It is completely normal to hit a phase where you feel drudged and dull and can’t bear to look at another excel sheet or get on one more call. But what about when these feelings last for days on end or even weeks! Work fatigue is starting to be a common phenomenon so we asked millennials exactly why they just don’t feel like working anymore.
What is Work Fatigue?
The Mayo Clinic defines work fatigue as “unrelenting exhaustion that isn’t relieved by rest, a nearly constant state of weariness that develops over time, reducing your energy, motivation, and concentration.” It seems like millennials have been feeling this ever since the work-from-home norm took over.
How Has Work Fatigue Affected Millenials?
Salil Periera, a working professional based in Dubai, UAE was one of the unfortunate ones to be sitting at home without much work for over 3 months. When work did resume, it was with a long pay gap, a huge pay-cut and excessive workload. In addition to this, a major part of the week was work-from-home, and while this did initially feel like a great plan, it soon took its toll on productivity and led to work fatigue.
“Days passed into weeks and weeks into months. I now feel that working from home is not a concept for everyone. It has reduced my productivity, increased the monotony and tilted my personal/professional life balance in the latter’s corner,” says Salil.
The pandemic has made me feel that we’re all just going around in circles, he says. “We’re living the same sort of every day - a life filled with restrictions and uncertainties. The motivation to work seems dead. I guess the work fatigue is because there isn’t much to look forward to at this point in time.”
The monotony of every day led to work fatigue
Vibhor Mudgil - an artist, speaks of how even though art is something that always managed to get the spark within him going, didn’t manage to do so for long during the lockdown. “The pandemic set the monotony for me. It was similar to a black and white series of robotic functioning. The ‘eat, sleep, repeat’ pattern began to annoy me. Eventually, I became lazy and avoided conversations. I became the monotony.”
He points to a lack of exposure as the main cause of work fatigue. “Keeping inside walls has kind of cut us from our exposure to stimuli to sense and conscience, hence affecting the response, here my work.”
According to Vibhor, there is nothing new or special anymore. “There is no different way to do things and this has turned me into that couch potato I used to draw in my history books. I've finally grasped onto that silver lining of working and finding happiness. Adapting to the new way. Maybe the pause in life would make me wiser.”
Has work fatigue worsened due to almost no interaction with colleagues?
Rhea Gomes has always been passionate about music and ever since the pandemic she has been teaching the piano. “Since the past few months, I have been experiencing burnout and fatigue. I'm not entirely sure why I feel the way I do, but on reflection, I have come up with a couple of possible explanations.”
Rhea is of the opinion that work fatigue is due to a transition from student life to the workforce. The transition is tough enough, and add to this the stresses of the pandemic.
“Furthermore, being tethered to my laptop all day is frustrating. I find myself craving to move around. I also miss having someplace to be. Working from home does not feel the same as working in college or actually interacting with students, among others.”
While the feelings of work fatigue are being resonated by an increasing number of millennials, a therapist tells Bingedaily why the phenomenon has become so common, and how it can be countered.
Why is work fatigue becoming ever so common?
“I have had people come to me with loss of motivation towards their work and no enthusiasm towards their life anymore. People have come to a state of 'What's the point?'. A state of hopeless outlook,” says Dr Vidhya Nair - a psychologist and holistic doctor.
She points out to decreased motivation as the most common reason for work fatigue. “Three things very important for every millennial to keep them motivated. These are validation, instant gratification, and a sense of belonging. While we worked in offices, we at least had some human interaction with our colleagues, a space to vent and be a part of a community. We had the comfort of always knowing that you have people around you who feel the same and would be there to appreciate you or help you.”
This sense of belonging and validation from colleagues has been lost in the trail of emails in the work from home situation.
Is work fatigue a result of impacted mental health?
As the pandemic’s effects have seeped into daily life, mental health has suffered. “Decreased energy, decreased motivation, hopeless outlook are signs of burnout which in chronic stages causes depression and anxiety.”
“There is a loss of balance between work life and personal life and this is triggering our insecurities and fears, which we are unable to understand or even look at as there is no control over it.”
Dr Vidhya, who is currently conducting her own research in neurosciences, speaks of another underlying trigger to work fatigue - the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional life.
Has professional life taken over our routines?
