Burnout

I’m still in between feeling ashamed and being OK about having crashed and burned at work. I’m recovering from a burnout that was long in coming and even the recovery is long in coming!

Manifestation

The few signs which undoubtedly called my attention to the fact that I was burning out were:

  • Scattered thoughts and inability to keep one thought in focus
  • Difficulty to comprehend what I was reading
  • General sudden sluggishness in even the most mundane habitual tasks
  • Loss of words
  • Loss of hair

In truth, the sudden and continued loss of hair is what worried me and got me to make an appointment at my doctor’s. I was quick to discard all of the rest as just a collateral of sustained work done in a period of rush, such as we all regularly have. I didn’t lose all of my hair but I was losing enough every time I touched it that after a few weeks (months, really) it really bothered me. My body gave me cause to worry and act on it, since I was ignoring all other signs.

Diagnostic

My doctor ordered blood sample analysis which returned that I was in perfect health, so having ruled out a physical disease focused on a disease of the mind. After a few questions I was offered to be off work on medical leave.

Break

The doctor gave me a two-week medical leave at first and then extended it by the week, or every few weeks, for a total of 8 weeks. I met with the doctor after each extension.

During what I thought was the last extension I got really anxious about going back to work. I felt I was not ready and worried a lot. I described to the doctor that I had been worried sick the whole time, that I felt I had just one go at this and that if I returned prematurely I feared it would have been all for nothing. The last extension of the medical leave he gave me was for three weeks.

All in all, I did a whole lot of nothing, except for exercising, and did it very slowly too. I wasn’t too sad, or too distressed. I didn’t miss work. I dreaded it as I wrote. The doctor gave me pills to try to sleep better and more efficiently but the two types I tried did not work. When I wasn’t on the bike, or running, or walking, I watched a TV show that my parents gave me as a birthday present. I didn’t have a lot of bandwidth and headspace for much else.

I would have liked to do more, be that reading, or drawing, or even thinking but it just didn’t happen and I was OK with it because I knew I just didn’t have it in me.

The break was good and beneficial. Every one around me, including at work,was so supportive I am very lucky and appreciate how blessed I am.

Return

After 8 weeks off, I returned to work. It was very overwhelming but everyone was very nice, and careful to NOT make me feel overwhelmed. There was a few thousands email in my various mail boxes. I still remembered how to work, my passwords, Zoom meeting room numbers and the likes.

For many weeks, I was still at loss for so many words. That was one of the most unexpected signs, to be frank. Especially in English where my vocabulary is rich and broad (not to brag!) Today even, to a lesser degree I continue to struggle, and words are at the tip of my tongue or fingers.

It took me 4 or 5 weeks to get back in most of the flow of work and another 1 or 2 to actually feel I was almost back.

“Almost”, because I feel that I’m not back to being myself (yet?) Things still take me much longer than before 🤷🏻‍♀️ It’s as though something in my brain restricts it from being fully functional. Maybe it’s a built-in security until such time that I can be back to my previous self, speed and abilities. 

Addendum: Origins

2022-12-21 update: I had meant to include a section last night as part of this entry to shed a bit of light on the origins of my burnout, but I realize just now that I forgot it.

I had lost faith. It’s as simple as that. I could sustain a certain level of stress, anxiety, workload and frustration as long as I was *driven*. But when that got removed, the entire balance (however unhealthy and wrong) broke.

I won’t go into details but I will say that I realised that my voice was not heard, my actions had no impact and the weight of that was too much for me.

Addendum: Hope

2022-12-22 update: I might have some faith still. And if not faith, at least hope.

Since I returned, I mostly focused on the parts of work that don’t require faith but execution.

The organisation is changing so there is hope I can try to make a difference. I really like our mission. I feel I still have what my former manager (our former CEO, who left almost a month ago) referred to as “unfinished business”

Groundhog Days at UPS

I think the service at UPS is horrendous. I wish businesses that use courriers advertised which! Better still, that they could offer the customer the choice among several.

In trying to get my Apple Watch serviced, Apple uses UPS to deliver me the empty box in which I am to send the Watch for repair. So far, according to the proof of delivery, UPS has delivered that box… twice… but to the wrong person… twice. I don’t know them, nor where they are though. And neither does UPS.

They can investigate. But it takes eight business days, and first you have to file a complaint, and then perhaps the shipment can be located and delivered (but my hunch is that it’s a big IF).

Lousy customer experience, down to the website

Other aspects of the UPS service are bad. I have first-hand experience with two:

  1. an account is required in order to do anything pertaining to a shipment you are the recipient of (that’s right, you not only did not select that carrier yourself, but you also need to give them personal data, and they don’t say anything about what they will do with it),
  2. the account creation process breaks, possibly because it makes some pretty dumb assumptions.

