Millions of people around the globe have transitioned into a remote working arrangement since the COVID-19 breakout. The sudden shift has prompted employers to voice their concerns over maintaining employee productivity.
What they fail to realize is that there’s a much bigger problem that swells beneath the surface: work from home burnout.
Employee burnout poses a long-term risk. As work and non-work lines continue to blur in new and unusual ways, it becomes harder to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Afternoons can blend into evenings, and the weekdays can spill over into the weekends. And as the relentless cycle goes on, a sense of coronavirus fatigue could prevail.
A recent survey by Monster reveals that over 69% of Americans are experiencing burnout while working from home. Further data shows that 59% of employees are taking less time off than they normally would because of the pandemic.
If this data teaches us anything, it’s that COVID-19 has amplified the pressure of what it means to be an “ideal worker.” Stress and financial anxiety, for instance, are at an all-time high because workers fear that they could turn into the next layoff if they don’t work hard enough.
So how do you keep your head above water and avoid work from home fatigue?
What is Work from Home Burnout?
Burnout isn’t a new concept. It’s best described as a type of work-related stress that involves emotional exhaustion, a reduced sense of accomplishment, and a loss of personal identity.
But since the COVID-19 pandemic, work stress, financial instability, and political unrest have all brought on a specific type of coronavirus fatigue — work from home burnout.
Andrew Schwehm, a licensed clinical psychologist with Alma, shares that work from home burnout happens when we’re unable to separate our work and personal life. Making a distinction between the two can be hard, especially since people are working and living in a single space.
For example, if you receive an email or a message from a co-worker, you may feel inclined to respond right away, even if it’s already after working hours. But this feeling of constantly being connected can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion.
Spotting the Signs
Burnout caused by remote work isn’t easy to spot because of the stress and emotional turmoil brought on by COVID-19 itself. But you’ll know it’s coronavirus fatigue if it runs deep and doesn’t disappear quickly.
Other signs include:
- Failing to manage your workload or submit tasks on time
- Experiencing mood swings like sadness or irritability
- Feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest in things you used to enjoy doing
- Insomnia and poor sleeping patterns
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches, chest pains, or palpitations
One thing you should do is to pay attention to how your body feels. After all, your body shows more obvious signs of fatigue, such as pain or tension.
How to Cope with WFH Burnout
Dr. Tannaz Farnoudi, a chiropractor at LifeClinic of Gainesville, VA shares simple stretches and exercises to prevent work from home burnout.
Recovering from WFH burnout may require more than a long weekend break. Why, you may ask? It’s because the current pandemic-related working conditions may continue for longer than what most of us anticipated.
Think of it this way: burnout is a cycle and chronic condition, so you’ll need to change your habits in the long term so you don’t fall back into the same unhealthy patterns.
Below we listed some tips to help you prevent work from home burnout.
Set a Work Routine
Set boundaries to break the cycle of constant work and exhaustion. Here are some things you can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed by your workload:
- Follow a flexible, 8-hour working schedule
- Shut off notifications and remove inbox access from your phone
- Take 15-30 micro breaks at least once a day
- Take a lunch break away from your computer
Some of these may require support from your company, so consider setting a meeting with HR or your supervisor to help you prevent feeling burnt out. Better yet, provide suggestions on working arrangements that can help make your workload more manageable.
Kelcey Stratton, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Michigan Medicine, shares that compartmentalizing our work and personal lives require iron-clad resilience. After all, working from home demands more emotional energy — especially when your dog’s barking, your kid’s throwing a tantrum, and the TV’s blaring loudly in the background. At the end of the day, you can’t help but feel drained.
The same logic applies when working. Even if you feel like you’re a master multitasker, you might end up doing less than more.
Think of it this way: you’re never actually doing two things at once; instead, you’re switching back and forth between two tasks. And that constant switch demands more attention and concentration.
Be more productive and stay focused on one task at a time. Close unrelated apps and tabs, keep your phone out of reach, and concentrate only on a single activity.
Reclaim Your Commute
Back when you were working in an office, the time to mentally transition and decompress usually happens during your commute home. So make a “joy list” and set a block of time to mark the end of the workday when you can work out, tune in to a podcast, have a cup of coffee, or call a friend.
The idea is for you to do the same thing you would do in the car on the way home. By setting that type of boundary between your work and personal life, you can maintain a sense of normalcy and prevent the urge to check your email or catch up on tasks after-hours.
Follow Your Energy Rhythm
One of the benefits of remote work is that it allows you to match projects with your natural energy and attention levels. So if you’re a morning person, schedule high-priority activities and meetings during the first half of the day so you can maximize productivity.
More importantly, reduce screen time. Almost everything takes place online: composing an email, getting on a Zoom call, browsing social media, and checking the news. In fact, being in quarantine entails spending almost the entire day in front of a screen.
Keep yourself grounded and block off hours during the day when you step away from the screen. Stay recharged by preparing a meal, going out for a grocery run, or practicing yoga. You may also want to consider unplugging your Wi-Fi after a certain point in the evening to make you less likely to stay online.
Dehydration can lead to headaches and fatigue, which can, in turn, affect your mood and productivity. Make sure you’re constantly hydrated by keeping a water bottle near your work station. With water nearby, you can drink more frequently and hit your goal of drinking at least eight glasses of water every day.
Steer clear of soda or juice to avoid crashing later on in the day. More importantly, be careful not to consume too much caffeine. Drinking too much coffee can cause headaches, anxiety, digestive issues, and fatigue. So limit your coffee intake to a maximum of two cups a day.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
What you eat affects your mood and energy level. So think twice before snacking on a bag of chips in between meals. Strive to eat nutritious food rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats like fruits and vegetables. This type of food also keeps you full for longer and makes it easier for you to focus.
When taking a short break, conduct meal prep. There’s something satisfying about stepping away from work for a few minutes to whip up your own meal. For instance, if you’re feeling stuck, get up and cut up some vegetables for lunch. That way, you can get a head start and cook up a healthy meal.
Destress with Yoga
Yoga is a great work from home fitness method. If you’re experiencing burn out, you can use yoga to channel your frustrations by stretching in new ways and getting better at it each day.
Even if you aren’t a fitness buff, yoga offers a way for you to calm down while working a sweat. On top of that, practicing yoga can help you stay mindful and relieve stress. Allow yourself to refresh and schedule 10-minute yoga sessions each day. These short, temporary resets can help keep feelings of disengagement or coronavirus fatigue at bay, even for a while.
Acknowledge Your Limits
We’re all human. Everyone makes mistakes, and you’re not some type of superhero. Sometimes, we fail to realize this because of the picture-perfect reality we often see on social media. But if you look through the highlight reels, you’ll notice that everyone isn’t always having the “best day ever.”
The same rule applies to the work you do.
So don’t be too hard on yourself when you strive for perfection and fail. Take everything as a learning experience and accept your faults. Always remember that you’re doing your best, and that’s what really matters.
Address Pain Symptoms
Sometimes, working from home can make you more prone to chronic pain and fatigue, especially if you don’t have an ergonomic workstation. And experiencing back pain, for instance, could contribute to feelings of negativity and burnout.
Address your pain symptoms and improve overall body function with our chiropractic and physical therapy services at LifeClinic. We can develop a personalized treatment plan to restore, maintain, and optimize human function so you can feel refreshed when you start working. Partner with us and keep your body working at its best. Book an appointment today.