Avoiding Burnout When Working From Home

April 10th, 2020
Working at home without burnout

While working from home is associated with greater job satisfaction, research also finds that remote workers are more likely to go beyond normal hours and put in more effort than is required.  Here are some concrete things you can do to assist with your new work/life balance:

  1. Adjust your expectations
    As we're probably all realizing with our kids "homeschooling" now, a normal workday takes way less time to wrap up without all the distraction of school or office. Realize this and don't feel guilty that the same full day that used to take 8 hours, now only takes 4-5.
  2. Set a "prompt" to remind you when to wrap up
    Typically, we'd have visual cues that happen throughout the office to signal us as the day winds down. When working at home, find ways to "mark" that same time period, when enough is enough and time comes to wrap the day up.
  3. Power down
    We may not realize how often we "slip online" just to check something for work. A good idea may be to make that process a little harder - by powering the computer down, or deleting work-specific apps from phones. If you can't stop checking in, consider making some of these changes to help prevent burnout.
  4. Plan out your next day
    Take five to ten minutes to define your top three priorities for tomorrow. This gives you peace of mind that your most important projects are captured, which puts your brain at ease and lets it relax
  5. Have a Transition Ritual
    Create a practice, such as zeroing out your inbox, cleaning up your workspace, or even using an app to do a quick calming meditation - something that helps you change gears and transition from work to downtime.
  6. Find Meaning in the day
    Consider a practice or a moment that helps you get the most from your day. Alone or with family, take a moment to reflect on highpoints, who was especially helpful to you or a moment you were most proud of.
  7. Do something tactile
    Getting out of your head and into your body is quite helpful when working from home. Do something in downtime that engages your senses. Walk the dog while listening to a favorite podcast, yoga, crafts or anything else that grows you.
  8. Create accountability
    Make commitments that force you to end work on time. For example, in the age of Coronavirus, that might be a virtual happy hour with friends or playing board games with your spouse and kids.  If you're part time, a morning or mid-day walk (by yourself, with the kids or dog/s) or jog might be a great way to transition from desk to home-obligations.
  9. Retrain your brain
    Your mind responds to the stimulus it’s given. If you keep giving it intense, demanding material –– like continuing to check emails or working past your capacity –– your mind will stay on high alert. Wind down at the end of the day by giving your brain a break. Escape into a fiction book, watch some stand up comedy, take a class on a hobby that interests you. The only rule is that it cannot be professional- or business-development related. 
  10. Outsource, outsource!
    Free time is precious. When you have downtime, you want it to be restorative—but that can’t happen if you’re running around doing laundry, chores or cooking. If you have the means, you can create more time for yourself by outsourcing chores and errands. These days, there’s an app for everything, and depending on how busy you are, the benefits of hiring someone’s services can seriously outweigh the costs, and give you back valuable time and energy. If the kids' brains are leaking out of their heads from endless Fortnite and Youtube, put 'em to work with some age-appropriate chores that help you out so you can all enjoy each other with full attention on fun!

Notice the signs of burnout
Burnout refers to a collection of different reactions that occur in response to prolonged stress and overworking. This includes physical symptoms like headaches along with emotional ones such as a negative attitude about your work or career and a loss of motivation. You may find yourself short-tempered with family or colleagues, or easily offended by even the slightest criticism.

Burnout can also masquerade as imposter syndrome. Because you’re exhausted, you may feel like you’re not good enough, productive enough, or falling behind. Then you credit that to personal failing or the fact that you’re a fact or a fraud.

Read How To Work From Home Without Burning Out Or Losing Work Life Balance here.