Avoiding Working From Home Burnout

Tracy Lewis-Currie

Because of this coronavirus pandemic, millions of people are now working from home, aka: WFH. (it's even got its own acronym now!). As a conscientious employee, you want to ensure you're getting enough work done at home, but for your health's sake, you also want to ensure you know when to stop.

Some of our workstations are in the bedroom, kitchen, living room, or at least very close to these areas, making it easy for the lines between work and non-work to become blurred. The days are blending together and weekdays and weekends are becoming interchangeable. Since we're always at home it's easy to keep working or to keep thinking about work.

As a result, many people are dealing with WFH burnout. Burnout is caused by lengthy periods of stress and uncertainty. We cannot control what's happening in the outside world, so for our own mental health, we need to focus on the things we can control in our own space.


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Ways to protect yourself from WFH burnout

1. Create a dedicated WFH space in your home

Create physical boundaries. This doesn't mean you need an actual office/room; you just need a dedicated workspace where you can get up and, literally, walk away at the end of the day.  With kids in the home, let them know what your work boundaries are and set up a routine/schedule when they know it's okay to visit.


2. Create rituals to signal the start and end of your workday

Rituals are the actions we take to help us maintain habits, contexts and to keep work at work.  Consider beginning your work day by taking a shower, getting yourself dressed and primped; making coffee/tea; planning your daily tasks; going for a walk to replace the time you used to commute. To mark the end of your workday, close all browser tabs and clean up your desktop and workspace; set your phone in airplane mode or turn it off; put away your laptop and prepare dinner.


3. Set realistic goals and track your progress

By tracking your activity, you can see actual progress each day and avoid overworking.


4. Go offline when you need to focus on your most important tasks

Make your space distraction-free. Use tools such as airplane mode to shut off notifications and the internet; close your inbox and any chat apps. Communicate your schedule with your co-workers and your family so they know when you're offline for work purposes. Microsoft Teams allows you to signal when in a meeting, not available, etc.


5. Resist checking emails outside of your working hours

Your working hours may be different from others, so let them know. To protect yourself from WFH burnout, you cannot be beholden to your inbox at all times.  


6. Give yourself a break

Take the time to figure out how to set up boundaries and routines. Find what works best for you and your situation.


Balancing work and home life is not a static effort. Try to be flexible and forgiving in these uncertain times.



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