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Why play is the best relief for pandemic-induced stress, burnout

Posted by Tasnim Ahmed

October 18, 2021    |     3-minute read (551 words)

When the pandemic first hit and people were able to work from the confines of their homes, for many, it seemed like the best thing that could have happened to them. The simple commute from the bed to the worktable promised a welcome break. But as time progressed, the charm of working from home has faded. Now, for the majority of workers, WFH seems more of a rut. The feeling of never being away from the work atmosphere has permeated all spheres of their life. 

When people work continuously without a break, sooner or later, they start feeling stressed and tend to skip work. The 2021 Deloitte Global Millennial and Gen Z Survey, published in June 2021, found about one-third of respondents had taken time off from work over the last year due to pandemic-related stress. But bringing in the fun element of play could serve a crucial part in keeping the motivation going. 

According to research conducted on 898 university students, “Playful individuals reported lower levels of perceived stress than their less playful counterparts.” Another study shows an 18% correlation between sociable, playful activities and life satisfaction. These studies indicate that play makes people productive, relieves stress and boosts creativity, especially for those looking for a change in environment. 

Fun is not a target-oriented endeavor; it allows human beings to break out of monotony. Play allows them to break the self-induced pressure that they feel from work. However, this should not be confused with forced or induced play, which can be quite damaging for those wanting to stay away from their colleagues and have some free time.

5 tips to avoid work-related burnout 

Now with the virus not showing any signs of receding, remote work is here to stay. In this situation, how can people take a break from work so they can remain productive? Here are five tips that may be helpful:

Getting out of the home - Be it nature walks, park strolls or even just going out to the balcony, being out and about and getting a change in scenery can be a good way to get away from the screen, even if it is for a short while.

Setting up separate zones - Creating separate zones for work and play at home can help people make the distinction between these two areas of life. This allows the body and mind to recuperate, and one feels a sense of relief when going from one zone to the next.

Cutting down on unnecessary meetings - Not every task warrants a Zoom or a Google Hangouts call. Most of the time, emails work just fine. Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson, who studies the psychological effects of long stretches spent on video calls, cautions that such platforms can be inherently fatiguing for humans. 

Having defined work hours - Just like having separate zones can help workers find the balance between work and play, having set hours for work can bring discipline and regularity in one’s life.

Planning weekly fun activities - Planning new activities every week can help people get out of the daily rut. This could be anything from a visit to a museum to reading a new book. Similarly, setting aside banal tasks for the end of the day can also be another way of ensuring productivity.

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