For personal reasons I use French regional settings but English language on my devices. It might explain why the UPS account creation process chose to establish my account in the USA –a field in the form that I could neither toggle nor edit. Obviously, the account failed as invalid.

And yet, as I fiddled with it to fix it, and after the site stopped responding for a while, I found out that the account error had simply vanished. I dug around in my new Hawaii-based UPS “My Choice” account, and couldn’t find any trace of stored physical location.

False claims in the field and on the web

Once logged in, I tried the “change my delivery” button. After all, this is 2022 and for a while now all modern carriers have offered recipients the possibility to reschedule, or supply backup delivery instructions. Their button did not work. It either took me back to the tracking view, or showed a never-ending spinning wheel named “authenticating” even though I appeared to be logged in still.

Later, I found out that in order to be able to reschedule a delivery, UPS first must attempt to deliver and fail. How moronic!

This type of delivery prohibited the option to pick up at a third party facility. I assume that requesting delivery in my mailbox, front door, garden or at my neighbour’s was equally not an option, but nothing was explicit.

In any case, it would be useful if they set some expectations about what I may or may not do with the “change my delivery” button. I created an account with the purpose of doing something that eventually wasn’t possible.

Groundhog Days

Day 1: I paid for a Watch battery replacement. Apple sent via UPS a box for me to send the Watch back to them.

Day 2, morning: The delivery was set to take place between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm. I waited at home. At 2pm the tracking page indicated that the estimated delivery time had been updated. It then was “by end of day”. Sigh.

Day 2, afternoon: The shipment was marked as delivered, at 2:38 pm, at “Office”, signed by someone unfamiliar. There was nothing I could do about this shipment on the UPS website. I was not happy.

Day 2, Apple hotline: On their end the box was marked as delivered. They were not particularly sympathetic to the fact that I had stayed home for nothing, and they could not redirect the delivery: they didn’t even know where it had been delivered. So the first repair order was canceled, and I paid for a second one, which triggered a second shipment with UPS.

Day 3, morning: The delivery was set to take place between 8:30 am and 12:30 pm. I waited at home. At 1:30 pm the tracking page indicated that the estimated delivery time had been updated. It then was “by end of day”. Sigh.

Day 3, 1:35 pm: The tracking page indicated that they had missed me and would try on the next business day. I was furious.

Day 3, UPS hotline: The person on the phone did not seem surprised nor bothered that the courrier had neither rung my bell nor my phone. I was told that someone from another department at UPS would call back within the hour with an update and perhaps tell me when I might get the package. I continued to wait at home.

Day 3, 2:30 pm: Nobody called. On the tracking page, the shipment was marked as delivered, at 1:46 pm, again at “Office”, signed by the same unfamiliar person. I was outraged.

Day 3, second call to the UPS hotline: Another person, equally careless, said the only information they had that I didn’t was that the location of the package delivery was in fact “Office of the director”. I then learned about the complaint being the first required step to the investigation which may take about eight business days. and which may or may not surface where the effing package ended up.

Day 3, Apple hotline: The first person to actually sound sympathetic! But there wasn’t anything they could do other than canceling the second repair order, and get me to pay for a third one, which triggered a third shipment with UPS. That one is set for Day 7 because it’s a Monday.

Day 4: I finally clicked the UPS link I was sent the day before to file a complaint. Unsurprisingly, an account is required to do that too! I was ready to go into as much detail as needed. I had screenshots of everything. So I was very dismayed when I realised it was a click-through process where I had to chose which pre-set scenario matched my situation the best, among a selection of six or seven. I was also quite dismayed that it didn’t let me file a second complaint for the first failed delivery.

Unfortunate AND ironic

Isn’t it ironic that I opted for the home pickup/delivery for my Apple hardware servicing because I was disappointed that our local (it’s still a 66-kilometer round trip) Apple Store Genius Bar is nothing but a collection desk? They do not do any onsite hardware service. They send it elsewhere, it takes 10 to 15 days, they get the product back, let you know it’s ready, and you come again to retrieve it and pay for the service.

Update on Day 7

UPS delivered!!! (Albeit an hour late)

Flickr stats: me wins, my photos lose, meh

Screenshot of the Flickr app showing the all-time views, the 1st photo has had over 124K, 2nd 45K, 3rd 36K, 4th 30K, 5th 28K. All but the 4th are photos picturing me.

What my top-five most viewed photos tell me is that I should have been a model in my early thirties rather than a wannabe photographer.

