If there is anything we have learned over the past two years, it is that work from home is here to stay. Usually, it is a great option to ensure that you can get a lot of activities done while also not compromising on the quality of work. The pandemic, however, has changed our perception, as the usual joys experienced in occasionally working from one’s personal space, have now become a compulsion, thereby blurring the lines between our professional and personal lives. Covid burnout is already something that the world is dealing with, while we cannot necessarily control the pandemic, our work life is something we have control over and that can help greatly reduce work from home burnout.
What is work from home burnout?
It’s no surprise that WFH has led to longer working hours and this, in turn, has become an additional stressor in our daily lives. A couple of days here and there is alright to maintain the work-life balance, however, extended work hours over a prolonged period of time can lead to a state of burnout. Burnout is a result of prolonged stress and WFH burnout is work-related stress that causes one to be in a constant state of physical and mental exhaustion.
Some of the symptoms that one may experience during WFH burnout are:
- Experiencing low energy levels and feelings of exhaustion
- Loss of motivation to work and increased mental distance or negative feelings towards your job lead to low job productivity
- Physical symptoms such as frequent headaches and indigestion
- Lack of focus, feelings of irritability, and experiencing anxiety related to work
- Changes in sleep patterns and loss of sleep
Let us look at a few reasons why burnout may occur:
- Inability to disconnect from work: with the absence of having to go to a physical workplace and access to work extending to one’s devices, it is difficult to avoid the stream of notifications that one is bombarded with on a daily basis. This results in longer work hours and thinking about work even though you may be done with your tasks for the day.
- Loss of inspiration to work: Trying to find meaning and purpose in the work that you do can be a stressor while working remotely over a long period of time. The monotony of working from home may cause a disruption in our sense of how we relate to the work we do. This state of confusion and stress can lead to procrastination and a lack of inspiration to work which in turn causes burnout.
- Absence of a supportive work environment: Not having a designated quiet space to work, internet fluctuations, and sudden power outages are a few instances where the work environment at home can feel overwhelming.
- Lack of opportunities to communicate: working at the office provided a lot of opportunities to socialize and communicate. Walking to your teammate’s work desk to enquire about a task, interacting with everyone face to face in the meeting room, or just taking coffee breaks with your colleagues, all these activities reduce the effort required to communicate or connect with others in the same organization. With everything moving to a digital space, communication gets restricted and suddenly everything needs to be a call. This can lead to hesitation to reach out to others.
- Lack of Virtual skills: Suddenly, everything needs to be online, how does one adapt to having calls over Zoom every day? Collaborating with the team and having to express oneself over a virtual medium can get difficult for some people leading to frustration as it may affect one’s ability to communicate.
Tips to avoid work from home burnout
- Set Boundaries: This means both physically and mentally. While it may be tempting to work out of your bed in pajamas on a particularly chilly day, that also hampers the ability to separate your workspace from your personal space. Create a small workspace for yourself, change into an outfit you would usually wear to work, and begin your workday. During your lunch break, step away from the work area and move to a different space to have your meal. Such actions help to maintain that your entire house isn’t your workplace and once your work is done, you can leave the space symbolizing that you have left work. It is also important to ensure that you are clocking in and out of work at a particular time so that there is enough time before and after work to devote to yourself, family, and friends. You need to set boundaries that work for you to avoid frustration due to pent-up work stress.
- Take breaks: sitting in front of a screen all day for prolonged periods causes fatigue to the eyes and other physical ailments such as headaches, neck and back pain, and problems with one’s posture. This in turn leads to exhaustion and stress and affects one’s mental health. It is recommended to take breaks after every hour of work for a few minutes. Walk around, drink water, listen to music, but detach yourself from the work for those few minutes to rejuvenate yourself.
- Create a schedule: Having a schedule in place helps with the smooth transitioning between work and personal life every day. Juggling personal commitments with work can get tricky, especially when everything is functioning from the same space, hence it helps to have a schedule in place to ensure you are not compromising on either of the aspects.
- Self-care: It is important to prioritize yourself because a person who is experiencing burnout can never be an efficient employee. Take some time out each day to do activities that make you happy. It could be something as simple as cooking a meal, reading a new book in your favorite chair, or picking up hobbies you never had the time to engage in before. Practicing mindfulness and exercising can be a great way to ground yourself and work on your physical health.
- Communicate and Socialize: The lack of communication can lead to stressful situations at the workplace. While picking up the phone and calling a colleague may seem like a task, it is necessary to do so in order to stay connected with those at work. Working from home can feel isolating when there is no one in your immediate environment who understands what you are working on, hence taking the time out to socialize with your peers can help avoid feelings of loneliness and will help you feel understood. It is also important to note that keeping your superiors informed about your ability to work on tasks can help you set realistic work expectations and alleviate the stress to meet deadlines or feelings of unproductivity.
- Set up family time: We’re all in this together and WFH is proof that your family is the most important factor in your work environment at the moment. Take some time out to discuss with your family about the support you require or how you can support the needs your family has. With everyone at home all the time during the pandemic, it can be easy to get impatient with each other, however, having an open and honest conversation about your needs and those of the members in the household is important to ensure everyone feels supported and no one experiences burnout.
Keeping these points in mind can help one deal with work from home burnout, however, one needs to be realistic about the impact of stressors on our productivity. While there may be a lot of things beyond our control, dealing with work from home burnout is something that can be worked on.
If you feel overwhelmed, seeking help from a professional is always a good option. Each of us is built differently and certain strategies may not help everyone, in such cases, Mental health professionals can help you navigate through the feelings of being overwhelmed and help you develop healthy coping strategies.
How Wysa can help
At Wysa, you will have access to a range of tools that can help you in your daily journey to overcome and combat work from home burnout. Apart from being able to speak to a therapist during sessions and asynchronous messaging between sessions, you have access to a library full of resources. These resources can help you manage anxiety, beat stress, and understand how to cope with remote functioning and other similar issues related to mental health and wellbeing.
Frequently asked questions:
1. How do you stop virtual burnout?
Take breaks from work, create boundaries between work and personal time, practice self-care and mindfulness, and don’t forget to communicate with your peers at the workplace when things begin to seem difficult.
2. How can I work long hours without burnout?
Taking frequent breaks is your go-to when you are required to work long hours. Listen to music, read a chapter of a book or go take a short walk. Stepping away from the work sphere will help you detach yourself from work for a while and will help you feel rejuvenated to get back to work.
3. How do you reduce burnout?
Create a schedule for your tasks to compartmentalize your time, and identify what stress coping strategies suit you. Engaging in physical activity is also a great way to reduce burnout.