Working From Home Burnout
What it is, how to spot it and how to avoid it
It’s week 5 of working from home and by the looks of it we’ve got a few more weeks to go before the lockdown starts to gradually lift. Everyone has probably carved out a routine by now that works for them based on their professional duties and their duties at home.
Is anyone else feeling like their current routine is fine but ultimately unsustainable if it were to go on for too much longer?
What is Working from Home Burnout?
Working from home burnout is the result of everything you used to fit into a normal daily routine (working, cooking, socialising, exercising, etc.) now all being done in the same place. It’s a mixture of cabin fever and exhaustion that leaves people feeling tired, irritable, frustrated and a bit lost.
Not having a physical cut-off from our workplace to our home life makes it harder to switch off. The lack of a commute now means we go from one flat out activity straight into another without any time in between to adapt or compartmentalise.
Finally, many of us have even more to do now than they did before lock-down with tasks now being reassigned after some furloughing has taken place in order to keep the companies wage-bill sustainable throughout this uncertain time.
All this adds up and manifests as working from home burnout and we need to be aware of this to make sure we can put in measures to keep mentally healthy.
How to Spot It
- Are you constantly tired even though you’ve been sat at your desk for most of the day?
- Do you feel overwhelmed, is the uncertainty of the situation giving you a feeling of helplessness?
- Are you noticeably moodier than normal with the smallest things now angering you?
- Do you constantly check your emails or instant work messages after working hours?
If you’re reading through those and they ring true, then you’re probably burnt out.
Take More Control
How much of your work is proactive and how much is reactive? One great way of changing your working day in order to be able to switch off at the end more easily is by trying to make as much of your work as proactive as possible. Make sure you talk to your manager before making any huge changes but this one is surely going to benefit both of you so there is no reason they wouldn’t go for it.
Is a lot of your day filled with incoming calls from customers? Change how you work. Set aside an hour to call your customers proactively to check-in.
Do you receive hundreds of important emails every day? Change how you work. Put a timeslot in your diary to read and reply to emails.
Proactive work gives you a greater feeling of control leading to a more positive mental state. It also means an easier switch off after work as any calls or emails to come to you now have set times to be addressed the next day so there’s no need to worry about answering or reading them.
Agree a week plan with your both your line manager and partner at the start of the week. Plan in work and home tasks that need to be completed, as well as time that is yours to use in any way you want without interruption (obviously you don’t need to share the work one with your partner and vice versa).
Yes, you may have loads to do at work and at home, but you are now in control of your week. You decide when you’re working and when you’re not. The times you are now looking after or helping to teach the children are now regimented so are easier to mentally prepare for and switch off from.
From a work perspective if you’ve agreed on a set of tasks that need to be completed that week then it’s easier to switch off in the evenings and weekends as you will know you’ve done what you needed to do. This comes with an element of communication needed with your manager, as if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew for that week then you need to readdress the plan and make both this week and next week’s plan more realistic.
Plan Days Off
It may seem counter-productive to take a day of annual leave during this period of lockdown seeing as you can’t go anywhere. You still should though as having a break will be exactly what your mind needs. Take a day off – from everything if you can. Speak to you partner about this. Maybe you could both take a day off at the same time and share childcare duties. So, you get a whole morning to yourself and they get the whole afternoon.
What to Do if You’re Already Feeling It
Consciously Switch Off
If you’re really struggling to switch between work and home life then make it more of a physical act. If you can, close the office/spare room door after you leave for the day to create that boundary. Switch off your phone, exercise straight after finishing work. Try to implement up physical actions that confirm in your mind that you have left work and it’s time to switch off.
Speak to your manager and tell them what’s going on. Tell them about how you’re feeling and ask for their thoughts on the best way to move on. Whether it’s bed rest, extra breaks, a different way of working, a smaller workload, you need to agree on what’s the best way to go ahead so this doesn’t happen again.
Do the same with your partner if you’re non-professional life is getting to you. Try to agree on a plan or a change in routine that will benefit both of you.
Take a Day
If you’re not in the right mental place to work, then forcing it is only going to make things worse. If you’re feeling burnt out, then take the day. Obviously speak to your manager about what you’re going through, but make sure to take the day to switch off and then (when you’re ready) start coming up with solutions.