Our current Pandemic situation has created this new normal routine of working from home. Companies that required employees to be present onsite are also finding ways to make them work remotely to facilitate the “flattening of the curve”.
Work from home is something that 11 million Americans probably experience or aspire to do. Our current pandemic situation has turned this aspiration into a reality. We are forced to work remotely and coping with this new normal.
Advantages of Working from Home
Working from home sounds great right? You probably have a toddler at home who needs a babysitter otherwise when you are away at work. Now you can “almost” watch the toddler while still be able to work remotely from your computer.
You might want to take a quick nap between your meetings and company break-rooms aren’t the best place to do that either. Working from home gives you that opportunity.
You can walk your dogs, go out for a run or eat while in your meetings (unless your camera is on). Also, you can move around your house doing chores while on your computer.
I get it. And also I agree they are all pretty great advantages. Why am I writing this article anyway then? Work from home is great right?
You are forgetting that working from home comes with its own share of burnout and that could be detrimental to your health if you do not implement coping mechanisms.
What burnout are we referring to?
Working from home now brings your office directly in your living space. There is almost no distinction between your work and home life. I would like to exclude people who have been doing this for a while and already have a routine in place.
When we go to work, by that I mean physically travel to a different location to work and come back home in the evening,; that physical movement itself tells us when our work started and ended.
As the current situation prevails and millions of us are working from home, there is often no distinction between work and home life. I myself feel this burnout every single week. The first couple of months of this work from home routine took a serious toll on my daily routine.
For Women who are juggling both their hustle and home life (also probably with a kid at home as well!) may feel this burnout even more.
The Forbes article below explains this aspect very well:
With household distractions like children, pets, laundry, entertainment, and cooking, it may feel impossible to stay focused on work during business hours, so companies apply more and more pressure to maintain efficiency. However, it’s not underperformance that leadership should be worried about — overperformance is what is actually killing the output of work-from-home teams.
Challenges of working from home
As Women, the Work from Home might be a slightly bigger challenge due to some of the added responsibilities. Below are some of the challenges I felt while working from home:
- Work from home comes with the challenge of social isolation. Women are a little more social animals (inherently) than their counterparts. This might be a cause for this burnout.
- No clear boundaries between work and home life as mentioned. You probably have a kid that is staying home too. You are constantly juggling between your home office and your kid’s responsibility and this can cause your burnout.
- No “Me Time” for yourself. If you take some time alone to recharge you are plagued by guilt-ridden thoughts.
- If you are anything like me, every month my energy is low when I am PMSing and until my period is over. The burnout can feel even harder those days.
So clearly what we think about work from home is not the whole truth. Surely, you can put yourself in a habit and gradually would learn to cope with it. But you might want to take note of these burnout possibilities and put prevention in place.
How to recognize the signs of this burnout?
Like everyone else, I was excited that I would not have to get up at 6:30 AM so that I can be on time for my first meeting. Instead, all I have to do is have my laptop by my bedside. But I was wrong. Along with all the other challenges mentioned in the previous section, I was having these symptoms:
- I had to motivate myself to get up in the morning and turn on my computer.
- I was having difficulty falling asleep even though I was super tired.
- Feeling distracted during meetings or having difficulty in focusing on the discussion.
- Forgetting about important things on my To-Do list.
- Having appetite loss due to irregular sleeping cycle.
- Losing patience over small things
- Getting triggered by minute issues like a work email.
Again, this is not a comprehensive list. These are just a few signs that I have noticed for myself when I felt that burnout. Now if you have any or all of these symptoms, you might want to put some prevention in place as soon as possible.
How to prevent this burnout?
This is where you come up with a containment plan so that you do not get overwhelmed by this new normal work-life.
1. Set clear distinctions between Work and Family hours
Just because you are working from home that does not need you to be always accessible to do everything work-related. Treat your home office as a regular work cubicle. Set clear time limits on when you switch your computer on, schedule regular break hours, and end of day hour.
Close your work computer in a visible way (like you would do for a business!). Do not run back to your laptop or computer to check emails after hours.
2. Keep a distinct physical area for your work
Set up your workstation in one specific place of your home or apartment. With working from home, you might find it convenient carrying your laptop around everywhere. You might leave it in the kitchen while prepping meals, or looking at it while eating.
This makes it easier for your work to gradually take over your whole living space. If you think it is a stretch, think about it this way: You are indirectly telling yourself that it is okay to be accessible while eating, cooking or any other tasks that is not work related.
Make sure you have set up your work station in one specific place. While eating or cooking do not look at your phone or laptop to check work emails. This will help you to create the work home distinction described in step 1.
3. Get up from your workstation and take regular breaks
This is very important. While you are hunched over on your desk, struggling to get through your To-Do list, it is important to schedule micro-breaks.
Ergonomic wellness is important and taking these breaks will reduce your posture based burnout risks. Make sure you schedule these breaks and get up from your chair and move around physically to stretch your limbs.
4. Socialize and reach out when you feel the burnout
Humans are social animals and we need to speak with people in order to survive and function in a sane way.
It is important to reach out to your teammates virtually or talk to your friends with social engagements (virtually) while you are hustling. A study shows that on average we need about 6 hours of social time including social media and phone.
While working from home you are not surrounded by your colleagues in adjacent cubicles and hence you are cut out of those elevator small talks. They are important. Hence make sure you are staying social through your social media space and phone-calls with your friends and colleagues.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that, burnout is a real thing, whether you are working from home or at a regular office. Drawing clear boundaries between your work and home life is the first step to prevent burnout chances. Make sure you are giving your self-care routine equal importance as your work routine.