Absolutely, says this psychologist. “There is no boundary and no space where one can identify to feel at ease and oneself. Home used to be that, but now it's also where you work, full time.”
What this essentially means is that we don’t have a space to disconnect anymore, to rejuvenate or recharge.
She compares work fatigue to a scenario where you are running your phone of low battery the entire day. All you are doing is dragging it through.
Solutions to combat work fatigue
Dr Vidhya suggests some ways to overcome this constant feeling of tiredness. Lethargy and the feeling to just curl up and get into bed, or simply spend the day doing nothing can be worked on. Here are some ways she suggests.
Create your happy space
Have a happy space for yourself in your home, where you can go and disconnect from everything else in the world. Eg. Balcony, terrace, park, living room.
Keep your workspace different from your fun/ recreation space
Do not work from your bed. The bed is your space of relaxation, that's what your mind believes it to be. Maintain that, so that when you are in bed, you experience full relaxation and not make your mind think of work.
“Also, the body language in your bed is not beneficiary in keeping you motivated or productive. Same goes for your space of fun and recreation. Your workspace needs to be separate just like it was before the whole work-from-home situation. It helped our mind keep that boundary between work and personal life and work fatigue wasn’t seen then,” she says.
Recreate your work environment
Dr Vidhya advises getting your desk colleagues on zoom call when you are working and keep them on. “You can always do your work and know that they are there around. Check-in on them and vent to them as well. Connect with your colleagues in tea breaks/ lunch breaks. Have lunch together online.”
Fix a routine
This is important to keep your mind organised, she says. “Get up the same time as you used to earlier, get ready for work and follow the same routine as you did before.”
Do not forget to remove time for yourself to rejuvenate. “This is very important. All you gotta do is spend quality time with yourself and just be! Be in the moment and enjoy those moments. Avoid any screens.”
Processing your emotions
If you feel like you are not understanding what you are going through, allow yourself to take a break and listen to your inner voice. Dr Vidhya says writing it down on a piece of paper for better understanding is good.
“In your mind, it is normally in the form of a barn of wool, all tangled together. Writing it down gives some clarity, which can help you decide what you can do about it.”
“We all need some kind of reward to keep us going. So if you did a good job today, reward yourself in the evening with a fun activity/ treat/ whatever you may like. On your bad days, be extra kind to yourself and give yourself a pat on the back for just getting through it. That is an achievement in itself.”
Appreciate and be there for yourself
“Accept yourself for who you are and embrace each and every bit of it - your strength and weaknesses. If you start appreciating yourself at every step, you will stop looking outside of you for validations. Be there for yourself at every step.”
Exercise /Physical activity
Make any kind of physical activity as a part of your daily routine. This is important to keep your body healthy and also release all the emotional energy we have collected through free movement. Our body stores the emotional energy that we suppress. Daily physical activity involving free movement helps in releasing it.
Connect with nature
“Nature plays a great role in soothing our mind. Studies suggest green colour has a calming effect on the mind. Nature also has a way of reminding us how there is more in the world out there. That we belong to something bigger than what we see.”
Eat and sleep well
This is essential in the functioning of our mind and body. It is what fuels us and runs us. So be mindful of the food that you eat, as it is what eventually becomes a part of you.
“Your sleep is where your mind rests and rejuvenates. It is much needed for you to function. Don't forget your mind controls your body and you.”
“Meditations have humongous amounts of benefits. Some crucial ones are, that it helps you to be more mindful. It helps to train your mind to be more in the present. It also helps us to connect with our true self and build our inner resources.”
“This is essential for all of us,” says Dr Vidhya. “Your life is in this moment now. So be there with yourself, aware and experiencing it. Being mindful helps us be aware of the action that needs to be taken, as well as experience the little moments of joy to the fullest. In the end, it's these little string of joyful moments that make life worth living.”
Ask for help
If you feel that you aren't able to understand how to deal with your emotions or what you are experiencing, do not hesitate in asking for help. “We all need help with things in some way or another. At times, your mind blocks you from overcoming situations. Here is where seeking help plays a role. It is not a weakness. It in fact requires a lot of strength to show our vulnerability to someone. If you can ask for help for your body, why not your mind?”
“Your mind is important. Take care of it. It's what runs you and your body.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Dr Vidhya Nair for a consultation or her expert advice on topics of mental health, you can reach out to her at email@example.com