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How to Prevent Return-to-work Burnout

This guest blog is by burnout expert Cara de Lange, who offers advice on how to prevent burnout when you’re returning to the workplace, particularly if you’re working remotely.

If you are returning to work after having been away from the work front for a while, it can feel like you are stepping back into a different world of remote or hybrid working. Without the ‘switch off’ time of a commute, it’s easy to fall into using that time for extra work or to keep working late into the evening. The feeling of being always ‘switched’ on and not able to disconnect can contribute to feelings of tiredness and fatigue, and may lead to burnout if not addressed. The great news is that, if you are aware of all of this before you get back into work, you can set up some boundaries and habits for yourself to make sure you can switch off and maintain your energy levels.

What is burnout?

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The symptoms of burnout are:

  • A continuous feeling of exhaustion or lack of energy
  • Negative feelings and a distancing from the job role
  • A reduction in professional efficacy.

As well as the three recognised symptoms of burnout, there are a few other signs that may indicate you are heading towards burnout. Things to look out for include a general dissatisfaction with your working environment; regular headaches, stomach aches or issues with your digestion; a constant lack of energy; insomnia and a lack of motivation in all areas of life.

How can you prevent burnout?

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent yourself from reaching that burnout stage. Here are some useful ways to help you manage your stress and prevent burnout when you return to work.

  1. When you finish your working day at home, put all your work stuff (laptop, notebook etc) away in a drawer or cupboard. Out of sight really can help to make it out of mind!
  2. Be aware of the language you use and speak to yourself with – if you tell yourself you are burned out; the brain will go ‘ok I am burned out then’ and you will feel more tired. Try using positive phrases such as ‘I feel tired but I am working on ways to gain more energy’ or ‘I feel calm and have more energy every day’. Write out some positive affirmations and put them in places where you can easily read them and remind yourself during the day.
  3. Nature nurtures – trees are healing. Take yourself outside and do some ‘forest bathing’. Walking amongst trees can reduce stress and tiredness. If that’s not possible, at least try to get your feet on the grass for a few minutes a day.
  4. When working, make sure to take regular breaks in between meetings and tasks. Micro wellness – super short 60 second breaks – give your mind and body a rest. Something as simple as taking a deep breath before you join that next meeting, giving your toes a wriggle and feeling your palms, gets you back into your body and out of your head.
  5. If your work is consistently stressful, then it may be time to think about making some changes. Perhaps you need to reduce your hours or rearrange your schedule to allow for a little more breathing space. Discuss your feelings with your employer and try to work out a plan to stop yourself from reaching burnout.
  6. Stop wearing the ‘burnout badge of honour’. We are all human and deserve to rest and recover. Get a sleep schedule in place that ensures you get a full 7-9 hours a night and think about cleaning up your diet so that you no longer need to rely on sugar and caffeinated products to help you get motivated.

Try these tips for a few weeks and you will soon notice a change.


Cara de Lange is the Founder of Softer Success, an international burnout mentor, coach, speaker and mother. She is also the author of ‘Softer Success – Prevent Burnout, Find Balance & Re-define Your Success’, which details her own experiences with burnout and the techniques she used for her recovery. Cara runs workshops and talks focusing on compassionate leadership, relieving stress and changing people’s mindset to prevent burnout.