Working from home or living at work: How to avoid burnout in 2021
Burnout 2021


Resilience is a muscle and one that we need to continue building in 2021. While we would all like to leave the pandemic in 2020, if we fail to address it and implement strategies to mitigate against it, we are going to run the risk of burnout.

This will be far greater than the burnout we felt last year when, perhaps, it felt like there was a foreseeable end to the coronavirus. As Jennifer Moss wrote in the Harvard Business Review, we didn’t help ourselves when “we misdiagnosed the resulting stress as acute rather than chronic”.

Burnout originated as a term in the 1970s and, in 2019, the World Health Organisation described it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” According to researchers, there are six main causes of burnout: unsustainable workload, perceived lack of control, lack of fairness, lack of a supportive community, mismatched values and skills, and insufficient rewards for effort.

As the shine of a New Year wears off, vaccine rollouts stumble, and borders continue to shut, then open, then shut again, fatigue again is on the horizon. It is therefore crucial for every one of us to implement the right strategies now that will allow us to pace ourselves in this ongoing (and chronic) crisis. Just as we continue to challenge workplaces to put care and compassion at the heart of the way they treat people, we also need to put care and compassion at the heart of the way we treat ourselves.

So how do we do this? While self-care may feel like a flimsy answer to chronic overwork and emotional fatigue, the most effective form of self-care lies in evidence-based strategies to prevent burnout. Not the face masks and yoga poses that frequent social media. Here, we’ve included the tools and strategies to implement into your work week. They are proven forms of prevention, tools our own staff love to lean on, and strategies frequently featured in the Grace Papers platform.

Strategies to help you avoid burnout in 2021:

Streamline, and reduce, your workload: Overwork is one of the biggest contributors to burnout and it is also proven to be ineffective beyond a certain point. Research shows that working more than 55 hours a week doesn’t improve your job performance. The most effective way to reduce workload and prevent overwork is by Marie Kondo-ing your role. This tool is promoted on our platform and is another firm favourite of Grace Papers’ founder, Prue Gilbert. Marie Kondo-ing your role is all about ruthless prioritisation; this allows you to deliver on your outputs, but decrease the time you spend doing it. Identify the parts of your job that don’t spark joy, don’t impact your measures of success, and that attribute to dead-end work. Work out what can be delegated or dropped and go about doing so – whether that means booking in a meeting with your boss to seek approval, or not.

Mark the beginning and end of your day: Small rituals and routines build our resilience muscle more than we think. Just as we like to celebrate our birthdays every year, it’s important to mark the beginning and end of our days. These markers become a recognition of the work that has been done, and also serve as a reward for doing the work. For example, Grace Papers’ head of flexibility and coaching, Amanda Meehan loves to play music on a Friday afternoon and dances her way out of the office. While Grace Papers’ head of client strategy, Kate Gilson, consciously makes time for breaks in her day with a ‘Wello’ – like a smoko, but with a walk or workout instead. 


Create team rituals that practice gratitude: Lack of a supportive community is one of the six causes of burnout, so working within a supportive environment is vital. Practicing gratitude in your morning standup meeting is a great way to cultivate a supportive and positive environment. Grace Papers’ morning standup meetings include a daily gratitude practice, where each team member recalls one thing they’re grateful for. It is a firm favourite of Grace Papers’ software developer Cooper Viktor.

Connect to your purpose: Finding meaning and mastery in your day-to-day is proven to build resilience and prevent burnout. In short, having a purpose helps us get through difficult days. If you have not defined your purpose, or need to reconnect to it, we recommend using our Professional Vision tool in the platform. It provides a framework for you to develop an overarching vision for your career, and becomes a rudder guiding you through challenges and big choices. It’s a firm favourite of, well, every Grace Papers client and a ‘can’t live without’ for the team. 

For more information on navigating flexibility and avoiding burnout, log in to the Grace Papers platform. If you’re not a member, find out more about our platform here.