5 Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout
The global pandemic has brought millions to work from home for the first time. Work from home (WFH) is on everyone’s mind. However, everyone could use some guidance when working from home. We’ve spoken about some tips and tricks for working remotely in the past.
When you’re at home all the time, the lines between working and not working can be easily blurred. But in recent months, they have become basically non-existent. When your office is your bedroom, kitchen, living room or any space in your small apartment, it’s easy to never stop working.
WFH burnout is a serious issue. And it’s only getting worse with the uncertainty and stress that are connected to our current situation. Everyone is living in doubt. We are all wondering when and if things will ever get back to normal.
It’s safe to say that how we handle ourselves and our businesses right now will set the tone for how we work for years to come. And it doesn’t look like WFH is going anywhere. We’ve gathered 5 tips that should help you avoid any symptoms of WFH burnout in the weeks, months and maybe years to come. But first, let’s get to the bottom of how we got here in the first place.
How the coronavirus created a perfect storm for WFH burnout
Is WFH burnout actually a serious issue?
For most people, the days have likely been blending together lately. If that’s the case for you, know that you’re not alone. Work days used to be filled with commutes, happy hours and weekend plans. Now every day is more or less the same. Weekday rituals have dramatically changed. In most cases, they have become much less exciting or eventful.
With winter slowly approaching in the Northern hemisphere, days have also gotten shorter. Afternoons suddenly turn to nights. Weekdays and weekends become interchangeable. Finally, your sense of time might feel totally thrown off. You might find yourself wondering where the workday went. This perfect storm is making it easier than ever to work (or think about work) all the time.
Even before the pandemic, we knew that employees who don’t disconnect are at a higher risk of burnout. But this feeling has become even more pronounced in recent times.
In the search for some sense of normality, many people with latch onto work. Work helps us keep a sense of normalcy. It gives us a schedule. But the more you’re “always-on” the more that this behaviour is expected from you. Therefore, this can quickly turn into a vicious cycle.
All of this leads to a perfect storm of conditions to create WFH burnout.
5 tips to avoid WFH burnout
If you have already read all of the possible tips for remote working, and you still worry that you might be at risk, then read on. Indeed, we all need to change our mindsets in order to avoid WFH burnout. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
1. Create a dedicated space for working, no matter how small
To protect yourself from WFH burnout you have to set boundaries.
For example, having a set schedule and working in bursts can work. However, the space where you work actually matters almost as much as the time you spend working.
Your workspace can be as specific as a certain chair at your kitchen table. Work only when you are in that chair. In fact, you will find that this particular space will surely make you more productive. However, this will only truly work if you work only in that space. As soon as you’re in a different kitchen chair, then work needs to stop.
Of course, no one can stay in one chair for a whole day. Therefore, you will have tricked yourself to get out of your work space and disconnect once in a while.
2. Create new weekday rituals
We are all creatures of habit.
We mentioned earlier that our workweeks used to be full of various weekly rituals. Getting a morning coffee at a specific coffee shop. Chatting with a colleague at lunch. Well, these rituals don’t have to disappear completely!
Indeed, you can recreate them from the comfort of your home. (Just not in that chair at the kitchen tables – that’s your dedicated work space, remember?)
Example rituals to start your day:
- Shower and put on work clothes
- Make a specialty coffee for yourself
- Take a walk around the block while talking to a friend of colleague
Example rituals to end your day:
- Cook a fancy meal for yourself
- Set up a phone call with a friend
- Read a chapter of a book
In the end, plan your day around activities that make you happy.
3. Set SMART Objectives
We are all motivated by our own progress.
Who doesn’t love a SMART objective. Of course, the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Oriented (S.M.A.R.T.). This method of goal setting is key to achieving measurable results that you can be proud of. And being proud of one’s work greatly contributes to reducing feelings of stress or ambiguity. Those negative feelings can more easily lead to WFH burnout.
If you work in a company, you can ask your manager to review your objectives with you. If you are self-employed, you can run your objectives by a friend. It helps to have another perspective, particularly when reviewing the Achievable and Relevant aspects of your objectives.
4. Create moments of extreme focus
Sometimes you just have to get into a flow.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to produce. We always want to be as effective as we can be. However, we are most often in the way of our own success. We all fall victim to the multitasking fallacy. We think we can get more work done by doing a few things at the same time. This might be true for certain tasks. However, ultimately, some tasks require extra focus. They require that you do just one thing at a time.
Therefore, we need to give ourselves permission to create these moments of focus. Here’s how you do it. First of all, you have to close all of the tabs. Close all of your open windows and applications. Only leave the documents, spreadsheet or presentation you need to advance. Now work on just that for a few hours. You’re welcome.
5. Give yourself a break
Take back control of your schedule.
Lastly, it’s time to be assertive about your own time. Your time is the most valuable thing that you have. Don’t ever forget that! If you choose to dedicate it to your work, make sure you are working toward the right things and not overworking yourself. The main issue with working remotely, is that we can hardly gage how much some of our colleagues are working. It might be easy to imagine that everyone is working less than you.
However, that’s not your burden to bear. Managers have to play their part to ensure that workloads are balanced on their teams. Ultimately, you need to find a balance that works for you.
If you want to avoid WFH burnout, just take the breaks that you need. Feel out what works and, most of all, stay positive! This too shall pass.