It has been a little over a year now that I have started working from home permanently. If you are curious to find out what my experience has been so far, you can definitely give this article a read. And while for the most part I have been extremely grateful and happy to have the opportunity to work from home, I cannot ignore the fact that it can feel a bit overwhelming and lonely at times. I must admit that I failed to set clear boundaries at the beginning – I was checking my emails at really crazy hours, I used to start my work day way earlier than supposed to, I was not taking enough breaks during the day, etc. The boundary between personal life and work life can be really blurry when you are doing everything at the same place so it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was on the way to work-related burnout.
But what is work-related burnout? It is a form of, or the result of, work-related stress. Stress is not a mental health condition, but is merely a state of being – how we respond to stress in our lives is subjective and can fluctuate depending on other conditions. Some people will be more resilient and thrive in a stressful environment and bounce back more easily. But when the stress level is ongoing, or increases, it is seen to be chronic and have a debilitating effect.
Work-related burnout is even more intensified by the new “normal” working environment. The increased isolation, general feeling of loneliness, depression and anxiety over our uncertain future, and risky financial stability can often lead to a less positive WFH experience. Some of the symptoms that you can experience are anxiety, low mood, detachment, missing deadlines, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and cynicism towards colleagues or superiors, etc. It is the final straw – the result of a long period of stress and strive.
So, while this may seem like a very bleak future, I am here today to share some really simple, yet very effective coping mechanisms when you are on the verge of work-from-home burnout. All of these actions have helped me tremendously in adapting to the new environment and adjusting my routines so that I can achieve a better work/life balance. I hope that you will find something useful for yourself as well!
Recently, I read a report saying that women are, generally, hit harder by the work-from-home burnout during the pandemic. This is mainly because women are employed in higher rations in roles with lesser positions of responsibility and control and this leads to job strain, usually seen in roles with high stress, lower reward, and lower levels of autonomy over the work or the outcomes. This in combination with the added responsibilities associate with domestic activities, such as constant housework and homeschooling, make women carry the greater burden and do the bulk of it all. With nothing to look forward to, no time to self, and the overwhelming uncertainty, women are more prone to burnout.
What has helped me enormously is adjusting the responsibilities not only in my household, but also in my team at work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – reach out to your colleagues and partner in life and readjust responsibilities so that you can achieve a more balanced and manageable to-do list.
BOUNDARIES AND BALANCE ARE CRITICAL TO MANAGING BURNOUT
Some days you can give 100%. Others you need to rest to regain it.
This must have been the best lesson that I have got out of the pandemic – I need to get comfortable with being imperfect. This is vital not only because it will remove some of the stress from my shoulders, but also because it will allow me to take some rest and prepare for the higher priority things in my life. Who says that you need to do the dishes right after a meal? Who says that you absolutely need to prepare a home-cooked meal every day? Who says that you need to respond immediately to that non-urgent work email? It is okay to reschedule things, let it go – tomorrow will be waiting.
Connected to the above, be nicer to yourself and try to find a bit of time for self-care and self-talk. If you have the opportunity, rise before everyone else and give yourself 30 minutes of awake time before you have to wear ten hats by 9 am. Once I incorporated “me time” in my everyday morning routine, my energy and mood improved significantly. So think about what makes you happy and try to find the time to do it on a regular basis.
And last but not least, having some time away from the desk and blocking email notifications after you log off for the day are essential when it comes to setting clear boundaries between your work and personal life. I try to move for 5 minutes every hour so that I can get my blood flowing. And the minute I log off for the day, my email notifications are blocked and I can rest in the best possible way during the evenings.
MAINTAINING SLEEP AND PHYSICAL HEALTH ARE ALSO IMPORTANT
I know this must sound like pretty straight-forward but I will never get tired of repeating it – insufficient sleep and ignoring your physical health will have a negative effect on your productivity and energy throughout the day. I can assure you that even if you go to bed just half an hour earlier than usual, your energy and mood will be significantly improved the next day which in turn will allow you to have a more productive and less stressful day ahead. This can be a very small difference without too much effort but the result will be amazing. Also, as I already said, don’t forget to move hourly and try to incorporate either a quick workout or a simple stroll in your daily routine. For the past 3 months, I have done both almost every day and I can clearly see the benefits those two actions bring to me on a daily basis.
Are you still working from home? What has helped you the most to avoid WFH burnout? Let me know in the comments.