I have been using Flickr since 2005.

Well, I have not used it for several years now, and I think I just understood why:

The most viewed photos are almost entirely pictures I posted that picture me. They are part of the story I told about me on this platform, but they are not photos I took. (Although I did a series of self portraits in a dusty mirror which are of me, by me.)

But I don’t use the platform to show myself (that’s what Instagram is about, right? And I left that one already), as much as to showcase my photography at the same time as I photo-document bits of my life.

The only photo where I am not, among the top five, is a byproduct of its title being the same as swingers club (a coincidence, which I blogged about in 2006 when I figured out why it was my most popular photo.)

I think I will find out how much longer the pro membership I paid is, and find an exit strategy for all of my photos on this platform. There is appetite for how I was about 10 years ago more than there is appetite for the stuff I want to show, much to my dismay.

Le télétravail, c’est fou !

Je choisis volontairement un titre Ă  la fois ambigu et provocateur pour exprimer ma dĂ©ception face Ă  l’obstination de notre employeur et son entĂŞtement Ă  ignorer le progrès que reprĂ©sente le tĂ©lĂ©travail. Car j’en ai gros [sur le ❤️] Ă  ce sujet. C’est une situation que je pratique depuis une quinzaine d’annĂ©es ou plus, sur presque 23 –gasp ! Je ne suis pas seule Ă  ĂŞtre en tĂ©lĂ©travail, et pourtant, on nous refuse de l’Ă©largir Ă  tous.

Bonjour, je suis Coralie, Ă©lue dĂ©lĂ©guĂ©e du personnel titulaire depuis presque dix ans, et c’est source de moultes frustrations !


Le Monde publiait hier dans sa section Économie un article intitulé « Le télétravail améliorerait la productivité », alors que j’ai encore aujourd’hui dans la bouche le goût amer que m’ont laissé les deux tentatives récentes de négociations avec la direction des ressources humaines, visant à généraliser le télétravail potentiellement total à ceux de mes collègues qui peuvent le pratiquer, qui le souhaitent, et pour qui ce n’est pas encore autorisé.

Car chez nous, même si la majorité du personnel est en capacité d’effectuer l’activité professionnelle de n’importe où, seuls certains sont télé-travailleurs à temps plein.

Or, le grand fossé qui sépare les uns des autres n’est pas près de se combler, alors même que durant les dix-huit mois suivant le premier confinement Covid-19, l’intégralité du personnel a été en télétravail.


Pour la Direction il ne fait aucun doute que tous ceux pour qui c’était nouveau sont rapidement et efficacement passés en mode « travail à distance ». Belle preuve d’agilité et belle faculté d’adaptation ! Les collègues ont su mettre en place d’eux-mêmes les protocoles répondant au mieux à leurs besoins et utilisé des méthodes simples, logiques et optimisées.

Pourtant début octobre ce n’est pas ce que la Direction a choisi de mettre en exergue pour justifier son refus de généraliser le télétravail. Non, ce qui fut déclaré, c’est que personne en France ne fait du télétravail complet, et que les accords nationaux interprofessionnels recommandent un maximum de trois jours par semaine télé-travaillés, insistant sur un équilibre servant à éviter tous risques psycho-sociaux.


Mesurez s’il vous plaît l’ironie de la situation : L’organisation pour laquelle je travaille (en télétravail total, depuis des années) met en place de manière collective et collaborative les standards du web, mais la société qui m’emploie pour faire cela prétend qu’aucune boîte française ne fait du télétravail total (*), et ainsi n’admet pas la généralisation au reste de son personnel de ce statut auquel tous se sont parfaitement adaptés.

(*) hmmm, et donc quid de mon statut de télé-travailleuse ?

(L’organisation lĂ©gale est complexe mais pour simplifier, je suis employĂ©e par une sociĂ©tĂ© pour travailler dans une autre, telle un projet. Et pour continuer dans le complexe, notre ComitĂ© social et Ă©conomique (CSE) est constituĂ© de trois personnes affectĂ©es Ă  ce projet et d’une travaillant pour la sociĂ©tĂ© directement. Je suis l’une des deux titulaires au CSE et j’ai donc pris part aux nĂ©gociations en octobre et bis repetita en novembre.)

Mes collègues se contentent de ce qu’on leur accorde. Moi, de l’autre côté du fossé, je vois ça comme une punition à leur égard dont je ne comprends pas la justification.

Question bonus : Quid des risques psycho-sociaux pour ceux d’entre nous en télétravail total depuis des années ? Aucune idée. La question est posée mais restée sans réponse.