Finding balance, giving yourself grace, and accepting that everything isn’t just fine.
Working from home is a privilege that does not require risking our own health and safety every day. We know that the inconvenience of barking dogs or tiny city dwellings are annoying, but far better than the reality that many are facing.
However, even in what we could call the ‘best of conditions’, there is a real risk of burnout that can affect productivity, expectations, and overall mental well-being. We have scraped together new routines over the last several weeks; all while dealing with some level of anxiety and frustration. What signs of burnout should you look for and how do you change the mindset?
Guilt & Anxiety
You feel guilty about the work that you are doing (or not doing). Perhaps you should have done one more item on your checklist, finished up one last project, or made one more phone call. After all, you’re saving time on the commute, going out for lunch, and socializing with co-workers.
Perhaps you are comparing yourself to your co-workers and it’s causing anxiety & guilt? If your co-worker sent an email at 6:30 am, does that mean that you should be doing the same? It is easy to want to create benchmarks. You can rationalize the decisions that you are making when there is a beacon guiding you. But this is a time when we’re juggling new systems, children at home, and schedule disruptions. Focus on what is expected of you and lay out those expectations with your manager so there are no ‘should have’, ‘could have’ feelings.
You’re making yourself available 24 hours a day
Your office phone is forwarded to your cell phone, the video conferencing app is downloaded, and your email notifications come through to every device you own. You’re feeling the need to be available and accessible 24 hours a day – trying to avoid the ‘out of sight, out of mind”.
Being in a cycle of constant visibility and accessibility to your co-workers or managers is exhausting. If you wouldn’t do it in a normal office setting, then you shouldn’t be doing it in a work-from-home setting. Even if you are not working all-day, every day — if you’re feeling the need to be available all of the time, this may affect your ability to wind down and recharge . Find the right time to turn off notifications, stop answering emails, and communicate with co-workers. If you’re feeling uneasy about not being available at a moment’s notice, talk to your manager about your schedule and when you cannot be immediately available.
You can’t stop working
Not only are you available 24-hours a day, but you are working many more hours than you normally would. You’re skipping meals, breaks, and exercise in favor of getting work done.
While you may think that you’re being more productive by stretching out eight-hour days to twelve, fourteen, or more – it’s likely that you’re not taking care of yourself as well as you should. There are many instances in which working too much actually provides diminishing returns in work quality.
This is the time to set boundaries and create a schedule to force yourself to stop and take a breath. Schedule breaks, exercise, lunch, and shutdown times. Ensure that meetings are scheduled within normal working hours. It is imperative to draw a line under the day and end it when it needs to end. If you wouldn’t have answered a late-night email before working from home, then you shouldn’t be doing it now.
You can’t find your groove
Working from home is not for everyone . It just isn’t. It can be a nice break from time-to-time, but for many, it just isn’t part of their routine that gets them out of bed and ready to tackle the day. Some people genuinely enjoy the in-office interaction or the face-to-face meetings with clients.
If you’ve never gotten into the WFH groove and you are resenting the situation as time passes, this can trickle down to other parts of your life. Are you overreacting to professional and personal situations that wouldn’t normally irk you? Are you struggling to use the makeshift home-office that you set up? Are you accumulating take-out containers as you work from bed (for the 3rd week in a row)?
Acknowledging the burnout is the first step to dealing with the situation. While it may seem like everyone else has got this down, it’s very likely that they’re facing similar challenges. There is only so much that you can see in a video conference call or via email.
At the end of the day, it may be hard to avoid the burnout. You may be in a situation where you’re playing the role of parent, teacher, and employee. Dramatically changing your routine may not be in the cards; but very small measurable steps can help you get through each day and help you to slowly take control of the burnout. Things may not go back to the normal that we now yearn, but this situation isn’t permanent and we must take care of ourselves in order to be better employees, families, and members of society.