Reducing your mental load at work

N°307b – Synopsis (8p.) – Stress
Reducing your mental load at work
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A strong aggravation of stress at work has been observed since the pandemic and the rise of teleworking. Faced with the constant increase in the number of topics to address, how can we manage our mental load to avoid burnout?

The concept of mental load recently became popular to discuss the weight of the pandemic on people, more specifically on women. Emma Clit’s graphic novel You should’ve asked went viral on the social networks. She depicts the everyday life of a family mother who not only handles an important share of the domestic chores, but also carries the responsibility of those carried out by her partner. He is quite willing to be an executant: vacuum cleaning if she asks, shopping if she has prepared a list, starting a washing machine (but he doesn’t think about dry hanging the clothes: she had not asked him to). Lockdowns have highlighted this phenomenon: whilst teleworking, it is mostly women who have handled the logistic of meals and the management of home schooling. French polling firm IFOP thus calculated that 44% of family mothers stated that they “could not cope with work”, against 31% of fathers.

Yet, mental load is not women’s exclusivity! Think of the caregiver who manages an entire floor, responsible for various tasks, too numerous for the available time, whilst being constantly interrupted. Or of the air-traffic controller who must guide in real time the approach of multiple planes with different flight configurations towards a busy airport, with no right to error. Or still, this manager who goes from meeting to meeting on different topics and must make decisions on more or less important matters, whilst receiving hundreds of emails and instant messaging notifications… People are sometimes on overload mode. Their performance decreases. Errors and oversights multiply. They become irritable. Burnout is looming.

Cognitive overload is an important factor in psychosocial risks at work, that technological evolutions only reinforce by allowing us to do constantly more. To control these risks, it is essential to fully understand how our brain processes the excess of solicitation. We can then both reduce the causes of overload and better handle the times of overflow.

In this synopsis:
– Mental load in a few figures
– Understanding the causes behind mental overload to better manage it
– Enough is enough: A few tips to reduce your mental load
– Five traps to watch out for when feeling overworked

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