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Jelena Zikic is an associate professor at York University in Toronto. In her research and practice, she explores a combination of career and life transitions of diverse populations.

The focus on our well-being at work has become more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eighty-four per cent of workers at Canadian organizations with 100 or more employees report suffering from career burnout, with 34 per cent of those workers reporting high or extreme levels, according to a November survey requisitioned by Ceridian, a global employee management software company.

Burnout can be caused by stress and fatigue from a challenging and overwhelming amount of work, difficult relationships with colleagues, and issues at home.

Here are four simple steps you can start taking today to either prevent or ease the effects of burnout.

Check in with yourself

One of the most important first steps is to admit and realize that one’s health and well-being are being negatively affected because of work. Thus, self-monitoring and being able to reflect on how you feel at work or home, and especially if these negative feelings are lasting a while and affecting you both at work and home. Many of us forget to simply check in with ourselves. Thus, stop and reconsider what is causing you to feel tired or overwhelmed most days. Being able to have an open and honest introspective look into our own situation is a first step toward addressing feelings of fatigue and burnout.

Take a time out

Secondly, there are often small changes in one’s lifestyle that can have a major impact on our health and well-being and ease the feelings of burnout. For example, how often have you consciously stopped multi-tasking to take a 15-minute break to collect your thoughts? This can be done with a help of a simple meditation routine, or it can simply mean taking the time to sit down in a peaceful place away from your work station and just pause for bit. This timeout routine can be combined with a brisk stroll, walking your dog or some simple stretching. The idea is to consciously stop and take a short break. In this way, we are being mindful of how we feel and that all tasks can still be done and on time even with a 15-minute break.

Connect with those around us

The third type of action that can help with feelings of burnout is social contact. Sometimes we underestimate the role of brief connections, simple conversations, or even small acts of kindness toward others. These actions can help us feel real and remind us that, above and beyond our work challenges and an overwhelming to-do list, there are also simple actions that make us feel good. Thus, refocusing from work stress to relationships and connections with those around us, can be a small respite from stress related to work tasks.

Treasure the tasks that make you tick

Finally, go back to the idea of self-monitoring and self-reflection. Our health and well-being can greatly benefit from understanding which types of work activities or even social groups make us feel energized and replenished as opposed to which meetings or tasks drain us. This may sound simple, but many of us are not always clear on why we feel more tired and perhaps in a bad mood on some days. This conscious tracking of what has made us feel passionate about a work project, or a particular assignment, for example, will allow for managing our agenda and energies better. Clearly, some tasks or meetings just have to get done, but if we are aware of which ones help us feel better, we may better organize our time or even prepare ourselves for those days when things are not necessarily aligned with our preferences.

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.

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