Avoiding ‘work-from-home’ burnout
It’s been a year since working from home became a reality for many Canadians. While some had prior experience working from home or had done so on a semi-regular basis, many people jumped right into working from home full-time with very little time to prepare.
Even for organizations with the technology already in place, the immediate transition to full-time work-from-home arrangements was a challenge for employers and employees alike. While technical challenges may have relatively simple solutions, the human aspect is much more complicated. For many, the initial transition came with a sense of novelty and the hope that the upheaval caused by COVID-19 would be temporary.
After a year of full- or part-time working from home, employers and employees are expressing concern about burnout. Whether you’re balancing work with childcare or not, working from home can be draining, especially when combined with the stress of living through a pandemic. Read on to learn more about burnout and how you can help prevent it.
Are you feeling burnt out?
The World Health Organization identifies burn-out as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and identifies the following as its symptoms:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy
Workplace burn-out is somewhat common at the best of times, let alone during intense times of personal stress, which many of us can identify with due to our current circumstances. When all of our days seem to run together, feeling fatigued or even burnt out can seem like an inevitable consequence. So, what can you do about it?
Separate work and home life
Early on in the pandemic, we suggested that a one-sized-fits-all approach to working from home (e.g.: getting up ready for your day as normal) didn’t necessarily apply as we were in unprecedented circumstances. This advice still holds, but finding a way to separate your work life from your home life is important when it comes to preventing work-from-home burnout.
Create a routine. It’s good to have a regular routine in place, whatever that means for you. Maybe you have a particular morning breakfast or exercise routine that helps you prepare for your day. Rituals like these can be crucial in helping you stay motivated and can act as a replacement for your morning commute. Likewise, having an activity at the end of your workday that replaces your evening commute can help with creating that separation. Try going for a walk, playing a video game, reading a book, or another activity that is enjoyable for you.
Keep regular hours. Working regular hours in a regular workspace can help separate your work life from your home life. With looming deadlines and your workspace conveniently located in your home, it can be tempting to keep irregular hours and/or work overtime. Screen fatigue and never feeling like you can switch off can be major contributors to burnout. If you’re not expected to be on call, don’t be.
Manage video call fatigue
With all work meetings and even much of our social lives taking place via video conference, video call fatigue has become a concern for many. Looking at multiple faces (including your own) and focusing all your attention on a small screen, rather than looking at faces across a meeting table, can be very tiring day after day. Click here for tips for mitigating video call fatigue from the Executive Director of the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.
Use your vacation time
You may not be able to go anywhere, but taking time away from work is still important. Take some time off to unplug and engage with activities and interests you enjoy. There’s a reason that recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, and birdwatching have seen a boom during the pandemic: they’re relaxing, inexpensive, and they can help you feel more connected to the world outside. Take some time off and try something new or come back to an old hobby. Your mind and body will be grateful for the break.
There is no single way to prevent burnout and it might take some trial and error before you find solutions that work for you. Check out this resource from The Canadian Psychological Association for more tips and tools. If you’re looking for mental health supports, see the Province’s list of mental health resources. You can see all of our blog posts relating to mental health here.
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