Prestige’s Guide to Battling Burnouts

Wellness in the workplace is becoming an increasingly popular topic, and as mental health becomes less of a stigma there are more conversations taking place – by both employers and employees – about how best to tackle the ever-growing epidemic of burnout from work.

We’ve long been living in a ‘hustle culture’, where work is significant to our sense of self-identity and we place huge value on our success. But at what cost? According to the World Health Organization, the global economy loses an astonishing US$1 trillion each year from productivity declines due to depression and anxiety. And business leaders are now being called upon to address the issue.

Work stress is nothing new, whether one is behind a desk or performing a physically demanding roles, but we are living at a time when we are more connected than ever to our jobs. Outside of sleeping, the place where we spend the most time is at work – and that’s a significant portion of our lives! Too often it feels like there’s no excuse not to take that incoming call or respond to that email, and because employers can contact us at all hours of the day we’re at the mercy of our phones.

Work stress definitely affects a person, as it causes rises in a hormone called cortisol, which can lead to cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. Thankfully, with the rise in work stress concerns, employers are finding ways to foster harmonious environments while employees are seeking ways to handle the pressure. So what are the best things a person we do?

First, if you’re an employer there are some tried and tested initiatives you could consider. The World Economic Forum states that over a third of employees cannot disconnect from work, causing enormous stress and anxiety.

In response, some European countries created legislation making it illegal for employers to contact their staff outside contractual hours, including weekends. France pioneered the initiative in January 2017, calling it the ‘Right to Disconnect’ – which included texts, emails and calls – aimed at protecting an employee’s right to a balanced life. One employee even took their employer to court and won the equivalent of around THB 2 million.

This concept has now spread to other continents and has even made its way to Thailand. So while employers are still allowed to reach out after work hours, it cannot be held against employees if they do not respond. Of course, there are contractual stipulations that can affect this, so it’s wise to ensure that there are clear boundaries in contracts to protect both the employer and employee.

There is also a strong case for a four-day work week. The traditional two-day weekend was introduced by Henry Ford in the 1920s, altruistically as a way of giving staff time off (while it also helped to stimulate the US economy by giving workers time to spend money on consumer products). Most countries followed suit, especially in the corporate world. However, there have been drives lately to adopt a three-day weekend.

In recent trials in the UK, run by the non-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global, the idea was piloted in 60 companies and over 3,000 employees were involved. And the results were promising. Revenue rose by 35 percent, hiring increased, and absenteeism decreased. Crucially, employees reported improvement in mental health, as well as overall life and job satisfaction. Moreover, 91 percent of the companies involved in the pilot project were considering keeping this structure.

In a study conducted across South East Asia by Milieu, with 6,000 participants, results showed that workers in this region also favour a four-day work week, citing work-life balance as the main reason. Employers here in Thailand could possibly get ahead of the curve by trialling three-day weekends.

In the meantime, what can employees do to ease their work burdens? After living through a global pandemic – an event that has caused many to review their ways of working and living – a new approach has emerged known as ‘soft living’. Bear in mind it’s not about losing sight of one’s goals, but is instead a philosophy that promotes a slower, more viable life that centres around mental and physical wellness.

But how would one implement ‘soft living’ when it feels as though there is a never-ending mountain of work to get through?

Start by optimising your work style – whether it’s quick sprints with a break, or a long focus in the morning – and set a reasonable pace. Create a to-do list in order of importance and concentrate on clearing your tasks one-by-one, rather than trying to juggle multiple projects and becoming overwhelmed.

Also, don’t be afraid of taking time out of your day: go for a walk, sit with friends for lunch, or hit the gym for a mid-day workout. Even though it feels counterproductive, you’ll soon find you’re more efficient, work will feel more manageable, and your work stress will dissipate.

What you do outside of work is also important. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” So find hobbies that ignite your passions, in order to unwind and allow your mind to rest. Spend time with your family and friends to stave off feelings of loneliness, and leave your work emails for work time. Boundaries are key, and implementing safe spaces to live work-free are pivotal in warding off fatigue.

If you’re really finding it hard to switch off, mindfulness and meditation may help. Both are widely considered powerful tools to combat stress and anxiety, as well as improve motivation and focus. Mindfulness is about leaning into the moment to ground yourself; acknowledging your surroundings and being in the present promotes calmness and prevents your mind from racing.  Meditation, by contrast, is a slightly different method, as it focuses your mind on clearing your thoughts.

If you’re new to either of these two practices there are useful apps, such as ‘Calm’ or ‘Headspace’, that you can use throughout your day to guide you through your preferred method and restore peace.

Finally, remember this: When we reflect back on our lives, no one will ever wish they’d spent more time at work. They’ll wish they’d made more memories, created more moments, and spent more time with loved ones. So, while building your career is important, remember to focus on a life with fulfilment, joy, and balance.

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