How long have we been stuck in this pandemic? The calendar might say months, but especially for those who’ve transitioned to working from home, time might have lost all meaning by now. Has it been months? Maybe years? Lifetimes?
While its fun to joke about how time has become a nebulous concept, the feeling that we’ve been sucked into a void present a real problem for many: burnout. The initial panic of the pandemic spurred many to be more productive than ever from their home office, but nearly six months of this hell has likely burned out many, now that they lack the routine of a daily trip to and from an office.
In fact, a recent study by Monster, noted by CNBC, reveals that 69% of employees were experiencing at least some symptoms of burnout by July, 2020. That’s far up from the 20% figure they saw from a similar study conducted in May, 2020. That’s a number that could get much worse as parents start having to deal with remote schooling for their children.
It may be more important now than ever that everyone learn some good habits for working from home. With a little bit of self-care, millions of remote employees could be a little fresher each day, and avoid the depressing feeling that burnout can suddenly bring.
Set a routine and schedule
Visiting an office every day for work creates a routine by necessity. You need to wake up by a certain time to shower, eat breakfast, get changed and start your commute to work. But working from home doesn’t demand all those same things, and sitting at a laptop all day in your pajamas can have its own alure.
But don’t fall in to that trap! Creating a routine that gently slides you into and out of work is actually pretty helpful. Having a morning routine of breakfast, exercise and shower can get your motor going, and having specific work clothes really sets the mood that it’s time to get things done. And then having a specific time when work is over, and you need to get back to your personal routine, or family, is a great way to transition out.
Have a work mode and a rest mode
On that note, having as many little signals to your brain for when work is starting and ending is important to let yourself relax at the end of the day. When you’re working, you want to be in a place that you designate for work with minimal distractions. Ideally not your bed, which is only for building forts and sleeping, and maybe some light gymnastics.
But when it’s time to punch out, you shouldn’t have any of that. The laptop and the phone should be put away, unable to pull you back into work. Talk to your wife, play with your kids, watch a show. Don’t let work seep in at all.
When you are working, work on the stuff that matters most. Long time remote employees have subscribed to something called time blocking, where they set a specific period of time to work distraction free on an important task, getting it done as quickly as possible.
What you don’t want seeping into that kind of time blocking are all the little mundane, busy-work tasks that make work feel like a chore. Give them their own time block so you can get them done as quickly as possible, and move on to work that feels more important.
Get away from email
Even when we were in the pre-Covid times, email can be a primary cause of burnout, always trying to grab your attention when you are trying to either do something important or relax. It’s even worse if you’re checking your email when you should be getting to your light gymnastics with your bed partner.
Set expectations with your coworkers and boss that you’ll only be on email during a specific block of time during the day, and if they miss you, they’ll have to wait for the next working day for your response. And to help them out with their own situations, try to email them when you know they would be online.
Take time off
Finally, you have vacation time, consider using some. While it may not seem as exciting without the prospects of a big trip to an exotic beach, just giving yourself the time to decompress and focus on something different could do wonders to combatting burnout.
Now you may be thinking that asking for time off will signal to your boss that you’re expendable should layoffs suddenly be necessary. That’s just anxiety talking though. We all have government mandated, or contract negotiated vacation time: use some. Your boss knows you need it, and you’ll feel better for it.