Due to the outbreak of COVID 19, many people had to transition to working from home unexpectedly. In the beginning, working from home sounded like a perk, but many workers have hit a point of burnout. Parents especially have struggled with finding a balance between work life and home life while working remotely. And with no clear end to this pandemic yet in sight, people are searching for ways to combat work-from-home burnout.
Work-from-home burnout isn’t a new concept. Employee burnout was a rising concern before the pandemic. So much so that in 2019 the World Health Organization declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon.” And according to Gallup, employee burnout levels have remained high throughout the pandemic. But for the first time, fully remote workers are experiencing more burnout than on-site workers.
What is Work-From-Home Burnout?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Unfortunately, for many workers, their home is their workplace, and the burnout seems impossible to escape. In an article in The Muse, licensed clinical psychologist Andrew Schwehm describes work-from-home burnout as, “when people can’t separate their work life and their home life.” He further explains, “Burnout is essentially a chronic form of fatigue.”
Work-from-home burnout can happen to anyone, whether you are an employee, entrepreneur, business owner, or freelancer. And it’s far more than just being exhausted from your job. Burnout can affect your mental, emotional and physical health. Chronic stress is known to increase your risk of a litany of health issues, from depression to heart disease.
How to Recognize Work-From-Home Burnout
As we hit the year mark of this pandemic, many of us have been functioning with chronic stress and exhaustion for months on end. That can make it difficult to know if you are experiencing symptoms of burnout. So, if you are working from home and find yourself doing any of the following things, you may be suffering from work-from-home burnout.
- Procrastinating and avoiding tasks related to work
- Missing deadlines or performing at lower levels than normal
- Feeling worried, irritable, sad, or angry on a regular basis
- Suffering from insomnia, poor sleep, or abnormal sleep patterns
- Experiencing symptoms of depression such as hopelessness and apathy
- Using alcohol or other substances more than usual to cope
- Having physical symptoms such as stomach pain, chest pain, headaches, heart palpitations, dizziness, or fainting
If you are reading this list nodding your head, you are probably experiencing some level of burnout. And it’s time that you take some steps to address it. Burnout is a chronic condition that will not absolve itself over time; it will only get worse. So it is essential to think about long-term changes in your working habits that will help better support your needs as a remote worker.
How to Combat Work-From-Home Burnout
Dealing with work-from-home burnout may seem like an impossible task right now. The pandemic puts a lot of limits on our options, but there are several things you can do to help you combat work-from-home burnout.
Set up a dedicated workspace in your home.
It probably seems impossible to draw a line between your personal and professional life when working from home. Especially if you find yourself working from the bed, on your couch, at the kitchen table, and any other clean surface you can find in your home. Creating a dedicated space for work will help put literal boundaries in place for you. When you are in that space, it’s work time, and when you are not, work stops.
Mental boundaries are just as important as physical boundaries. The problem with working from home is that you are never really “out of the office.” With kids needing you 24/7, it won’t be easy, but creating boundaries around work time vs. family time can help you be more productive. They can help your family respect your work time and support you in prioritizing family time.
Rethink your schedule.
If you feel like you are pulled in five different directions throughout the day, you may want to rethink the typical 9-5 workday schedule. To more effectively juggle work and home life, you might need to break up your workday to accommodate school schedules or tag team with your partner or spouse. That may require earlier hours or some catch-up after the kids are in bed, but that may be preferable to trying to solve 4th-grade math while answering time-sensitive work emails.
Take time off.
Right now probably feels like the least likely time you should be thinking about taking time off. You are behind on everything, feeling overwhelmed and taking time off seems counterproductive. But using your vacation days can give you a much-needed break from the dizzying combination of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion brought on by trying to balance work and home obligations simultaneously.
In addition to time taking time off, taking breaks throughout the day can help you stay focused over a longer period of time. Short 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day can give your brain a break and your eyes a much-needed rest from the constant glow of blue light. And give yourself time to eat meals away from your computer. If you’re lucky, you might sit at a table without your kids asking for something every other minute.
Control what you can.
These days it feels like we have little control over the chaos brought on by this pandemic. What you can do is focus on what you do have power over in your own life. So that you don’t add more to your already full plate, say no to the things you can. Order groceries to take something off of your to-do list. Delegate household chores and set bedtimes for your kids so you can have more time for yourself.
About half of you just rolled your eyes. You most likely think there is no way you have time to fit in yet another thing on your to-do list. However, practicing self-care throughout your day can help relieve stress, improve your mood, and give you a break from the chaos of your day. Take a walk and get some fresh air or sit outside and soak in some sunshine. Hide in the closet or car so you can eat that piece of chocolate in peace or just breathe for five minutes.
Spend quality time with family and friends.
It is essential to make space in your schedule for quality time with friends and family. Working from home with no breaks can begin to feel very isolating. Putting work away and giving your undivided attention to the people you love reminds you that other things matter besides work.
Burnout is hard to catch during normal times. But the fact is that life is not normal now, and pandemic conditions create the perfect storm for work from home burnout. That’s why it’s so important that remote workers not only recognize signs of work-from-home burnout but also have concrete ways to combat it.