Home office: unclear boundaries promote burnout |  Tyrolean daily newspaper online

Home office: unclear boundaries promote burnout | Tyrolean daily newspaper online


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Graz – When their own home becomes an “office”, people often find it difficult to switch off from everyday work. This is all the more important if not everything could be done during working hours. According to occupational psychologists, anyone who wants to avoid burnout in the home office should actively draw boundaries between work and private life, but researchers from Graz and Slovenia have found that difficult for people with negative thought patterns.

Even before the pandemic, high time and performance pressure weighed heavily on employees, and with the corona crisis, there was also fear of job loss in many places. In a recent EU study, 30 percent of respondents in Austria stated that their work volume had increased during the pandemic. Across the EU, 27 percent of working people say that they also do their work in their free time.

Switching off is necessary for health

This can lead to employees having to “quickly” deal with professional e-mails from home outside of their actual working hours, or even let private and professional contacts converge on one e-mail account. It would be important for mental and physical health to be able to switch off completely for once.

As part of a research project supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, researchers from Graz and Slovenia are investigating which factors can lead to professional tasks being taken back into their free time. The researchers were particularly interested in which individual thought patterns contribute to flexible work leading to stress and subsequently to burnout. For example, negative thinking in relation to one’s own work could lead to one’s own performance being assessed as low, to feeling inflexible, to comparing oneself with others and to overestimating small errors, as it was said on Monday in a broadcast by the FWF. In the Austrian-Slovenian project “Drawing the boundaries between work, private life and burnout”, surveys were carried out in companies and among employees in Germany.

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“So far there have only been studies that have generally recorded the tendency to negative feelings. We have now developed new instruments and related them to the work situation,” said Bettina Kubicek from the University of Graz, explaining the research approach. The main research interests of the sociologist, psychologist and professor for industrial and organizational psychology in Graz include the effects of intensifying work and flexible working. The bilateral project “Drawing the boundaries between work, private life and burnout”, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, will run until the end of 2021.

Diary study should provide insights

A diary study, which was also carried out in the project and is still ongoing, should provide further insights. Here, economically active persons note for a working week which emotional and cognitive stress factors existed at work and to what extent they were able to switch off from work during the rest period. Around half of the total of 200 participants have already submitted their entries. The evaluations so far would show that time pressure and unfinished tasks are related to negative thoughts about work in leisure time. “On the one hand, this speaks for the working conditions as the cause, but negative thought patterns can reinforce that,” the psychologist interpreted.

People to whom this applies would find themselves in a classic vicious circle: Those who tend to have negative thoughts cope with increasing work demands more poorly, which in turn leads to negative emotions – even during non-working hours. In order to avoid burnout, it is important to take countermeasures in good time. In the course of the project, therapists carry out interventions such as mindfulness training or relaxation techniques with those affected.

Employees who work from home should submit a permanent job and adhere to regular times and make both their superiors and family members aware of this, the experts advise. (APA)

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