CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – We spend over 90,000 hours of our lives working and as we return to pre-pandemic norms, more employers are bringing staff back to the office full time. Many people are finding that transition stressful, adding to the existing stress of tough workloads.

News 2’s Brendan Clark spoke with an expert about how to make life at work a bit easier.

While the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on the often overlooked issue of workplace stress, many people are still hesitant to seek help. Dr. Melissa Milanak with MUSC said that many people see stress as a “badge of honor.”

“We have these workplace stresses that aren’t being managed. So, burnout is significantly increasing.”

She said that she is also seeing significant reductions in quality of life and work-life-balance.

Decompression is key, according to Dr. Milanak:

“When you’re go go go, and you never stop and take that break, your brain doesn’t have that opportunity to decompress, but it needs to.”

Another important factor in reducing stress is getting the right amount of sleep. While everyone needs a different amount, sufficient sleep is key to body restoration, memory consolidation, a functioning metabolism and immune system, daytime alertness and concentration, and the ability to respond to challenges.

Maintaining good relationships with coworkers is crucial, as we spend on average one third of our lives with people from work.

But no matter how much you like your coworkers, remember to take time for yourself. Dr. Milanak said that research shows people who take 11 or more vacation days per year have higher productivity and are better at their jobs.

The bottom line, according to Dr. Milanak: self care isn’t selfish. Taking care of yourself improves workflow and increases productivity in the long run.