1 Aug 2020

How to Avoid Burnout During WFH

The COVID-19 pandemic has made a massive impact on our daily life. One of the tremendous changes we have to face is working from home. Sure, it can benefit us as we don’t need to spend hours commuting. But, it’s undeniable that working from home can be exhausting sometimes.

When we are at home, the boundaries between work life and home life can disappear. Add to that the uncertainty of global health pandemic, lack of social connection as we can’t go outside, and having to care for the family during the day can lead to burnout.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon. The organization’s definition aligns with syndromes and represents a vital step in recognizing workplace burnout as a real problem.

Burnout is triggered by severe stress for an extended period, and it takes a crucial toll on our physical and mental health. When we are burnout, we feel ineffective, cynical, and may detach or stop caring about our work. WHO describes burnout symptoms as a feeling of exhaustion, increased mental distance or negative emotion toward one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

If you feel like burnout, don’t hesitate to talk to your supervisor or manager, as they may be able to help you reduce your workplace stress. Talking to others co-workers, friends, or family may also be helpful. Implementing a healthy way of stress coping mechanism can also help alleviate your stress. Here are some recommendations from Harvard Business Review (HBR) to overcome burnout.

Maintain physical and social boundaries

Before a pandemic, we have some ways to demarcated the transition from work to non-work roles. They called it "boundary-crossing activities." Act on putting your work clothes and commuting from home to work is physical and social indicators that something has changed. You have transitioned from home you to work you.

Try to maintain these boundaries when working from home. You can put on your work clothes instead of wear pajamas—casual clothes are okay, or have your own working space outside the bedroom to replace your morning commute. The point is, maintain your usual work routines in some creative and lighthearted ways. It helps you to set boundaries between work and non-work roles.

Maintain temporal boundaries as much as possible

Working from home can be a little bit challenging for employees with a family. Sticking to a 9-5 schedule may prove unrealistic when you are working from home. Because during those hours, some of us may still need to care for our families. That’s why we need to find work-time budgets that function best for us with creating temporal boundaries.

Planning clear temporal boundaries often depends on the ability to coordinate with the team. This is when the leader’s role becomes crucial. They have to help employees in structuring, coordinating, and managing the pace of work. It might mean regularly holding the virtual check-in and virtual meeting or providing them with tools to organize workspaces. Through this disruption, keeping a sense of normality is key.

Focus on your most important work

While working from home, employees often feel compelled to project the appearance of productivity. But, it can lead them to work on tasks that are more immediate instead of more important. Employees must prioritize important work, especially those who face an increased workload as they juggle family and work tasks.

Working all the time, even on your most important tasks, isn’t the answer. Several studies have shown that employees who feel “on” all the time have a higher risk of burnout when working from home than if they were going to the office as usual. During this time, it’s necessary to find new ways to carve out non-work time and mental space.

These are just a few recommendations to help employees avoid burnout in the long run. They will need the flexibility to experiment with what works for them. And, for leaders, it is helpful to understand their anxiety in these unpredictable times.