Work & Life
Work-life harmony is thinking about both work and life as having a positive impact on you and your happiness. Positive and negative moods affect an individual’s physical and mental health. Recognizing what impacts you the most and working to make it a more positive influence will help you improve both work and life to support your mental health.
Zoom fatigue is the exhaustion you feel after any video call or conference. Curious about whether or not you might experience Zoom fatigue? Take the Stanford Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue (ZEF) Scale. If you’d like to dive into the research:
- Stanford researchers identify four causes for ‘Zoom fatigue’ and their simple fixes (Stanford News)
- Nonverbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of Zoom fatigue (Technology, Mind, and Behavior)
- ‘Zoom fatigue’ may be with us for years. Here’s how we’ll cope. (National Geographic)
- Understanding Zoom fatigue and how to make videoconferencing less anxiety provoking (MDedge podcast)
- Combating Zoom fatigue
- Take breaks: Trying to focus while in video meetings and then immediately switcingh back to your other work tasks can lead to burnout. Tto combat zoom fatigue, schedule regular breaks so you can disengage and clear your mind. Examples: take a quick walk around the block; play music; or read a novel. Minimize distractions: Working remotely can involve additional distractions like ringing doorbells, knocks on the door, children , or noises . To help you focus during a Zoom meeting, pick a quiet location.
- Movement: Sitting at a computer all day is not good for your health. It’s okay to step away from your computer to stretch and move around. Schedule regular times throughout the day to stretch or go for a quick walk.
Self-Care and Burnout
To reduce burnout from working remotely, try the below:
- Keep a regular schedule and set boundaries: Create and maintain a routine and work schedule. Set up a designated space for you to work, and if possible change your location from time to time as it helps with your mental health. Set up reasonable working hours, to keep work life harmony.Stay connected: Stay connected with the Vanderbilt Community and co-workers using technology like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype and other communication options to avoid isolation. Be open to sharing your feelings and concerns with members of your team. More than likely, they are feeling or have experienced some form of burnout.
- Physical Activity: This is good for your mental and physical health. Through out the day, try some of these activities: walking, stretching, yoga and/or mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows an individual to bring awareness to their work, become more productive, make better decisions, and pay more attention to the important things. Mindfulness can be practiced by spending quality time with yourself, focusing on your purpose, and bringing your awareness to work every day. Vanderbilt’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine offers a range of classes and trainings focused on your total health, mind, body, and spirit.
Utilizing your PTO
Paid Time Off (PTO) allows you to use your time off in ways that suit you best. Making use of your PTO is an opportunity to detach yourself from work and rest. Employees should follow their department procedures when requesting time off. Visit Paid Time Off | Policies | Human Resources | Vanderbilt University for accruals and using PTO.
Spending time outdoors
Spending time outdoors has proven to reduce stress levels, help you find clarity, and rejuvenate your mind and body. You can improve your mental health by spending just 20-30 minutes a day outdoors.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP):
The Employee Assistance Program is available to all staff. Personal and family problems can impact the workplace by affecting the employee's focus, health, and other productivity concerns.
Vanderbilt’s faculty, staff, postdocs and their families now receive expanded support through a new mental health program. The program is provided by Lyra, a mental health provider, who delivers great access and care to the Vanderbilt community. This includes 24/7/365 concierge navigation support for behavioral and mental health needs. With Lyra, Vanderbilt offers services for employees’ spouses and children ages 2 and older. Lyra’s services cover 12 EAP sessions per year, which is three times more than in the past.
