Remember when everyone was jealous of the fact that you worked from home? How does everyone feel about it now?
Working from home definitely has a lot of perks. For companies, it means they can actually get a lot more from their team members. According to studies, remote workers throw in three extra hours of work daily!
It also means employers are able to protect their employees from pandemic-related risks.
For employees, it means less stress from the commute; possibly better work-life balance; the option to tailor your workspace according to how you want it; and more flexibility to manage your time.
But if this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that it takes a lot to meet deadlines and stay productive in the comfort of your living room.
Working from home may have been an exciting prospect at the beginning of it all. However, the realities of pandemic-imposed isolation and pressures of working alone proved to be a potent recipe for burnout.
“Although work from home may have offered you a break from the commute, office structure and your regular daily routine for the past few months, the mental break from work, as well as technology, is equally important,” Vicki Salemi, a Monster career expert notes in an article published by CNBC.
The Warning Signs of Work-From-Home Burnout
When you’re working 9 to 5, stuck in a cubicle, toiling under the glare of fluorescent lights, the early signs of burnout are easier to recognize.
You begin to feel less motivated. Mistakes happen more often. You feel less efficient and have less energy. You get easily frustrated and probably feel more irritable than usual.
When you’re working from home however, all these can be attributed to your unusual working conditions. Feeling less motivated? That could be because you have your bed and couch right there—it’s tempting to simply abandon work and laze around.
Errors in your work? Maybe because you don’t have full access to your office tools and resources.
Feeing less efficient? Chalk it up to the loss of normal office structure.
And all of these are probably contributing to feelings of frustration and irritability. Right?
If you’re truly honest with yourself, you know these symptoms are tell-tale signs of office burnout. It’s just manifesting a little differently when your office is in your home. Plus, if you’re living alone, it makes it harder for someone else to notice and point out that what you’re experiencing isn’t normal.
That said, be sure to ask yourself the following questions regularly to help yourself recognize possible signs of burnout:
1. Do you find yourself avoiding work?
We’re all guilty of procrastinating. But when you’re on the brink of burnout you’re procrastinating on more than just tasks. You find yourself delaying the start of your day, being late to meetings, refusing to start your to-do list. Take special note of this if you’re the type of person who never usually has any issue when it comes to staying motivated.
2. Do you find yourself working more than usual?
This is tricky, because as mentioned earlier, you tend to put in more hours when working from home.
This makes it so much harder to track whether you’re on the verge of burnout. But if you often find yourself constantly checking emails, refusing to take time off, or not setting clear boundaries when it comes to work, be warned… you could be using work as a means to avoid addressing other aspects of your life that you can’t control. You’re well on your way to working from home burnout.
3. Do you think your work performance is declining?
This goes beyond being objectively critical of your output. When you’re experiencing burnout, you notice that your lack of motivation to excel and lack of creativity are deeply affecting your work. The stress of working from home feels overwhelming and your brain can’t catch up.
4. Do you often feel tired?
If you notice that a good night’s rest or a full weekend isn’t enough to help you recover and recharge for another work week ahead, this could be a sign of burnout. Pay attention if it’s also affecting your interest in things outside of work.
For example, if you find you’d rather stay in and sleep instead of engaging in hobbies that you used to love or hanging out with your friends.
5. Do you find yourself dealing with more mental health issues?
Burnout can come with a host of health and mental issues. On top of exhaustion and fatigue, you could be feeling a lot of frustration and irritability.
You could be battling depression and feelings of hopelessness. At night, you could be experiencing headaches or even pain. Are you getting sick more frequently? Do you experience a lot of digestive issues? All these could point to burnout.
Manage Work From Home Burnout
If you found yourself saying yes to any of the questions above, you may be experiencing home office burnout. Here are some ways you can manage burnout symptoms:
1. Prioritize Self Care
Burnout and other medical problems caused by it are anchored on how well you take care of yourself. Sometimes, it all comes down to basics.
If you’re feeling unwell, the first step is to check what you can do to give your body some rest and attention. For example:
- Make sure you get at least 6-9 hours of sleep daily.
- Give yourself time to unplug from your devices everyday—especially late at night before you go to sleep.
- Eat balanced, healthy meals and avoid junk food.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
- Make time for social interaction.
By giving your body the opportunity to get stronger, you’re also allowing your mind to recover faster.
2. Set Clear Boundaries Between Work and Home
Working from home means it’s so much harder to define a clear line between work and home life. With the typical 9 to 5 job, you are able to physically leave work behind once you leave the office. When you’re working from home, it’s not always so clear.
You have to be more conscious of creating distinctions between the two or work will inevitably creep into your free time. Simple things like taking your lunch break away from your desk can help. Don’t eat lunch in front of your laptop.
Follow consistent office hours and commit to follow them. Put your work phone on silent after specific hours. Avoid working on weekends.
Create a designated work area in your home that isn’t your bedroom or your living room to make it easier for you to “leave” work. Even if it’s just a few steps away from your couch, it still means you can physically walk away from your work space.
Another idea would be to dress up before starting work and changing into lounge clothes after. Of course, there’s no need to go completely all out, wearing a suit when you’re just working from home. But putting on more formal clothes in anticipation of Zoom calls and changing into sweats after 5 can make your feel that you’ve officially ended a busy work day.
3. Don’t Stress About Delegating
Just because you can’t handle everything on your plate doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. It simply means you might be taking on too much. In which case, you might want to consider passing on some critical tasks to team members you can trust.
Remember, you’re essentially juggling everything—both home and office responsibilities—at the same time given your new working conditions. That can be pretty overwhelming. If you have the option to do so, offload some tasks to others. Be realistic about what you can feasibly do on a given day.
4. Be Vocal About Your Struggles
When you’re unable to physically see and interact with your colleagues, it can be harder for others to notice that you’re beginning to struggle mentally with burnout.
In this case, you have to make an effort to communicate your struggles with teammates so they can offer more support. Maybe you can discuss the distribution of workload; or you can discuss how to manage work more efficiently.
Sharing more about your home office challenges might even open up more avenues for communication. Building meaningful connections with colleagues, especially during this time, can be very beneficial to your mental health.
5. Take Time Off If You Need It
Remote employees may be working longer hours, but they’re also taking less time off. This can be both a positive and a negative. On one hand, the flexibility of remote work makes employees feel less compelled to take breaks, which is great for productivity. But it also means that remote workers neglect to consider the importance of self care.
According to statistics however, 70% of workers experience a boost in productivity after they take much needed vacation time.
So be more intentional about detaching yourself from work when you need it. Let your team know that you’re taking the time to take care of yourself, even if it’s just for a few hours to recharge and unplug. If needed, speak to your colleagues about taking real time off from work and use it to mentally and physically recuperate.
Home office burnout is real. And with the recent shift to remote work due to the pandemic, the challenges of working from home have been put in the spotlight. Pay attention to the signs and take it seriously before it gets out of hand.
How are you coping? Has anything in this article resonated?