Yes, It’s Possible to Burn Out While Working From Home

Late nights, lonely dinners, and way, way too much email.

Eric Stine is the Chief Revenue Officer at Qualtrics. Recently, for the first time in his professional life, he became a full-time remote employee because of the coronavirus pandemic. Each week, he’ll share the highs, lows, and learnings of a WFH newbie. You can read all of his diary entries here

Week Five — There Are No Penguins in Poland

Is anyone else baking? 

I feel like everyone is baking. It took me three weeks to get yeast — it showed up the day after Easter, so the hot cross buns I finally made had that same deflated feeling you get when someone sends a New Year’s Card instead of a Christmas Card and it shows up on December 29th. Like, you’re happy to see them and grateful to have been thought of, but you’re also kind of over it already and ready to move on.

Actually, moving on is kind of a good theme for this week — as it really feels like people want to do just that. I had a good number of customer meetings last week, and this week it doubled. Also, I’ve noticed that people have stopped asking, “How are you?” with that awkward side-tilt of their head like when you ask an old person about their cat. And when I do ask, no head-tilt, but my eyes squint and get an intense sense (Zoom really tells you a lot about your facial tics) they want to move on.

And so, this week was SUPER productive, but the inability to meet face to face means the meetings stack up at twice the rate they ordinarily would. The pace of internal meetings hasn’t slowed, which pushes all the work and the follow-up into the evening. At least twice this week, I ate a lonely dinner at my desk.

I actually gave up any pretense of being able to seamlessly separate work from home after our au pair said, “Noelle was missing you today,” at dinner on Wednesday (where I actually sat at the table, but ate like I’d just been released from a week at one of those spas where they put fruit in the water, which seems fun and luxurious when you check in, but then you realize two hours later that it’s the only food you’re going to see for three days).

I don’t want my kids missing me when we are in the same house, awake, for 12 consecutive hours. Besides, I’ve grown weary of going an entire day eating nothing but coffee and gum, only to briefly emerge for dinner, consume 2,000 calories in one seating (half of them from wine), and then answer emails until my eyes are bleary.

And so I have given in to the fact that there are going to be some early days, or late nights, or weekends when I will need to catch up. It’s not like I can go skiing, so I’m not going to worry that a few calls are punctuated by a toddler getting ready for her bath and who wants me to admire the haircut she gave her Frozen II Elsa doll. (Apparently, a great deal of unpleasantness could have been avoided if Elsa had a bob.)

Also, I like participating in the kids’ schoolwork. I’ve always said that Noelle is good with applied knowledge — she has context; and Nicholas is good with finite sets of information because he has a great memory — he has content. As a result, Noelle is really taking to math — she uses objects to add or take away and tell you how the numbers change. Nicholas is outstanding at geography and only wants to recite lists of countries. And they’re both crushing it with their reading — not just word recognition, but actually being able to use their letters and figure out words. Thursday was “P” day and Noelle came into my office to let me know that there are no penguins in Poland but they love Patagonia. Yes, she said, “Patagonia.”

It’s certainly more entertaining than all that email.

Is anyone else getting spammed with a Cavalcade of Coronavirus Content in their inbox? At first it was just on T.V. and alerts on the phone, but now it’s in my email like those spiders in the William Shatner movie that always seems to be on Channel 9.

At first, it was just corporate promotions. (Personal opinion: A lot of companies are still trying to get the tone right. I particularly feel for apparel retailers. Is anyone actually thinking, “WOW! That shirt really goes with a quarantine! I can’t wait to wear it when I go to the living room!”? I’m on Zoom all day and — as far as I can tell — everyone is wearing athleisure. I can’t wait to wear shirts with buttons again.)

But now we’ve reached the phase where it seems like everyone is making projections or predictions and they’re all starting to sound the same to me. The only projection I really care about is whether McDonald’s will find a way to bring back the Shamrock Shake in July (Marketing idea: Celebrate Mint-dependence Day!). I was too freaked out in March to go get one and I do love me some Shamrock Shake.But the email? I just can’t keep up… I guess I’ll just go help those kids find some rabbits in Rotterdam. Moving on…

Working From Home in the New Normal is a data-driven storytelling initiative from SAP and Thrive Global, bringing together insights powered by the Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse with actionable Microsteps and stories from Thrive to help you navigate working from home. Visit daily for the latest data and stories to help improve your focus, prioritization, and well-being.

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