- Talk about mental health issues
- Mental health awareness guidebook
- Guide for understanding and preventing suicide
- Easy does it – Autism spectrum disorder
- Behavioral health televideo services
- Behavioral Health AbleTo
Videos and podcasts:
- TEDx Talk: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion, Kristin Neff
- TED Talk playlist: How to practice emotional first aid
- TED Talk: How to support yourself (and others) through grief, Nina Westbrook
- TED Talk: The cure for burnout hint: it isn’t self-care), Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
- Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley: The Science of Happiness podcast
- Audio and video talks from Tara Brach
Websites and free resources:
- The Happiness Trap (free resources)
- TED resources on mental health
- 10 of the best podcasts about mental health
- Managing Emotions in Times of Uncertainty & Stress – free Coursera course by Dr. Marc Brackett
- The Science of Happiness at Work – three courses that are free to audit from The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley
Resource awareness (what’s available to you)
Welcome to Vanderbilt! As you begin your career with Vanderbilt University, thinking about how you will integrate your new career into your life, these resources are available to make the transition smoother.
- The Employee Critical Support Fund was established to assist Vanderbilt faculty and staff who are experiencing a non-recurring sudden or emergency-related financial hardship due to an unforeseen or unavoidable event. To learn more about the fund and how to apply, please visit the following page.
- Childcare resources – The Acorn School
- The Acorn School offers early childhood care and education for the children of Vanderbilt faculty, staff, and students. The childcare program serves children age infants (6 weeks) to five years old and is licensed by the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
- Eldercare resources and the Boomers, Elders, & More E-Newsletters
- Ergonomic resources
- The Ergonomics program is here to help you work in comfort and safety. Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the ability of the worker. Visit the Ergonomics resources page for evaluation forms and referrals.
Understand expectations from the start/ Keep an open dialogue with your leader to understand expectations
Work with your colleagues and leader to understand the expectations for:
- work hours
- communication system
- timely meetings
- key projects and deadlines
- scheduled meetings
- responding to email and other messages
Ask your leader
- How does the team typically provide status updates?
- Are there preferred communication approaches for different types of messaging?
- How should I expect priorities to be communicated?
- What measures will be used to identify successful work and work approaches?
Communicate needs and boundaries
Work with your leader to set work schedules and boundaries together to support work-life balance and avoid burnout. Effectively communicating availability, expectations, and needs are a two-way street - employees should work with their leaders to:
- Identify resources to help meet commitments and responsibilities
- Communicate roadblocks and unanticipated work challenges
- Clearly understand expected outcomes and possible approaches
- Identify as necessary, ways to prioritize work and deliverables
Finding a strategy that works best for you depends on your personality, ability to self-motivate, and level of self-discipline.
Experts recommend using a personal planning tool to improve your productivity. Personal planning tools include planners, calendars, phone apps, wall charts, index cards, pocket diaries, and notebooks. The key is to find one planning tool that works for you and use that tool consistently.
Apps & Tools:
Evernote, Toggl, OneNote, Todoist and Focus Booster can help you balance your time, track your progress, and remind you to take breaks. These apps help increase productivity by keeping track of projects, meeting deadlines, and being more organized. With your time being managed you can be more productive while working in a more comfortable environment.
Use MITs - Start each day by deciding on your 1-3 MITs: the ‘Most Important Things’ you can get done. Focus on getting those things done first without distraction.
Pro-tip! Write your MITs in a visible spot, like a Post-it Note on your laptop. Ceremoniously throw away the post-it when done.
Calendar block - When working from home, it is easy to lose track of time and realize late in the afternoon that you have not done what you set out to do. Add time blocks to your calendar for your MITs and other important tasks.
Schedule breaks - There will not be anyone to tap on your shoulder and invite you to get a coffee. When working from home, you are responsible for making breaks happen. It is about managing your energy as much as it is managing your time.
- Make a To-do list every day, prioritizing the most important tasks at the top.
- Create a daily schedule— Creating structure to your day can help you stay on track and be productive.
- Make a list of assignments and goals with deadline: keep track of changes of the courses and the requirements. Also make a list of personal goals. Combine them to create a daily schedule.
- Reduce distraction: Turn off your phone notifications during the time you need to focus on an important task.
- It is best to take on important activities in your high-energy times, when you are at your mental peak, and reserve your low-energy times for small, easier tasks, like responding to emails.
- Get organized. Disorganization leads to poor time management. Research has shown that clutter has a strong negative impact on perceived well-being (Roster, 2016). To improve your time management, get organized.