April 21st, 2020
Gone are the days where you’d hear a friend or colleague say, “I wish I could work from home more often.” Now you hear, “I wish I could go back to the office” or “I miss having an office to go to.” Where flexibility was once seen as a perk, as they say, too much of a good thing eventually starts to wear off. These days, remote working is the only option.
The reality is the significant transition that so many organizations and workers experienced due to COVID-19 to remote working, have created ‘new problems’ to be concerned about. And not just ensuring employees are being productive but considering the mental health and emotional well-being of workers. If it wasn’t already a concern before, it just got magnified over the last several weeks.
According to Gallup research, loneliness is a common challenge remote workers experience. What’s important to note is employees can experience loneliness both in the office *and* working remotely. It’s an emotional response that can be managed. Being intentional around responding to loneliness when you feel it by ensuring you find ways to ‘stay connected’ may be stating the obvious however important to highlight, nonetheless.
That said, what might work for the extraverted employee may not work well for the shy, introverted employee who needs to exert a little more effort to put themselves out there and connect with their peers. Finding ways that work for you to connect with others throughout your day isn’t just encouraged, it’s vital to your emotional and mental wellbeing in a remote work environment.
While loneliness can creep up for any of us working remotely, burnout is equally a real challenge we can experience. The flexibility employees once dreamed of today is now a reality we are living in the short term with no definitive date to return to the office. If not managed appropriately, our new work environments can leave us feeling a need to re-charge and restore sooner than we might have imagined. Away from any and all devices.
While cost savings are one of the benefits for employers with a remote workforce, for employees, that flexibility can soon turn into no structure, poor communication and increased isolation. The lines between when to start and finish work soon enough become blurred.
Communication can go haywire, emails are now sent at all hours of the day, perhaps even on the weekends. The physical routine of starting your morning with a smoothie and grabbing a coffee to go on your commute to work is no longer and in-person meetings are now done via Zoom or some other web conferencing platform.
So, how do you prevent burnout while working remotely and preserve your mental and emotional wellbeing?
Create structure and balance in your day
That morning routine you used to have. That mid-day lunch break you used to take with your peers or colleagues from the office. Re-create the experience. We are creatures of habit and routines help us stay on track with ‘what’s important’ and allow us to do the things that are familiar to us. If you’re someone who likes the thrill of a new challenge and likes to switch things up, see what your friends or family members are doing with their routines. Don’t be afraid to experiment vs. abandoning it altogether if you get bored and fall into no routine at all. Use your creativity and have fun with it.
One thing I’ve done is thought about activities that were once reserved for the weekend and are now being introduced in my work week. Yep, I’m not ‘saving’ a trip to the art gallery for a Saturday afternoon. With art galleries now offering virtual tours, I’m slotting in an hour into a day or two where I do an activity that creates the ‘fun aspect’ of my schedule into my week. It’s also my way of creating balance. I dare you to try it!
Create and reinforce strong boundaries
I’ve talked about them before and they’re even more important in a remote work environment. Boundaries help create structure around your day, protect your time and your energy. Remember those blurred lines from your work schedule? Responding to emails at all hours of the day and having no hard stop and start time to your day? Don’t let the burnout of working from home get the best of you because of poor boundaries. What hours of your work schedule work best for you? If you have flexibility around your working hours, a schedule will help manage your time as a start. Consider communicating this to your team and manager to ensure everyone is on the same page. Boundaries don’t mean being unavailable and not accessible when you’re needed most.
Technology and equipment – are they up to date?
This one may be out of your control if you’re an employee, however, as a leader, it’s a change that can be a lifesaver for your people. The smallest of changes to the very equipment and technology you use can make the world of a difference in productivity and efficiency in everyone’s workdays. By now, you may be all set with your network and connection at work, however, in the event you may be dealing with technology and connectivity issues, this is a time where upgrades may not be the first priority on your list, but necessary. Consider how frustrating it is when you’re on a call and there are connection issues or the call drops. Perhaps you’re on your laptop and it’s taking forever and a day for something to load. Our technology can work for us with speed or simply delay us and create inefficiencies as well as create unnecessary frustration. What technology and network connectivity apps can afford to be upgraded?
These are just 3 recommendations among others I’m sure, that can be helpful to prevent burnout while working remotely. We often deal with problems when they’re so big we have to deal with it. Caring for our wellbeing and preventing it from deteriorating is something we all have control over and can choose how to manage.
Most importantly, if you need support – ask for it. Suffering in silence or trying to appease those close to you doesn’t help you or anyone else for that matter. Clarify your needs and find the courage to speak up.
What else would you add to help prevent burnout while working from home?
Let me know in the comments below!
To your health and success!