Workplace burnout is a major concern for any person with a job, no matter where exactly that workplace is. People who sit at desks in traditional offices experience it as well as people who work in higher-risk environments, such as firefighters or doctors. Over 40% of physicians, and 50% of female physicians, report being burned out and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the United States. The pandemic has also caused many people to work from their homes, causing a new kind of burnout that workers are now struggling with.
Traditional burnout usually occurs when the defining line between your work and personal lives becomes blurred. Many people had to suddenly adapt to work-from-home orders without the chance to prepare for it while also losing their childcare. These circumstances have created the perfect formula for burnout. Let’s take a look at a few key strategies to help avoid burnout while you work from home.
Know the Signs
The first step to preventing burnout is to know what it looks like. One of the most notable signs of burnout is when you find yourself working around the clock. This typically means that you are experiencing a major work-life imbalance. Before you had to work from home, you had the ability to maintain this balance by only doing work while you were at the office and then focusing on your personal life while you were at home. Now that you’re working from home, you may be struggling to set boundaries and feel as if you’re working all the time.
Another major sign is that you feel like you lack control over your work. This could be a lack of control over your schedule, your interactions with others, or your time management. No matter where exactly the lack of control originates, it can cause you to feel exhausted and burnt out. Other key signs of burnout include:
- You procrastinate more than you did before
- You feel an anxiety that you should be doing more
- You check your email or other work notifications all day long
- You feel like you cannot find support in anyone when times are hard
- You allow meetings to run past their allotted time
- You stop doing regular chores like making the bed or going grocery shopping
If you’re noticing any of these signs of burnout during your day, you may be suffering from workplace burnout. Keep reading for strategies to bring balance back into your life and escape the feeling of burnout.
Maintain Your Boundaries
Having a healthy work-life balance is all about setting and maintaining the boundaries that you need. This can be difficult when you’re working from home, but you may find that it makes a major difference when you try it. First, create a physical boundary for your workspace in your home. Ideally, you will be able to have a room that you can use as your office. However, not everyone can live in large Manhattan apartments or condos, which sell for an average of $1.9 million, and have multiple rooms just waiting for a purpose. If you have a smaller home, try to dedicate just one corner of a room to be your office. Set up a desk and chair there as well as any decorations to make the space feel like yours. If the only place you can work at home is on the couch or at the dining room table, be sure to put away your supplies at the end of the workday to signify that it is really over.
Another physical boundary that can help bring you balance is your appearance. Working in your sweats is a great treat every once in a while, but many people find that switching from work clothes to lounge clothes can help separate their work life from their personal life. If you used to go through a whole morning routine of showering, doing your hair, and putting on makeup before you went to work, try doing that at home. Even if you’re not seeing anyone face-to-face, going through these motions can bring more definition to your day.
Focus on Your Most Important Work
One challenge of working from home is that you feel more compelled to project the appearance of productivity. Your bosses can’t see you typing away at your desk or with your head bent over spreadsheets, so you feel more of a pressure to do tasks quickly to show that you’re still getting work done at home. However, this can lead workers to neglect the more important tasks in favor of the more immediate ones. Research suggests that this is counterproductive in the long-run, even if it boosts productivity in the short-term. Working on the more immediate tasks can also make it feel like you’re working all of the time, without enough time to concentrate on the more important matters.
Combat this feeling by focusing on your most important work. Although it might take longer for you to complete, you’ll feel a greater sense of satisfaction when you finish the project. This will also prevent you from feeling you just had to rush through a bunch of smaller tasks. Just be careful to not spend all of your time working on the more important tasks, as this can still lead to a work-life imbalance and eventual burnout.
Create a Work Schedule that Fits Into Your Life
Temporal boundaries are just as important as physical boundaries. By defining when you will work and when you will not work, you can give yourself the break that you need from doing your job. This step may be particularly difficult for business owners and entrepreneurs, of which there are about 400 million around the world. Even for these individuals who run businesses, however, sticking to the temporal boundaries you set will help you feel happier and more relaxed in all aspects of your life.
Some people may do well with sticking to a 9-to-5 schedule like they did when they worked outside of their homes. Others may find that this is unrealistic when combined with the duties of childcare during their regular work hours. If your job allows your hours to be more flexible, strategize the times during which you can best work. This may be when your child is taking their afternoon nap or when your partner is cooking dinner. Once you determine your schedule, put it on your work calendar so that your coworkers know. This will help them coordinate with your schedule and allow for open lines of communication.
Burnout is a problem that every worker should take seriously. It can affect how you feel every day and how you interact with your loved ones. Improve both your work life and your personal life by stopping burnout before it begins with these tips.