Let’s just make clear: burnout is not a new thing. It was a possibility even before 2020, too. You could be burnt out with your job, with family obligations, with life in general and even then, with too much time online. WHO recognises burnout as “an occupational phenomenon … that can influence health status”.
What’s new is how many of us went all-online and home office based this year, without having a chance to getting prepared for the risks. According to Gartner 88% of the organisations worldwide made it mandatory or encouraged employees to work from home after the pandemic has been declared, many of them practically from one day to the other. One of the risks we have not been prepared for is digital burnout, which you or your friends could already experience.
What is digital burnout?
Digital burnout is exhaustion from being in a digital environment „too much”. How much is „too much” varies, just like burnout symptoms.
In general, if you work, connect and seek fun online pretty much all the time, that sounds like „too much”. Human beings are not designed to be sitting at the same place, staring at a screen for hours. If you are a manager, then you are also under constant pressure to motivate and support your team, juggle new challenges and keep your business running in the middle of a pandemic at the same time.
Possible signs of burnout vary from boredom to total demotivation, include anxiety, low energy, low concentration or low tolerance. Not wanting to sit down to work on Monday again, show your face on another video meeting or hear about another new, exciting business innovation. Just wanting to scroll mindlessly, listen to podcasts or run away – based on your temper and the situation.
Some things are for sure: digital burnout is real. Any one of us working online might go through it, and it only goes away if you do something about it.
What are the 3 ways to fight digital burnout?
No magic is required. We believe in starting as the basics: taking control of your digital experience, moving your body and taking it easy.
Let’s dig in.
1. Take back control
What’s especially tiring about being online is that your default control is at best limited.
- Push notifications and reminders keep you in a constant state of false urgency,
- your news feed is filled by algorithms with highly engaging propaganda, negativity, fake perfection and bullshit, and
- you’re more connected than ever to more strangers than ever.
The solution is to first notice the problem, and next to step up. Takes some time and thinking through, but it is well worth it.
- Kill notifications that are not absolutely necessary, and set the rest around your daily schedule.
- Cancel subscriptions you don’t need and also save some money.
- Ban email junk and clean your mailbox.
- Delete apps you don’t use (including social apps) and again, set notifications wisely.
- Unfollow negative connections and worthless accounts, and pick valuable people and topics to follow,
- And so on …
You get the idea. Take back control in an environment designed to control you. You can do it to quite some extent. Give it a go and you might be nicely surprised.
2. Move your body
Even if you made sure that all your time online is spent well with meaningful interactions, undisturbed work and quality fun, you still may realise that you’re overwhelmed, tired and tense.
Don’t be surprised: sitting in front of your screen all day every day is not okay for your body and not okay for your mind. Your back and neck might hurt, you might have trouble getting a good nights’ sleep, your eye sight can weaken and even your brain cells and neurons stop working properly.
Sounds pretty serious, right? So, it’s time to move it!
How? Start with the simplest things.
- Walking is a gift to your body. Even if only for just 10 minutes, to just to grab a coffee or make a circle around the block, go and get outside. Leave your phone home for a change and take the stairs. Once outside, just put your right foot after the left. Either go alone and let your mind free up, or meet up with somebody and have a real life chat. Keeping a safe social distance is easier outside, anyway.
- Stand up right. You may not have the time to leave home as often as you would like to due to work and restrictions. Even then, make sure to stand up for 5 to 10 minutes every hour. Actually, any change in your position might be good for your body time to time. Or even better – get a standing desk. The point is to stop just sitting in the same place all day.
- Sit and move. Even when you’re just sitting at your desk, try to switch from typing and scrolling to something different time-to-time. Take notes on paper with a pen. Scribble. Correct your posture and stretch your muscles. Do not cross your legs, do not bend over. Be mindful of your body and move it, even if it’s just a tiny movement. It all adds up in the end.
3. Take it easy
Finally: don’t stress over it. Don’t treat digital detoxication and rehabilitation as another project you have to solve perfectly. You’d just worsen the situation. Staving off digital burnout is tough, and you have to get out of your comfort zone to succeed. Give it time and accept your progress and failures the same. What’s a good approach?
- First: think and plan. Make a list of what you want and what you do not want to change. Take time to create your own digital burnout fight plan.
- Next: pick some easy targets or your favourite ideas for a quick start.
- Finally: start somewhere. Go step-by-step. Start with cancelling some notifications, deleting some apps or just get up from your chair for a 15 minute walk. Appreciate the effort you made and accept if you failed. In the end, this is about freeing you up not to bring you down.
Inspired yet? We hope so.
We at Codecool know a trick or two about how to make computers work for you to gain even more control. To learn more, check out services and methodology.
Take care and take control!