More and more people are choosing remote work these days. A recent Forbes survey showed that 74% of professionals believe remote work is becoming the new normal.
Working from home has a lot of benefits, but it’s not as trouble-free as many people believe. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, 69% of remote workers have reported burnout symptoms. Chances are, you’ve experienced them too. Preventing and reversing this condition is key to keeping a healthy work-life balance.
In this article, we will walk you through the main reasons and signs of work-from-home burnout and tell you how you can prevent burnout.
What is WFH Burnout?
Burnout is the state of long-term work-related stress accompanied by various adverse effects. They include constant exhaustion, lack of productivity, and cynicism toward your work. The symptoms can differ from person to person, but they all boil down to one thing – you feel helpless and demotivated about your job.
When your home is your workplace, things become even more complicated. Remote workers can suffer from burnout even more – but we’ll get to that in a minute.
If unaddressed, WFH burnout can cause such conditions as:
- Heart disease;
- Suppressed immune system;
- Alzheimer’s disease, etc.
Why Does WFH Burnout Occur?
Studies show that remote workers are more prone to burnout than hybrid or office employees.
There are several reasons for this:
- Higher levels of stress. 42% of remote workers experience constant work-related stress;
- Higher workload. Remote employees feel pressured to be available to work even outside their set working schedule;
- Lack of social contact and connection. Working from home takes away a major aspect of professional life – workplace socialization and face-to-face communication with colleagues and superiors; Even if your company has checked some phishing statistics for your email security, provided you with the essential communication tools, and has created all the comfort you could expect, you still need the human interaction.
- Unclear boundaries between professional life and home. When your home is your office, it is easy to lose sight of boundaries between professional and personal life. Many remote employees don’t feel they can truly rest after they’ve finished work precisely for this reason.
Warning Signs of WFH Burnout
It’s not always easy to admit you are suffering from work-from-home burnout. But forewarned is forearmed. Let’s go through 5 major signs of remote work burnout. If you recognize at least one symptom from the list below, it’s time to take it seriously.
- Chronic exhaustion and poor sleep
If you feel that you are chronically drained after work, this is a red flag. And it’s not only about challenging projects or highly responsible duties. Even simple everyday tasks can become a real burden for a burned-out remote employee.
On top of that, you can experience significant changes in your sleeping routine, such as:
- Having trouble falling asleep;
- Sleep fragmentation (waking up suddenly during the night);
- Feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep;
- Lower productivity
Remote workers who are experiencing burnout report a consistent decrease in productivity.
You might suddenly start performing poorly when it comes to professional activity. Or you might be taking longer to complete even familiar work tasks. Other signs include:
- Poor focus on work-related tasks;
- Doubts about the quality of your work.
- Lack of enthusiasm about your job
Work-from-home burnout often manifests in a chronic lack of motivation. It can grow into feelings of apathy that further drive your productivity and professional creativity down. Ultimately, burned-out remote workers can even start resenting their job.
- Reluctance to take time off
Less than a third of work-from-home employees manage to stay away from work on the weekends. On top of that, around 40% of remote workers are not planning to take a vacation in the nearest future.
If you constantly strive to get more things done at work and neglect your rightfully earned time off, it is time to stop and think again. Remote work is in no way easier or more relaxed, and work-from-home employees need to take proper rest, too.
- Inability to disconnect from work
This sign is one of the hardest ones to spot because it becomes an integral part of your work-from-home routine. Besides, it takes different forms.
Some remote workers develop a habit of checking their work inboxes before they go to bed or right after they wake up. Others can’t stop peaking into their professional chat even when they’re having lunch. These habits build up and put extra stress on a remote employee.
How Can You Prevent WFH Burnout?
The good news is work-from-home burnout prevention and treatment is possible. You can take several easy steps to make sure work-from-home burnout does not occur. If you are already experiencing this condition, these tips will help you fight it.
- Take proper breaks
Learn to recognize your boiling points and take 5-10 minute breaks throughout your working day to decompress. Do something pleasant or simply disconnected from your professional activity to restore your energy levels, improve focus, and avoid stress accumulation:
- Have a healthy snack;
- Stretch or do simple exercises;
- Do a house chore, etc.
- Play casual games like Cribbage
- Learn to relieve stress
Stress relief is a key skill for remote workers. To avoid WFH burnout, practice stress relief techniques and activities of your choice. Opt for any type of activity that takes your mind off of negative thoughts and work-related anxiety:
- Physical exercise;
- Cognitive exercise (puzzles, crosswords, etc.);
- Watching your favorite TV show/film or listening to music, etc.
The list can go on and on. The only rule here is to practice these activities consistently.
- Create a separate workspace
If you feel tempted to work from your bed or at your kitchen table during lunch – resist it.
Make an effort to create a separate workspace where you will feel concentrated on your work. Even if you don’t have a room to turn into a home office, it is possible to create boundaries between your work and your home space.
Invest in a small desk or buy a laptop table to organize a smaller work corner. A dedicated workspace will help you set both physical and mental boundaries between work and home.
- Seek workplace assistance
Remember that your workplace should be supportive when it comes to dealing with work-from-home burnout. Responsible companies run employee assistance programs that help workers prevent and fight burnout.
Contact your HR manager or supervisor and ask them to provide the resources at their disposal. These can include mental health webinars, brochures, or other guides.
- Reward yourself for success
Remote workers often lack a sense of professional recognition due to their physical isolation from the workplace. That’s why to prevent work-from-home burnout and stay motivated, learn to celebrate your professional achievements.
Set weekly or monthly professional goals and mark every completed milestone or task with something rewarding. Say you need to write a lengthy report. Promise yourself to order your favorite takeout once you’re done. Or arrange a night out with your friends to celebrate the project you’ve completed. Anything that floats your boat.
Work-from-home burnout is a real struggle for remote employees in every sphere and niche. No matter how productive and successful you strive to be in your work, remember – your work-life balance and mental health should always be your first priority.
Come back to this guide from time to time to remain aware of your state and address the emerging symptoms of WFH burnout before they become chronic.