There’s no doubt that remote work has enabled businesses and workers to maintain some sense of normalcy and continuity. However, the real struggle for employees has been to cope with work from home burnout. Most of them have been working hard to preserve healthy boundaries between professional and personal lives.
A recent survey by TINYpulse found that 86 percent of remote workers report experiencing a great deal of burnout. This is in comparison to approximately 69 percent of in-person employees. The pandemic stress didn’t make things easier.
While workplace burnout is not a medical condition, it can drastically affect the employee’s health and well-being, not to mention their productivity.
What Is Work from Home (WFH) Burnout?
Employee burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion associated with work-related stress. It’s usually a combination of several factors, including lack of sufficient sleep due to work, workload overload, and the need to constantly stay “on” or connected.
Obviously, with your body in such a state, your productivity will take a dip since you can’t bring yourself to concentrate on anything. Soon, you’ll be dissatisfied with your achievements, and you may resort to other unpleasant coping mechanisms like drugs, alcohol, and overeating.
Why Is it Essential to Deal with Work from Home Burnout?
According to Mayo Clinic, failing to address employee burnout in a remote work setup can have serious consequences, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol abuse
- Heart disease
- Susceptibility to illness
- Type 2 diabetes
- Excessive stress
With that in mind, you can understand why it’s extremely important to find a remedy for WFH burnout.
How to Recognize Work from Home Burnout
The sad truth is that remote workers find themselves working longer hours than their in-office counterparts. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average workday has increased by up to 48 minutes since the implementation of stay-at-home orders.
That means employees are staying up late, attending more meetings, sending more emails, and running themselves ragged.
But, how do you recognize signs of burnout?
Sometimes, burnout may not be so obvious. But for the most part, you’ll feel a certain kind of deep exhaustion that’s different from what you feel after doing physical activities. Apart from that, here are other telltale signs to look out for:
- Failing to complete tasks on time
- Poor sleep patterns, insomnia, or difficulty sleeping
- Warning signs of depression, like hopelessness
- Losing track of projects or tasks
- Experiencing mood changes like anxiety, irritability, or anger
- Feeling less motivated to work
- Physical symptoms like headaches, dizziness, stomach pain, heart palpitations, chest pains, or increased illness
Paying attention to how your body and mind feel can help you detect burnout earlier on, and address it.
As a manager, don’t be quick to make snap judgments when work is submitted late or is of poor quality. If you start noticing any odd behaviors from your top performers, it’s time to take a pause and reach out to your workers.
Getting them to open up will reveal if they are experiencing burnout due to workload overload, family issues, stress, etc.
How to Overcome Work from Home Burnout
If you feel like fatigue is setting in and you’re at a tipping point, this guide will help you cope with employee burnout. Hopefully, these tips will work for you to enable you to stay positive while working from home.
1. Consider working from a dedicated office space
Are you still working from your couch or bed? You’re approaching remote work the wrong way. We can’t stress enough the importance of having a dedicated workspace. Not only does it help improve your focus, but it also ensures you work comfortably and efficiently.
When you have a space that you’ve set up solely for work, it’s easy for your brain to get in the right mood for work. Otherwise, your day will mostly be unpredictable, and you’ll probably feel disoriented, or even unmotivated to work.
A home office doesn’t have to be anything glamorous. Something as simple as a desk and chair in the corner of your dining room should do it. Just be sure to invest in ergonomic office furniture to avoid suffering from back, shoulder, and neck pain.
2. Get out of your home office for a walk
Nothing works extremely well for your mood like the great outdoors. It is especially recommended for remote workers who usually spend hours in isolation. There’s something truly invigorating about seeing trees, flowers, and grass and listening to nature sounds.
Connecting with nature, soaking in the sun, and getting a free dose of vitamin D all at once can be beneficial for your wellbeing.
So, whenever you have time (from coffee breaks to lunch breaks), take walks outside. Every step you take counts toward better fitness. It’s also said some of the greatest ideas were conceived during such walks.
Just be sure to time yourself, so you don’t get carried away and forget you have work to do!
3. Set boundaries with work and create a routine
As a remote worker, the line between work and personal life is blurred. Working where you live and living where you work can create confusion. It’s even worse if you don’t have a dedicated workstation or home office.
That’s why it’s crucial to draw that distinction if you want to prevent work from home burnout. Otherwise, it would be difficult to unplug from work, which, as the Buffer State of Remote Work report found, remains the main struggle of remote working.
To break this cycle of constant work, you’ll need to establish a clear separation between work and personal hours. Here are some ideas:
- Only handle work stuff during designated hours.
- Do not respond to work emails, calls, and video meetings outside of working hours – consider muting notifications or blocking access to your inbox from your phone.
- Set aside time for breaks – more on this below.
To ensure you keep your work boundaries, consider setting up a routine. This way, you’ll have a system that you follow every day that keeps things consistent. A routine helps prepare your brain to focus on work when you step into your home office and family time once you unplug.
