At this point in the pandemic, it feels that we have, all, collectively, hit a wall. Last week, The New York Times asked readers to tell us about work burnout they’re experiencing — nearly 700 people responded in two days. The responses were funny, vulnerable and indicative of a universal sense of: “We’ve had enough.” The collective picture they painted was of a work force struggling to do tasks that were once easy, people who know they are lucky to have a job but dream of quitting, and who would do anything to never have a Zoom meeting again.
Here’s what else we heard from readers. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity, and some people preferred to give only their first names.
On what is particularly challenging and overwhelming about work right now
“Waking up and realizing, ‘I am going to stare at my laptop for 8 hours, maybe 9, maybe 10, log off, feel utterly unaccomplished because I have not left my small office/bedroom/yoga studio for the entire day, and do it all again for who knows how long.’ At this point I don’t know who is going to crack first, me or the pandemic.”
— Stephanie Soderlund, chemist, Portland, Ore.
“Logging off at the end of the day. It’s nearly impossible. Once the world went into lockdown a year ago, I felt like I logged onto work and I’m still waiting to log off.”
— Natalie Fiacco, art director, New York
“All of it. I can’t focus at all. Every day is Groundhog Day. I get up, I drink tea, I spend 8-12 hours in front of the computer, I listen to podcasts all day while I work, I spend too much time on social media, and then I go to bed. We’ve barely left the flat in over a year now. I’m lucky to have a job, but I fantasize about quitting all the time.”
— Lee Anne Sittler, translator, Madrid
“The Microsoft Teams ringtone strikes fear in my heart and the Slack buzz dread in my spirit.”
— Carolyn, graphic designer, Brooklyn
“I’m juggling child care, teaching a kindergartner and also being timed for each activity at work. In social services, it takes a lot of emotional labor in normal times, now we have had nearly 300 percent increase in folks seeking our assistance”
— Risa, public benefits eligibility specialist, Tacoma, Wash.
“How do I log the hours I spent crying or staring out my window? (Spoiler: I can’t, because those things aren’t monetizable.)”
— Julie Bourne, content strategist, Brooklyn
On what, if anything, keeps them motivated
“I’ve come to rely very much on the story of the Exodus during the past year, the story of ancient Israel’s time in the wilderness as both a time of trial, but also a time of preparation for what comes next.”
— Todd Vetter, pastor, Madison, Conn.
“I have been playing D&D every week through Discord with a group of friends. It has served as the closest thing to a routine that I have now, and a moment of respite to actually feel connected to other human beings.”
— Silas Choudhury, student, Jersey City, N.J.
“I dream about vacations to which I cannot drive.”
— Alexandra Robinson, art professor, Austin, Texas
“Getting outside in the morning makes the most difference on preventing motivational flatlining, but unless I have an accountability buddy it’s easy to skip. I skip more now than I was a year ago.”
— Prajna Cole, project manager, Eugene, Ore.
“I try to remember that pandemics don’t last forever.”
— Jason, high school teacher, Virginia
“I focus on my family, on keeping them happy and healthy. I also eat jelly beans.”
— Dr. Yemina Warshaver, emergency medicine physician, New York