Experts are urging the nation’s office employees to focus on their mental health and healthy work habits over the next few months, after survey results reveal an increase in workplace burnout and stress.

The Digital Detox survey from Just Eat for Business asked the nation’s office workers how frequently they take screen breaks and restorative rests during the working day, and reveals the importance of regular breaks when it comes to physical and mental health. 

This advice comes after the survey found over a third (36%) of office workers are skipping more breaks now than ever before.

Also, one in 10 work solidly until the end of the day.

Furthermore, the survey found one in five people check work platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams at least once an hour – even when they’re on annual leave, or over the weekend.

These unhealthy habits are concerning, given that the same survey found over two fifths (44%) of the nation’s employees often or always experience burnout at work – described as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ by the World Health Organisation.

 

What are the health risks of bad mental health?

There is a risk that these habits will be amplified for office workers with children, who are now able to concentrate fully on work again whilst their kids have headed back to school. 

Many will inevitably be knuckling down to make up for any work left unfinished during the summer holidays.

However, it is still crucial to take breaks, in order to limit the risk of burnout.

WHO describes burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”, and is characterised by “feelings of exhaustion, increased mental difference from one’s job,  feelings of negativity and reduced professional efficacy”. 

 

Mental health: how can we better understand ‘burnout’?

There appears to be a correlation between those who skip breaks and those who feel burnt out, with 73 percent of workers who report feeling burnout also admitting they do not take a break until lunch, while 46 percent do not stop looking at their screen until the end of the working day.

For many workers with children, they’ll find themselves rushing to catch up on work before their little ones finish school – often two to three hours earlier than the usual 9-5 day.

Dr Anneli Gascoyne, Professor in Occupational Psychology, warns against overworking: “When we’re feeling behind on work, there’s a strong temptation not to take a break, or it can feel counterproductive to take a break in the middle of flowing activity or focus.

“But by training to maintain focus for long periods of time, we’re depleting our mental energy, which we often don’t notice happening. We need breaks and healthy food to restore our energy and to curb burnout – which is common given the recent rise in ‘urgency culture’.”

‘Urgency culture’ refers to the idea that employees are available on-demand almost all of the time – and has grown more prevalent with the lines between work/home life becoming increasingly blurred during the pandemic. 

Rosie Hyam, People Partner at Just Eat for Business adds to the expert commentary, saying: “Regardless of how teams are working – whether it’s in the office, at home, or a hybrid solution – it’s essential to take regular breaks. Without these, it’s not surprising that so many workers are feeling more burnt out than before, particularly those with children.

“Given the emphasis currently being placed on health and wellbeing, it’s important that employers and employees prioritise sustainable and healthy working habits – including taking more regular screen breaks, and setting time aside to socialise with colleagues.”

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.