As remote work becomes increasingly popular, the blurred boundaries between home life and work activities have made it much harder to switch off, step back, and realize when we are headed for burnout. While many people feel they are more productive when they work from home, others suffer from cabin fever, feeling trapped at home. Many who are experiencing remote work for the first time since the pandemic are having difficulties maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
The risk of burnout while working at home all day every day is rising. A recent survey found that 69 percent of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home. It’s unsurprising when you consider how many of us are juggling busy work schedules, video calls, home-schooling, and household responsibilities every day. These can all cause interruptions, delays, and increased stress.
When our work lives and home life become progressively intertwined this can result in remote work burnout.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic work-related stress. The symptoms of burnout are characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion, a negative attitude towards work, and reduced feelings of work-related personal accomplishment.
Burnout can have serious consequences on an employee’s health and wellbeing. Burnt out team members suffer from constant fatigue and lose all delight and satisfaction they once felt at their job. Not only does this harm an organization, but there can be serious consequences for the individual if burnout is not addressed.
The signs and symptoms of burnout vary from person to person, however, they can be categorized into five stages; The honeymoon stage, onset of stress, chronic stress, burnout, and habitual burnout. Each stage has specific characteristics, which progressively worsen as employee burnout advances.
How to avoid burnout when working remotely
It can be more difficult to spot the warning signs that you might be headed for burnout when you are working from home. Below are tips on how to avoid burnout when working remotely:
Take a break
Contrary to belief, the shift to remote work throughout the pandemic has not led to more time off — in fact, recent research from NordVPN Teams found that remote employees are clocking in an additional 2.5 hours of work every day compared to their pre-pandemic schedule.
When you work from home it can be difficult to step away from your personal office when you have a deadline or ignore that email that pings through on your phone at 10 pm. Slowly, work starts to creep into every corner of your life.
Taking a break helps us pause, reflect, and re-adjust our work-life balance. You should aim to spend at least one hour every day away from your computer, doing an activity or hobby you love. You can experiment with different types of breaks to stimulate your brain and keep yourself motivated.
Write down a list of pleasant activities that boost your mood and purposefully set aside time in your daily schedule, whether it’s in the morning, at lunch, or between meetings, to relax.
You could go for a short walk, spend some time in your garden, watch a new TV show, call a family member, or read a chapter of your favorite book. These activities can help with energy and focus, plus, having something non-work-related to look forward to can help to reduce stress.
Take time off
If you are entitled to vacation days, make sure you take them. Many of us have neglected to take time off over the past two years due to unpredictable working conditions, lockdowns, and travel restrictions. However, taking a significant amount of time off is extremely important, even if you are staying at home. You need time to relax and recharge to avoid remote work-related burnout.
Get plenty of sleep
Poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health, but many of us have problems with getting a good night’s sleep. Turn off all your screens a few hours prior to going to bed and do something that helps you to relax. If your mental health is causing you to have problems falling asleep it could help to establish a regular sleeping routine or habits. You might need to try different things before you find what works for you.
Try to finish work on time
When you don’t have to physically leave the office and you are constantly reachable on various platforms it is easier to work late into the evening to try and get everything done. This can be fine once in a while, but if it becomes the norm you need to consciously try to finish work on time. Establishing a routine where possible can help to give you structure and reduce the risk of burnout. If this seems impossible, you may need to address your workload with your superiors.
Re-work your to-do list
Post-pandemic, well-being is suffering, in fact, an overwhelming 94 percent of workers are stressed. When you face an endless to-do list at work, and at home, this only piles on more unnecessary anxiety. If your target is to undertake an intense, months-long project, that’s not going to give you positive, mental reinforcement.
A good way to avoid burnout when working from home is to set manageable goals for yourself. Short-term goals that can be checked off your to-do list by the end of the day. These could include both home and work-related tasks, for example, unpacking the dishwasher, or responding to an email. Making daily to-do lists helps us navigate the chaos of life, overcome anxiety, and renew our sense of purpose.
Ask for help and support
If you feel like you are experiencing work-related stress that is affecting your mental and physical well-being, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are numerous options for support available and it is important to discuss how you are feeling with your management team so they can provide you with the help you need.
Burnout when working from home is a real risk that can cause lasting damage, but it can be avoided. Take small steps, create boundaries for yourself, and do your best to maintain a healthy work-life balance.