THE NEW NORMAL Avoiding and Dealing With Work-From-Home Burnout
Nearly six months ago we wrote about WFH and The New Normal for the first time and gave tips on how to deal with its negatives and make the most of its positives.
It’s now September and many of us are still WFH full time, but what we said then still applies now, maybe even more so, as fears of WFH Burnout are on the rise.
More than two thirds, or 69%, of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home, and this is impacting on both business productivity as well as the overall health of the workforce.
Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:
Losing track of tasks
Not completing work on time
Going through mood changes
Experiencing symptoms of depression, like hopelessness, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, or fatigue
Feeling discouraged or apathetic about work
Getting poor sleep
Drinking more alcohol than normal, or drinking to cope
Experiencing physical symptoms like chest pain, headaches, increased illness, heart palpitations, dizziness or fainting, or gastrointestinal pain
Here are some reminders of how to help you avoid and deal with burnout:
It sounds silly, but having a shower, brushing your teeth and getting out of your pyjamas will get you in the right frame of mind for work.
Data shows that what you wear actually changes the way you think and improves your abstract thinking capabilities.
Try to keep your workday structured:
Start your day the same way you would if going to the office.
If you normally listen to music or read or do a crossword on your commute, do the same again at home.
If you exercise, jog, go to the gym before work, factor that in too.
It will help settle you into the day and, most importantly, you’re doing something you enjoy.
At the ‘office’
And when you ‘arrive’ at the ‘office’ continue to follow your usual work routine and start work at the usual time.
At your ‘desk’
When you get to your ‘desk’, try to make it as much like work as possible.
If you have enough space to dedicate a whole room to be your office, then that is ideal.
Not all of us have that luxury though and you might need to work in the kitchen or your bedroom.
Even if that’s the case do your best to make sure you can work comfortably, in a chair that won’t give you backache, on a table that’s big enough, and, very importantly, with natural light if you can, to make up for what you’re missing out on by being inside.
Leaving Work for the Day
Just as starting your workday at the same time as usual is important, so is finishing it.
When you don’t have to leave the office to catch a train or bus home it can be easy to lose track of time and keep on working.
It’s vital for your own physical and mental health to stop, and it’s just as important for the people you live with, so they don’t lose you to your new life.
Being able to ‘leave’ your ‘office’ will allow you to switch off.
If you can, close the door of the room you’re now working in, that’s perfect, but if where you live is too small, pack away as much of your work equipment as possible.
If you work on a laptop, put it away until the next morning.
If you have a PC, cover it up so at least you can’t see it.
Disconnect the mouse and keyboard and put them in a drawer.
If the laptop you use for work is the one you have for personal use too then close all the work related tabs and folders to stop them distracting you in the evening or at the weekend.
As much as you can, ‘leave’ work at the end of the day.
When your day is done, and you’ve ‘closed’ your ‘office’ door don’t just switch on the news and get sucked into watching constant coverage of coronavirus, it can only add to anxiety and distress.
Make sure you have something to look forward to, something to take your mind off work, something you enjoy.
Whether it’s going out to walk your dog, exercising or simply switching off and reading, keep up those positive routines too.
These are important during your working day too, even if it’s just a little thing like having a cup of coffee at the same time each day, or getting up from your desk to stretch your legs.
You do it normally, you enjoy it, it gets you away from work for a short time, so keep doing it!
After you’ve spent all day looking at a screen (which may even be smaller than the one you use at work if you’re using a laptop), try not to spend all evening looking at another screen. Too much computer or TV light is not good for your eyes. Or your sleep.
Try Upskilling too, we have many ideas here on our website, it will be good for your mental health and could be good for your career too.
And speaking of your career:
If burnout is causing you to lose interest in your job, and leaving you distracted, stop and ask yourself What got me interested in and excited about this job and my work / career in the first place?
Set a plan in place to implement this aspect of your work back into your life.
If you loved presenting your work at quarterly meetings, ask to host a virtual session with your team.
If you loved researching possible solutions or new products, make time to do this.
Before you jump on email and get buried in the day-to-day workload, make time for your career planning.
Try and block some time every morning for an “inspiration session” where you work on what you love most, completely uninterrupted.
whether you work in a big company or small team, stay in touch with each other.
Not only by email but by phone and video too, so you can actually see and hear other people.
And it doesn’t need to be only about work.
If you have a colleague or colleagues who you usually speak to about their weekend, or evening plans, or who you regularly go for a coffee with, whether outside or at an office vending machine, you can keep up that vital social interaction from home too by arranging for you all to have a break and a coffee at the same time and chatting by text or video call or consider putting together a group call that isn’t about work, or if Zoom fatigue is strong, set up a socially distanced meet-up in a park.
Don’t feel awkward or embarrassed about wanting to speak to people; everyone, even people who don’t like their job or don’t like all their colleagues, will be missing not having contact with anyone.
We are all experiencing the same strange new way of life, some find it harder to adapt then others and also find it harder to talk about those issues to others.
Don’t be afraid to initiate that kind of contact and communication. Some people will be grateful to you.
If you feel burnt out, communicate this tactfully to your boss or colleagues or HR.
And if the thought of this leads you to fear being let go, especially given the rate of layoffs and unemployment, consider addressing it in a forward-thinking tone:
“I want to deepen my commitment to this role and would like to discuss with you ways to remain engaged and focused while working from home.” This comes across as though you are fully committed and want to do your best—then you can speak to what is and is not working for you in the current workplace climate.
Only 21% say they are able to have open, productive conversations with HR about solutions to their burnout. And 56% went so far as to say that their HR departments did not encourage conversations about burnout.
“One of the most important things remote workers can do is to set clear boundaries between their work time and non-work time, and HR needs to take an active role in helping workers practice healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives,” said Carol Cochran, VP of People & Culture at FlexJobs. “Leaders should strive to create a healthy company culture that values the individual as a person, and prioritizes the overall wellness of its workers.”
There is a powerful link between social support in the workplace and reduced levels of burnout among employees.
According to a UK study, the most important factor in workplace happiness is positive social relationships with co-workers.
As always it is very important to not let work take over your life and in this new way of life, don’t let it take over your home.
Give yourself time to rest and recover and sleep, give yourself distractions during the working day and especially in the evening and at the weekend.
If you’re struggling, you’re definitely not the only one.
Find someone you trust who you can speak to whether it’s a colleague, your boss or Human Resources - it’s their job to help; after all you are a Human Resource.