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How to avoid burnout while working from home

By July 1, 2020August 28th, 2020No Comments

Burnout is not a new concept, yet it feels a little different when you are working or studying from home. We all know the classic advice to avoid burnout (Don’t stay too late at the library or office, go outside for a walk during your lunch break, take a vacation) but the advice is slightly different when you’re confined to your living spaces for the majority of the week. Here we have 5 tips on how to avoid burnout – the work from home edition.

  1. Clearly articulate your hours to your team.
  2. Switch off your camera for video chats
  3. Take weekends
  4. Try to separate your work space from your living space
  5. Set 3 clear objectives for yourself every day

Is anyone else just feeling…less productive? Even by working-during-a-pandemic standards, the grind just seems to be even more difficult.

As society settles into the work and study from home life, the days have begun to blend together into a flexible hodge-podge of work and personal life. Work can slowly seep into evenings and weekends, because, why not? The result is never really being able to switch off (especially when your office is the kitchen table in a 700 square foot apartment), leading to a sluggish workflow the next day. Because it takes longer to get work done, work again creeps into your evening and weekends, and the cycle continues. The results can be a nagging feeling of exhaustion and dissatisfaction.

In a 2017 editorial published in the journal Neurology, Dr. James Bernat defines burnout as “a dysfunctional syndrome comprising emotional exhaustion, cynicism, depersonalization, and loss of empathy, accompanied by career dissatisfaction, from a feeling of meaninglessness of work and a sense of low personal esteem and accomplishment.” A survey conducted by the American Academy of Neurology on over 4,000 American neurologists found that risks factors for burnout included higher numbers of hours worked, nights worked, patients examined (or a high volume of work output), and hours of clerical work performed.

[Burnout is] a dysfunctional syndrome comprising emotional exhaustion, cynicism, depersonalization, and loss of empathy, accompanied by career dissatisfaction, from a feeling of meaninglessness of work and a sense of low personal esteem and accomplishment.

Dr. James BernatNeurology

We all know the classic advice to avoid burnout (Don’t stay too late at the office, go outside for a walk during your lunch break, take a vacation) but the advice is slightly different when you’re confined to your living spaces for the majority of the week. Here we have 5 tips on how to avoid burnout – the work from home edition.

Tips to Avoid Burnout While Working from Home

1.) Clearly articulate your hours to your team

One of the up sides to working from home means more flexibility for yourself, but that flexibility can also mean working on evenings and weekends – a key risk factor for burnout. With everyone on this oddly flexible schedule, you’ll likely get emails at all hours. Simply communicate that you can’t get to the task right now, but will be able to the next work day. If you really want to disengage, set an auto-reply on your email that will respond outside of working hours so you don’t have to.

Students are particularly vulnerable to this as higher ed doesn’t traditionally follow a 9-5 schedule. Set a “work day” that makes sense to you – have an online class from 6-9PM on a Wednesday? Set your work day to be 1-9PM, or try working in the morning with a designated couple of hours off in the afternoon.

2.) Switch off the Camera

With the ever-evolving lingo that this pandemic has brought us, a new one describes the fatigue students and at-home workers are starting to feel around video chat: Zoom Fatigue. The CBC reports that having a camera on for hours at a time, with a lovely little screen constantly projecting back to us, can feel like a never-ending critique on how we’re sitting, how attentive we look, and how dark the circles under our eyes have gotten. In face-to-face conversations, we don’t tend to feel that constant scrutiny (unless you typically have your meetings in front of a mirror). Trying to juggle this image while also paying attention to the video chat can really start to grate over time. So try a few video calls without the video, or go old school and pick up the phone

Psychologists say several factors lead to Zoom fatigue. Users can feel like they're performing for the camera more than they would while meeting colleagues in person — especially when software continuously displays to a user their own live image, adding an element of self-awareness.

'Zoom fatigue' is setting in: What it is and how to prevent itThomas Daigle for CBC News

3.) Take weekends

It can be really tempting to promise yourself the you’ll do a couple of hours of work on your Saturday – it’s not like you’re going out to see friends, right? But these extended periods of time off are equally as important as evenings. Studies have shown that working more hours doesn’t necessarily translate to being more productive, so letting your work week bleed into your weekends could end up backfiring.

4.) Try to separate your work space from your living space

Not an easy task when you’re working from your coffee table in a tiny Vancouver apartment, but do what you can to separate work from personal life. Try to not work from your bedroom or couch – these are for disconnecting. Instead, set up a work station that you only use when working and has everything you need to be productive. Maybe designate one half of your kitchen table to an office set up, and leave the other half for eating.

5.) Set 3 clear objectives for yourself every day

Feeling productive is a fantastic way to protect yourself from burnout AND provide motivation to continue to work each day. The easiest way to do that is to set a few key objectives and make a promise that you will call the day a success if you complete those three tasks. Since humans are terrible at estimating how much time it will take to complete a task, the key here is to under-promise; you should be able to look at your priority list and feel as if it’s a bit light. If you get more than that done, congratulations, it was an incredibly successful day! But if you only get those three things done, you are still moving in the right direction. Getting a few key things done every day for months on end add up to an incredibly powerful work ethic.

 

Finding a system that balances your work life with the need to relax will take some trial and error. Keep checking in with yourself and routinely evaluate what is working for you and what isn’t. Finally, if you find no matter what you do you are still feeling disinterested or emotionally exhausted, it is always a good option to reach out for mental health support. A licensed practitioner will be able to help you dig deeper and provide concrete support as you need it.

Nimbus Learning now offers an online tutoring platform which allows students virtual access to academic support and mentorship. Click here to find out more.

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