnout 

UC Berkeley psychologist Christina Maslach helped to popularize the term “burnout” in the 70s and 80s while researching workplace culture. Researchers define burnout as a combination of exhaustion, a feeling of ineffectiveness and cynicism. 

Exhaustion can come in the form of both physical and mental symptoms – physical fatigue or having a hard time concentrating. It can even lead to anxiety, depression or other physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches. A feeling of ineffectiveness may be a lack of confidence related to your ability to do your job, or apathy related to your work. Cynicism toward work can be a lack of enjoyment or pessimism. It can even be a feeling of detachment, not feeling connected to your work, colleagues or workplace. If you are feeling any of these, it is a sign to refocus to avoid burnout. 

To help employees combat burnout, researchers recommend that companies use the 3 C’s: Collaborate, Customize and Commit. While many companies are taking steps to support employees during these difficult times, how might you be able to employ the 3 C’s to your own work-life balance? 



Connect with colleagues. Partner on projects or request ideas, strategies and resources from others. Consider also joining working groups focused on improving company culture or addressing employee needs. Reach out to coworkers to see how they are doing and share your successes and challenges. By sharing how you are feeling about your day-to-day, you open the door to allow others to share with you. A shared camaraderie with your coworkers can be a driving force to staying mentally healthy at work. 

Be sure to also connect with others outside of work. Set time to visit with friends and family. Join groups or workout classes to increase your connection with others, even if online or physically distanced. 



Customize your workday to work for you. Take time to think about what changes would help you focus better throughout the day and adjust your calendar accordingly. Discuss what you need with your manager to stay in a healthy place. Most managers would rather fix a problem in the moment rather than lose an employee due to burnout. Some ideas might be scheduling in time to start your day in a positive way or scheduling lunch and breaks every 2 hours for a mental reset. 



Commit to your goals and schedule. Hold yourself accountable like you would hold yourself accountable to your work tasks. Consider asking a colleague or a friend to hold you accountable by asking you how you are feeling on a regular basis regarding your work-life balance. Set weekly reminders on your calendar to reassess and readjust as needed.  


Other ideas on fighting burnout: 


Be mindful of what you are feeding your head

Avoid social media first thing in the morning and throughout your workday. Use exercise or meditations to keep yourself in a good mental space so that you can bring your best self to your day. 


Set a positive environment around you 

Think about your workspace. Does it invoke positive feelings and thoughts? Consider increasing natural light or adding plants or personal touches to your desk. 


Go outside 

Look at your schedule regularly and identify times that you can either work outside for a bit or take a walk. 


Seek help 

Consider talking to a therapist to stay committed and accountable to your work-life balance. Setting a regular time to reflect on your goals and actions with a professional can help you avoid the detrimental effects of burnout. 


For more ideas on how you can navigate your life related to work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to set healthy boundaries while keeping a strategic mindset. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here. 


Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at workinglivingwell@gmail.com.