During this pandemic, about 62 percent of Americans reported that they’re working from home. Prior to the pandemic, only about 25 percent of employees worked from home. While people have been learning to adjust to the WFH new-normal — the constant access to work, children attending school or significant others working in the next room — as well as the often depressing news from a 24-hour news cycle, studies show those working remotely are feeling stressed and many report work from home burnout.
Here are 9 tips to reduce work from home burnout right now, as well as how to recognize it.
1. Define your work hours and set boundaries
People have been working longer hours since the beginning of the pandemic. Set boundaries by writing up a work schedule and sticking to it. Unless you’re required by your work to be available at certain times, set your work hours and then shut it all down. Pretend you have to catch a train home. If you’re lucky enough to have a separate office with a door, close it and walk away.
2. Minimize distractions
Your mind is being overtaxed, and that leads to WFH stress. The refrigerator, the laundry, your children, that spot on the rug — all seem to be calling out. Oh, and there’s your inbox, your phone, social media. “Squirrel!” Try this:
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just tell ourselves to ignore household chores? Easier said than done. One way to stay focused is to set timers. Try the Pomodoro Technique: Work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Every four “pomodoros,” take a 20-minute break. Decide what you want to do during those break times. Tell others in the household that, unless it’s an emergency, you will have five minutes or 20 minutes for them at a particular time.
Numerous studies have shown that humans can’t really multitask, and that trying to do so actually leads to a decrease in productivity. So, if your TV is running in the background, turn it off. If possible, only read and respond to emails at set times during the day. You can’t write and research a report and check email at the same time. Seriously, you can’t.
3. Use technology to your advantage
4. Reward yourself
Don’t wait to feel frustrated. Have something to look forward to. Promise yourself something enjoyable and set it on the calendar — take a walk at 2 p.m., read a novel for 20 minutes after finishing writing a report, call a friend at 3 p.m. — whatever it is that feels rewarding. You aren’t taking time away from your work. You’re actually energizing yourself for the rest of your day.
5. Get regular exercise
Schedule time in your day — before, during or after work — to walk, cycle, run. Even better if you can do this outdoors. Besides the benefits of moving your body and getting your blood circulating, fresh air can help relieve stress and boost mental health.
Or try gardening. Studies show gardeners are less likely than other people to have mood disturbance, depression and symptoms of anxiety.
6. Try meditation
You don’t need anything special to meditate. Just sit quietly in a comfortable position. By concentrating on your breath or a particular sound — yes, “oooom” is a good one — you can lower your heart rate. Meditating just five minutes can help calm your mind and keep your body from getting into a stress response.
7. Stay connected
Even if you’re on video chats all day, it’s easy to feel alone during this time. Make it a point to connect with friends and family. If possible, and you’re comfortable meeting in person, take walks, have a picnic, go for a bike ride, play golf — whatever you can do while keeping at a safe social distance. Less inclined to go out? Meet up online or on social media.
Bottom line: Create a supportive network and interact with people you like and trust.
8. Sleep well
Your stress levels go up when you’re not getting enough sleep. According to the American Psychological Association, “Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.”
Make a good night’s sleep a priority: Follow a routine, go to bed at the same time each night, keep your bedroom dark and cool, turn off TV and other screens at least 30 minutes before bed.
9. Get away
A study by WorldatWork and PTO Exchange found that people are not taking their paid time off. Work-life balance, if it ever really existed, is all out of whack. While your favorite vacation spot may be closed to travel, there are still ways to get away both physically and mentally.
How to detect work from home burnout
If you’re having difficulty managing stress, you might start to burn out at work. The International Classification of Diseases defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon and not a medical condition, characterized by the following:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion: You might have an inability to cope. You may have physical issues like stomach pains
- Increased mental distance from or feeling negative and cynical about your job: You may find yourself distancing yourself emotionally from co-workers and feeling numb about work
- Reduced performance: You may find it hard to concentrate, feel listless and not creative
Some of these symptoms are the same as those of depression, although depression does not necessarily cause burnout or vice versa. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress, sadness or depression, get in touch with the Disaster Distress Helpline, call (800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Also, check with your employer about possible employee assistance program resources.
The WFH routine is likely going to be with us for quite a while. Even post-pandemic, many companies plan to allow employees to work remotely. These strategies for preventing work from home burnout can help whether you’re wearing your jammies or a suit while doing the 9-to-5 thing. Staying healthy is your No. 1 priority.