A common hesitation for businesses in implementing a remote-friendly work model is the fear that their teams will spend their on-the-clock hours watching Netflix or lounging in hammocks instead of staying focused on productivity. However, the irony of this is that most remote workers actually work longer hours than their in-office counterparts. Because this is great for productivity and puts the original fears to rest, both the employers and remote workers may be thinking that they have nothing to worry about. A flexible work environment and self-set schedule… what could go wrong?
Remote work has some incredible benefits for individuals, companies, and economies, but it’s far from perfect, especially because the longer work hours lead to higher-than-average rates of worker burnout, which can eventually lead to long-term health and career concerns. So what does this mean? Simply put, it means that remote workers need to be extra cautious and attentive in preventative care.
Here’s how you can spot burnout early on, before it has a negative effect on your personal or professional health. Do an honest evaluation of your schedule, attitude, and habits to look for these common signs of remote worker burnout:
Is your inbox piling up? Are you letting phone calls ring through to voicemail? Have you caught yourself procrastinating? Often, when we’re feeling burned out at work, we suddenly want to do everything… except work.
Have you been consistently arriving late to meetings? Is the quality of your work declining? If you make a mistake, do you try to blame others? In the early stages of burnout, our brains are constantly in a state of stress, which switches them into “survival mode,” causing us to slip in our ambition and responsibility.
Do feel a lack of pride about your accomplishments? Have you been neglecting your usual self-care habits? Is it difficult for you to focus or be patient with others? In general, if you’re feeling bitter or you just don’t care about things that you usually do, you’re probably headed toward a full-blown burnout.
Are you consistently working more than your contracted number of hours? Do you respond to work-related calls or messages during personal events? Is the first and last thing that you look at every day your phone or work device? Too much of a good thing can be bad, including work.
Remote workers don’t have the benefit of officemates to notice subtle changes in our behavior, so we have to be self-aware enough to recognize these symptoms on our own. Subsequently, we need to have enough self-discipline to independently troubleshoot the problem and nip the burnout in the bud before it grows to a size that can ruin the career that you’ve worked so hard to build.
Here are five easy strategies to kick burnout to the curb, and revive the creativity, organization, and motivation that you need to professionally thrive again in your location-independent career:
Human brains like structure, but remote workers seem to have a feast-or-famine problem with it. Either we’re on the road with little-to-no control over our environment, or stuck in a home office without delineation between work life and personal life. The key is to find a balance. Implement office hours by silencing notifications and activating an out-of-office response outside of certain time blocks. This way, no matter if you’re on the road or on the couch, your brain (and your clients or coworkers) knows that it’s time for you to relax.
A little counteraction goes a long way. Refresh your clarity and enthusiasm for work by stepping away from it for a little while. Whether you decide to travel or just enjoy some time at home, make sure that you completely unplug. Turn off all notifications (or even your entire device – gasp!), forward your inbox and tasks to a co-worker or virtual assistant while you’re away, and make a rule to not talk or think about work at all. After a few days, you’ll feel recharged and ready for action.
Intense work needs to be balanced with intense play. If work is the only thing that you feel passionate about, it’s time to discover other parts of your personality. Join a sports team, learn a new art, or even just strengthen your self-care routine with challenging workouts and more creative cooking. (Bonus points if you choose a group activity, since it can help you combat remote work isolation!)
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, steer yourself out of it. Schedule a meeting with your supervisor or mentor to discuss what you do and don’t like about your current role, and brainstorm ways that it could be updated to better cater to your strengths and interests. Your scope of work may also need to be addressed — either simplify your tasks to streamline your productivity or diversify them to allow for more creativity and spontaneity.
Hiding your concerns will only make them worse. If you’re feeling burned out, tell your boss and coworkers as early as possible. They can collaborate with you to redistribute your workload, update reporting rituals to provide more recognition and motivation, or provide sideline encouragement as you bust through blocks. Who knows, some of your teammates may be feeling the same way, so you’ll be doing a favor for more people than just yourself.
Remember that location independence entails management independence. If you’re wanting an untethered career, you need to be willing to integrate a higher level of self-discipline and self-awareness into your work day than you might be used to. But don’t worry, by keeping a lookout for these warning signs of burnout and implementing a few daily ritual changes, you’ll not only be able to keep racing forward as you continue in your remote career, but gain momentum along the way.
This post was originally published on Remote.com.