HALIFAX -- Workplace burnout doesn’t just happen to those who put in long hours at the office. With millions of people from around the world now working from home, juggling multiple responsibilities and added pressure, work-life balance is more challenging than ever.

Rahaf Harfoush is a Canadian author and workplace expert. She says burnout is a state of chronic fatigue, resulting from sustained overwork.

“When you push yourself, either professionally or personally, when you push yourself really hard and you don’t take the appropriate amount of breaks, your body and your mind eventually get worn out. They just can’t continue anymore,” says Harfoush.

There are a wide range of burnout symptoms that can affect people in different ways, according to Harfoush.

“It could be having trouble concentrating. It could be physical fatigue. It could be insomnia. It could be a lack of attention span. It could be depression or feelings of anger,” says Harfoush.

“Mostly, many people describe it as this bone deep fatigue. They are just not performing the way that they should be, things are a bit foggy, and that’s because they are not giving their bodies or their brain sufficient rest time to recover and to replenish those energy stores and creative stores.”

Harfoush says burnout, at its core, is an energy issue and the energy doesn’t differentiate between energy spent at work or energy spent at home.

“You are a human being with a certain amount of energy that you can spend a day and whether you are working too much, whether you are running around after your kids, both of those things can be drains on that energy,” says Harfoush.

“Especially in this time where the boundaries between work and home are completely dissolving, (it’s important) to be really clear about setting boundaries and setting times for you to take breaks.”

Harfoush suggests scheduling 10 minute breaks to relax by doing things like siting somewhere quietly, listening to a song, or stretching.

“These are all the things that we know we should be doing. The problem is that we are under so much pressure in this unique context that many of us are just ignoring those little habits, even though we know better, even though they can be a great help,” says Harfoush.

According to Harfoush, employees who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic should not be expected to follow the same routine they do in the office.

“This is not normal times. We have people who are at home, who have spouses, or partners, or roommates that are also sharing space, that can be creating noise or distraction issues. People have kids at home that they have to take care of, or other family members that they have to take care of,” says Harfoush.

“I think we should all be very clear and very compassionate with each other and the normal levels of productivity that we would expect when business was running as usual should by no means be expected now. In order for that to be communicated, there needs to be very clear transparency between when people are working, how they are working, and when they need to rest, and that rest needs to be respected. People are being pulled in a million different directions and it seems to me to be very unrealistic to expect that people do the same thing. Not to mention the over-arching context, which is taking a lot of mental space in our minds as well. There is a lot of worry and uncertainty and anxiety and all of those things also contribute to burnout because our brains never stop working.”

Harfoush says this is the time to be clear with your workplace and your colleagues about setting these boundaries so that you can continue to produce the best possible work in the long run.