How to disconnect from work and beat burnout!

25/08/2023 | Santander Universidades

Although rest is essential to sustain high performance, disconnecting from work isn't always easy - even more so after the spike in remote working as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, three out of every four employees report that they don’t know how to disconnect from work since they are permanently connected or keeping an eye on their job responsibilities, according to the study COVID-19 Global Impact by Cigna.

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The impact of the pandemic: the dawn of being connected 24/7

40% of European workers started to work remotely during lockdown, according to Eurofound. And although you may think that having your office at home has its advantages, it also hampers our ability to disconnect from work at the end of the day. The fact is that clocking in and out of the workplace has become more blurred. What this means is that, when you have all the necessary tools to carry out your work in your own home, you can easily find yourself 'connected' 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

For example, according to the Work Trend Index 2021 report by Microsoft, workers participate in 45% more chats per week - and these work conversations are 42% more common outside of office hours. Moreover, two out of every five professionals don’t know how to disconnect from work even during the holidays, according to another study by Bizneo. 

As a result, negative emotions such as stress and anxiety are spreading among the workforce, as Gallup highlights in its Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox report. This is a fairly widespread malaise among employees, given that some 52% of workers report suffering from so-called burnout syndrome, while one in three is considering changing jobs because of how exhausted they feel at work.

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Work stress and not knowing how to disconnect: from mere exhaustion to burnout

Chronic occupational burnout has a strong impact on staff satisfaction, well-being and performance, and was even recognised as a disease by the World Health Organization in 2019. 

As for mental health, burnout can make you feel more irritated and less tolerant, overcome by a feeling of apathy for a job you used to love. As such, research has shown that prolonged exposure to work-related stressors can lead to bouts of anxiety and depression.

Meanwhile, burnout can also manifest itself physically: from headaches, muscle aches, sleep problems or loss of appetite to an increased propensity to illness. For example, the recurrent release of the stress hormone cortisol can alter your immune system, increasing the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases, heart problems and Alzheimer, according to another study

The fact is that this physical and emotional state will be reflected in the quality of your work: reduced creativity and productivity, loss of concentration, an inability to make decisions, social isolation, personal conflicts, absenteeism from work, etc.

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Learn how to disconnect from work

What can be done in these cases? How to disconnect from work? You could consider a job change, but it's more than likely these bad work habits will simply transfer with you to your new position, and you'll end up sending emails on Sunday afternoon or finishing reports at dawn. The key, therefore, lies in changing our mentality when it comes to dealing with this new way of working

Although the permanent connectivity fostered by new technologies might make you think you need to always be available, it's within your power to set limits to work responsibilities in order to disconnect from work. That's why it's vital to set a well-defined schedule for your work and rest hours, taking into account any exceptions to this. For example, you might decide to disconnect from 6 p.m.: haven't finished an order with a deadline for the next day? Do it. Get an email at 8 p.m. from a colleague asking for some non-urgent data? Leave it for tomorrow. 

To prevent yourself from breaking your own rules because you get too involved, there are several techniques that can help you to learn how to disconnect. If you are working remotely, it is recommended that you designate a specific place as an office; if this can be a room separate from the rest of the rooms used by your family, so much the better. It's also a good idea to wear your usual work attire and change into your casual clothes when you finish. This will enhance your perception of "clocking in and out" of work. Likewise, to reduce dependency on your mobile, use apps to block your smartphone outside of office hours and prevent attention-grabbing notifications and alerts. 

At the same time, making plans to spend free time with family and friends, or practising a hobby, can help you to disconnect from work. Remember that, according to Parkinson's Law, any work will expand to fill the total available time for its completion. So, if you don't have anything planned to do after work, it's common to extend the working day. Conversely, if you've arranged to meet a friend in the evening, or your spinning class starts at 7 p.m., you will make the most of your time to finish work promptly. Similarly, practising sports, doing mindfulness sessions, and sleeping 7 or 8 hours a night is highly beneficial in reducing stress levels and tackling work with a positive attitude. 

In fact, learning how to disconnect and to manage your time to become more effective is an essential part of this process. Knowing how to organise your work properly, making to-do lists, prioritising issues and increasing your efficiency in the workplace will all help you to achieve better results in less time, meaning you can finish your day with that comforting feeling of having settled everything first. 

In this sense, the better prepared you are, the easier it will be for you to perform your duties. However, it is not just about acquiring new technical skills related to your job, but also developing new soft skills, such as decision-making or emotional management, to become more competent all round. 

To help you with this personal and professional development, Banco Santander is committed to three key concepts: lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling. To support this commitment, it has created the Santander Open Academy website, a unique and pioneering global programme. 

If you would like to keep growing personally and professionally, head over to the Santander Open Academy website, where you'll find 100s of opportunities to train together with internationally renowned institutions. Access training in technology, languages, research, investigation, soft skills, internships and female leadership, which will help you to improve your employability or refocus your career.


Do you want to become a lifelong learner and increase your job opportunities? The Santander Open Academy website has plenty of options to help you achieve your goals. Check out the website and remember: you can sign up for as many courses as you like. Make the most of this opportunity!


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