How to Avoid a Burnout When Working from Home
Last update: 24 March 2023 at 12:30 pm
It may be a common misconception that if we work from home, we avoid any possibility of a burnout. But this could not be further from the truth. Working from home makes us more susceptible to suffer from this potentially career threatening exhaustion.
As a result of this pandemic, employee burnout has increased by 13% to reach a total of 58% between the months of April and August last year. Remote working may eliminate some stresses that we encounter in the work place, but they are merely replaced with others that we cannot dismiss. We are faced with more pressures and obstacles and now, more than ever, it is important to protect ourselves from a burnout. Here is how you can avoid or treat a burnout when working from home.
Common reasons of burnouts
Burnouts are the result of prolonged accumulated stress, but everyone has a different threshold of what they can endure. An Eagle Hill survey revealed these results from employees suffering a burnout whilst working from home last year:
- 47% attribute burnout to their workload
- 39% say it’s balancing work and their personal life
- 37% indicate it stems from a lack of communication, feedback, and support
- 30% point to time pressures and a lack of clarity around expectations
- 28% say it’s performance expectation.
The results point to a multitude of factors but also demonstrate that some employees were victims of more than one of these causes. The unfortunate truth of these statistics is that they could have be avoided.
Symptoms and sings of a burnout
The best way to avoid a burnout and maintain employee productivity is to look out for certain signs before it all hits. Check in with yourself from time to time and take the necessary precautions if you notice any changes. It’s important to take signs of a burnout seriously and not think that stress is just a part of being a working adult. Just like anything in excess, it can be harmful to your physical and mental state.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself on occasion recommended by the Mayo Clinic:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Are you finding it hard to concentrate?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it is time to make some changes to avoid a possible burnout. However, do not stress about stress! Just because you may have said yes to any of these questions does not mean that you are on your way to a burnout. You may have just been working on a demanding project for the past week, lost a few clients, had some Wi-Fi issues or your computer broke and it is completely natural to feel a little stressed and frustrated. We just want to avoid a snowball effect.
Avoid or treat a burnout
Whether you are reading this blog because you want to avoid a burnout or because you have already been a victim of one, these next few tips will help you manage your stress when working from home.
1. Keep a work routine
You may not need to commute to and from work, punch in, take your lunch break with your colleagues at the same time every day or run to the conference room for a meeting that started five minutes ago, but your work hours should stay your work hours. If you have a typical 9-5 job, stick to those same hours. Wake up at the same time that you usually would, take the same lunch breaks and keep your usual work habits.
Just like your office is your designated work space at work, create a space in your home that serves the same purpose. Make sure it is secluded from a common room or a space you use frequently so you can separate work life and personal life throughout the day. Not having to commute in the morning does not mean that you live at your job, so try to continue to keep them separate.
2. Remember to take breaks
When you are in the office, you are in a constant work environment. Unless you are rushing on a task, you will almost naturally take breaks from time to time to grab a coffee, have a cigarette break or chat with a colleague. Playing games like a jigsaw puzzle on I’m a Puzzle can also help in reducing burnout as games help us to entertain ourselves. When working remotely, at least maybe during the first few weeks, you may not feel that same work environment. With this, you may forget to take a break from time to time. Naturally, being at home, it almost feels like you are always on a break and like you aren’t doing enough. Try not to let this feeling overwhelm you and designate a few minutes an hour to take a real break. Additionally, you should also make sure you are sleeping enough each night. Adults aged 19 and over should get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Sleep Advisor studies show that well-rested individuals can prevent work hazards or accidents the next day that they jump into the job more than those who experience fatigue and burnout from work.
3. Communicate your needs
If you are used to working in an office, and out of the blue you are being told to work from home, it is very likely that you do not have all the necessary nor adequate equipment at home for an optimal working space. Note that your employer can come in handy in this situation. You can ask for utilities such as a chair, desk, monitor, wires, anything that you require to optimise your work. In some cases, you can also ask for compensation for higher electricity bills, heating bills, food checks…Make sure you communicate to a supervisor or HR department if you require or are lacking anything that has been caused by remote working. An idea could be for you to actually leave your house and start working in a coworking space. You can check those coworking reviews and choose the best that can fit your needs.
4. Weekends are still weekends
Weekends are a time to shut off. When you are in the office, you may be longing for that Friday afternoon when you get to go home and start your weekend…at home. Working from home may change your attitude to the weekend a little, but the premise of shutting off still stands. Remember to separate work life and personal life. Just because work life has come to live with personal life does not mean they have to also share a bedroom. (That may be a far fetched metaphor, but hopefully it makes sense!). Avoid the urge to check your messages on these days off, and make them most of some time outside.
5. Keep up with work friends and regular friends
Work friends are a big part of making work more fun and sometimes more bearable on the tougher days. Keep in touch with them as much as possible! Have a few break calls with them throughout the week, small chats on your work’s chat platform…And also continue your social interactions with your outside work friends. This is paramount to mental health. Message each other on a regular basis, try and meet up outside (keeping social distance and a mask of course), go on walks etc. Humans are social creatures and we need to spend time with others.
Working is a proven natural mood booster! It raises your endorphins and gets you in a good mood. If you a super hero of a person who can wake up early and start their day off with a workout, do it! You’ll start your work day with a more positive attitude. Otherwise, if you are normal human being like the majority of us, schedule in a workout as a break in the middle of the day or after work to blow some steam off.
7. Switch from sprint to marathon mode
Too many of us rely on external factors to get us through the day. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, nicotine…they are all supplements we use to find some energy. The thing with these supplements is that every high has its down. We may start off the day energised, but the afternoon slump is never ideal. It’s easier to push through the slump at work than at home so try and find some alternatives such as exercise, meditation, some good music, balanced diet…
8. Take a holiday (it’s not naïve)
We may still be in the middle of a pandemic, but it is still possible to take some days off. You can go on staycation in the neighbouring town or if you are lucky in a different kind of scenery in your own country. You can also just be at home to spend some time with your family. Maybe you want to work on a completely different and personal project like redoing your bedroom. Don’t let your vacation days slip away at the end of the year.
Remote working has never been this wide spread around the world. For the majority of us, it is a new method of working and it has taken some time to adapt. Some of us are maybe still trying to adapt. Remember to take care of yourself and keep an eye out for subtle changes that may indicate that you are taking on too much. If the workload is starting to weigh on you or your company, considering reaching out to another agency for help and outsource some projects. Have a look at some of our agencies that can help for projects such as how to communicate with your audience during a pandemic.