Managing Work from Home Burn out in the times of the Pandemic

During the pandemic, most of us were home-bound, and work from home culture became a new normal. For many of us who are working from home since the pandemic, the blurred boundaries between work and home have made it difficult to manage our schedules and chores, pushing us towards burnout.

I have heard from so many of my clients that they find it difficult to say when the workday ends and life begins. Working from home means having access to work-related things from our home and that means we can work anytime and every time without having a clear boundary as to when it ends. 

Pandemic did impact our social life and limited us from going outside, a lot of us turned to work to keep ourselves occupied and got habituated to working long hours. Some of my clients mentioned that It’s hard for them to not check their phones when a new notification pops up and feel the need to respond to every other message/email that comes in even if it’s at night! Which has made it impossible to put a hard stop to working.

The World Health Organization(WHO) recognized Burnout as an occupational phenomenon. WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy

If you are experiencing burnout you may feel drained and exhausted, might notice a lack of motivation to do your job or feel irritable or anxious, and might find it difficult to be productive.

Identifying the warning signs of burnout and taking time off to relax and unwind can help you prevent it. 

Some ways to prevent work from home burnout 

Recent research findings provide evidence that maintenance of a healthy work-life balance while working from home plays a significant role in employees’ psychosocial well-being and work productivity

Having a dedicated workspace 

Carve out a space for work and make sure to dedicate that space for work and work-related activities. 

If you don’t have a dedicated workspace and are working from a common or multi-use area, set a time schedule and remember to put a hard stop at the scheduled time and put all signs of work away. 

Putting on work clothes at the start of your day and changing them after working hours act as a visual cue and help in transitioning.

Setting boundaries 

It’s important to set clear boundaries in terms of your availability. Just because you are working from home doesn’t have to mean that you are available round the clock. Set a start time and end time to work and communicate the same to your team and your manager. 

Setting a schedule 

Find a routine that helps you manage your work and personal life. What was once working may not work now, explore what works for you now, even if it’s breaking down your working hours into different chunks to bring a balance that’s okay too. It’s important to remember juggling a number of things can overwhelm you without a schedule. A schedule helps you bring structure to your day and helps you manage your time better.

Setting Me time

It’s easy to get lost in the long list of todos, meetings, and all the other personal commitments but it’s important to set time aside for yourself, some downtime to relax. Take out 15-30 mins a day to do things that bring you a sense of joy. Take the time off and check-in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Invest in a self-care routine and prioritize your well-being. 

Rest and recharge 

Take small breaks during the day even if it’s a short 5 mins break to look away from the screen and stretch or to just take a few deep breaths. Include mindfulness in your routine to help you manage difficult intrusive thoughts. 

Take time off/leave when you feel work is overwhelming. Take time to disconnect from work. 

Here’s how to talk to your boss about the burnout

​​It’s not easy to ask for help and it could be for various reasons. Some might feel if I don’t support the team right now who else will, some might be carrying the pressure of not wanting to let down anyone’s (managers/teams) expectations and some might feel asking for help makes them appear as weak or unable to manage the competing priorities and responsibilities of their work. 

Yes it’s not an easy conversation and it can be uncomfortable to have the conversation with a manager but the consequences of not talking about the struggles mean suffering for longer and harder than necessary. The first and most crucial step to managing burnout and preventing further impairment is telling your boss! Yes, it might seem like a scary prospect but here are some ways to prep yourself for the conversation. 

Reflect on what’s causing burnout 

Burnout researchers Christina Maslach, Wilmar Schaufeli, and Michael Leitner in a comprehensive study about burnout listed 6 factors that cause burnout :

  • Excessive workload 
  • Lack of control on critical aspects of how you work
  • Lack of appropriate reward
  • A missing sense of Community 
  • Lack of fairness 
  • A mismatch between the company values and personal values

Reflect on what’s overwhelming you – is it the workload or lack of resources to do the job or lack of clearer boundaries around your working hours or no scope for having a flexible schedule. Once you identify the factors that are affecting you and the challenges you are facing, you will be able to have an effective conversation with your boss. 

Don’t suffer in silence. Communication is the key. 

Be honest with your manager about your stress levels. Talk about the symptoms you are experiencing and express that you are experiencing burnout. 

It’s best not to assume your boss is aware of all the tasks you are taking care of. Express the workload you are managing and difficulties you are facing and things that are overwhelming you.

Remember you are not alone in this journey. when you have an open conversation with your boss they might be able to empathize with you as many managers have been burned out too. 

Most managers are aware of employees’ mental health impacting the organization’s overall performance and ​the benefits of supporting employees’ mental health. Initiating a conversation with your manager about work from home burnout will help you find ways to manage it.

Go with potential solutions 

Come up with a plan to manage your workload. Along with expressing the struggles and frustrations share your ideas, suggestions, and potential solutions to manage your work from home burnout. You know yourself better than anyone else, so expressing the changes you want to see might roll the ball faster and help you manage the work from home burnout. It could be taking a break or taking a mental health day or changing the project or more support in a particular task or cutting down work hours. Think about what better will look like to you and communicate that to the manager.

It helps to approach the conversation by thinking about what can help you perform at your best. You can share how you can best fulfill your job and perform at your best

If you are feeling like you don’t have potential solutions at the moment, that’s okay. Share your difficulties, and ask for help and guidance to manage your time and workload. Ask them to help you prioritize the tasks and be honest with them about what is a feasible option. 

Employees initiating the conversation about employee mental health being impacted by work from home burnout and covid burnout will nudge managers to explore ways to support employee wellness and encourage them to bring in innovative and supportive ideas to solve mental health concerns at the workplace

Having a conversation about what’s causing burnout and how it is affecting your productivity and performance at work will help you have a constructive discussion with your manager. 

Burnout is real and can impact overall wellbeing. If you are feeling overwhelmed to gather your thoughts and prepare yourself for the discussion with your manager, reach out for support. Discuss with your family and friends or see a mental health professional for more support. You can also explore Wysa for more support. 

Wysa offers various tools to help you manage stress, anxiety, work from home burnout, mindfulness exercises, and much more. There are tools that help you practice and prepare for difficult conversations. You will find a few tool packs that are specifically designed for employee wellness. Wysa also offers coaching services where you can chat with trained psychologists and work with them to improve your overall mental health and wellbeing.

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