4. Make breaks part of routine
With commutes no longer a part of your remote work life, the extra hours can tempt you to do more work in the hopes of being super productive. Regrettably, working too hard can be counterproductive and is the quickest path to suffering from employee burnout.
Instead, make good use of all this new time in your hands, like spending it with family, engaging in your hobbies, or improving your skills.
Additionally, you want to work with a schedule, so you can monitor your time. That way, you can stay on top of your activities and remember to take regular breaks throughout your workday. There are various kinds of breaks you could try, like the Pomodoro Technique, the 52/17 Rule, or the 90/20 Rule.
To keep track of time, you can use a simple timer on your computer or phone, or implement a more advanced time tracker. The tool will inform you of every hour worked, so you know when you need to stop working and take a break.
Burnout can happen easily if you don’t create time for breaks in your routine. So, add it to your schedule and make sure you take proper breaks – away from actual work.
5. Take occasional days off to disconnect from your busy life
We spend days glued to computer and smartphone screens that we forget to treat our bodies to some TLC. In today’s world, work culture has turned many of us into feeling guilty when we ask for time off from work.
However, it’s important to take a day off not just when you’re feeling exhausted, but as part of your routine. Apart from dedicating weekends to personal life, take time off or mini-vacations (even a staycation if you must stay at home) to give yourself a break.
Use this time to simply relax or do those things you normally wouldn’t have time to do.
6. Share your concerns with your boss
Remember, you’re human and not some type of superhero. You don’t need to try hard to please your boss at the expense of accepting more and more work. Soon enough, your work performance will start dropping, and your boss will notice.
If you feel like you have too much work that might lead to burnout, try to schedule a meeting with your employer to find a solution.
Use this opportunity to bring up how you feel about your workload.
For instance, if Zoom fatigue has caught up with you, try suggesting keeping meetings to a minimum or switching to audio calls. After all, research shows that 70 percent of meetings prevent employees from doing their jobs.
7. Develop a reward system
Another great strategy to beat employee burnout is to establish a reward system. This entails rewarding your efforts, especially the small accomplishments at work. Doing so motivates you to keep going and raises your spirits as you look forward to your next reward.
For example, you can say you’ll treat yourself to that exotic spa if you complete a project before the deadline. Or, you could watch your favorite TV show after hitting your target for the day.
8. Take self-care seriously
There are endless studies linking the effects of healthy habits on mental wellbeing. If you fail to set boundaries, it’s easy to fall into bad habits like snacking poorly or skipping meals, and sleeping in late when working from home.
Guess what? If you don’t take care of your health, your focus will slowly decline, and that can affect your mood, which in turn affects your productivity. Sadly, when you sit at your computer all day, unhealthy snacks like salty chips and cookies can quickly become your comfort foods.
Strive to choose healthy foods that will keep you energized and productive throughout the day. If you have the habit of grazing all day, make sure you stock on healthy snacks.
Other than food, find activities that bring you happiness and peace. These are activities that help you relax, such as:
- Taking a bubble bath
- Taking a power nap
- Baking your favorite treat or learning new recipes
- Playing video games
- Listening to music
- Reading an interesting book
- Watching comedy
- Doing yoga
- Listening to inspiring TED talks
Focusing on hobbies and activities that you enjoy can help relieve workplace stress.
9. Prioritize workout
Eating a well-balanced diet is just one part of maintaining a healthy body and mind. The other part is working on your physical fitness. A good number of remote workers live a sedentary lifestyle. The longest walk they take is a trip to the fridge and back to their home office.
Sitting all day is bad for your health. Not only will you gain weight, but you also risk developing depression, anxiety, and mental fatigue.
Getting physical is a great way to improve your mood and relieve stress. You could sign up at your local gym or engage in home workouts if that’s not possible. Or, try using some of the exercise apps or videos available online to help you keep fit within the comforts of your home.
Other forms of exercise like biking, speed-walking, jogging, or resistance training can also help you stay active.
10. Avoid curing your burnout with caffeine and medication
Are you loading your body with coffee to help you finish that assignment? We have bad news for you. That energy boost is only temporary and will lead to a significant midday energy slump.
The same could be said if you’re relying on medication to hide your burnout.
Your best approach is to find out why you’re feeling burned out and how your lifestyle could be making it worse. Figure out how you can resolve those issues. Maybe talking to friends will brighten your day and leave you with a more positive mind.
Your coworkers or friends may be going through the same struggle and are also looking for someone to connect with. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Working remotely can make one feel isolated and lonely, and staying connected is good for your mental and emotional health.
Remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider therapy or meditation to relieve anxiety and stress.
Work from home burnout can significantly impact your productivity and happiness at work. It can even lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues if it becomes chronic. Therefore, pay close attention to your body and listen to what it needs. If it needs time off from work to re-energize or a power nap to reset, don’t ignore these signals. Taking breaks will improve your mood, promote a better work-life balance, and boost your productivity.