Davina Ramkissoon, psychology specialist and Wellness Director at Zevo, offers her advice for employers and employees on how to avoid burnout when working from home.
Working from home has its benefits like greater flexibility, no morning commute and more time to spend with your loved ones or on your hobbies. However, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges.
Many of us are used to office routines that guarantee clear time boundaries and social interactions and we may not have realised how heavily we rely on these in order to structure our day.
The need and speed at which we all moved to remote working have meant that many of us had to create our own 'pop-up' offices in our bedrooms, living rooms or if we were lucky, an existing home office.
As the 'newness' of the situation starts to wane, we now might find ourselves feeling confused, stressed, irritable or drained of energy as we play catch up on ourselves.
Working from home has its benefits and we should continue to embrace those; however, it also brings a new set of challenges which we must address to ensure continued wellbeing.
Avoiding burnout during COVID 19
To avoid burnout working from home we need to learn how to:
- Create healthy boundaries between work and private life
- Wind-down and switch off after work
- Manage distractions at home
- Manage stress generated by the fact that family life, day-to-day tasks and work duties happen in the same place (and often at the same time)
- Manage anxiety arising from a constant stream of Coivd-19 related news, coming from different devices
These challenges leave employees under pressure and stressed, and employers wondering how they can help to navigate these unchartered territories, (often whilst experiencing the same issues).
The good news is that we are not left without any control over the situation. There are practical and proven steps that can help to alleviate stress and in the long run prevent burnout for employees and employers alike.
What can employers do?
A very simple yet powerful strategy is to be empathetic and to let your empathy show to your employees. When people feel heard and understood they become more resilient.
Simply admitting the fact that it is hard to manage working remotely in the current situation can build a connection and understanding between people.
Another step towards successfully working from home is knowledge. Employers should share practical and evidence-based strategies with employees that can help to manage wfh burnout and stress.
What can employees do?
Below are a few tips on how to make our working from home less daunting and more enjoyable.
How to minimise the risk of burnout
Create your workstation
Be it the luxury of your home office or a specific corner of your dining table, make sure this space is designated for work only. It helps when your workplace is non-cluttered and distraction-free.
Your morning routine
While working from home, it can be tempting to stay in bed as long as possible. In the long run, this mindset can work against you.
You don't have to get up super early but a routine will help. Set your alarm for a time that is realistic for you. Being able to stick to your plans and goals will reward you with a sense of accomplishment and control.
Dress for work. Being suitably attired while working can help you get into the work discipline. Changing clothes at the end of your working day can also help you to unwind, switch off and relax.
Plan your day
Research has shown that having consistent daily routines positively affects our mental health and sleep patterns. Planning your lunch or coffee break can help you re-energise and increase your productivity while you stay at home.
Try the Pomodoro Technique. This time management system consists of four 25-minute periods of work separated by a five minute intervals.
At the end, you then take a longer 15-minute break. Spend your breaks away from your workstation, a little stretch or walk can be great too.
While working from home it is easy to let go of your exercise routine. Choose an activity that is most enjoyable for you.
Walking, running or a stretch will bring your endorphin levels up, leaving you energized and will help to manage stress levels.
Create a varied list of exercises you like. That way exercising won't feel like another chore and you won't get bored.
Working from home can make it more difficult to keep healthy eating habits. We are more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks. To minimise this make them less accessible by removing them from your sight.
Putting snacks in a press that is more difficult to access can help. We are less likely to reach for a biscuit in the top press than in an open tin on the kitchen table. Planning your meals ahead and preparing healthy snacks is also a good strategy.
'Pack up' at the end of the day
Setting up your boundaries between your work and leisure time is essential while working from home. By putting away your laptop and organising your papers, your mind receives a message that it is time to leave the work behind and relax.
Changing your clothes and having a cup of tea just after work can be another routine that will help you maintain a boundary between work and rest.
Creating and maintaining as clear as possible boundaries between your home office and your personal life can help you make the most from the situation while remaining productive.
Review the way you work
As there is no longer a physical separation between work and home life, it could very easy to extend your working day without realising the impact on your wellbeing until you hit exhaustion.
Take a moment to review your current working practices; take stock of your current working hours and how colleagues are contacting you, (it's usually a combination of work instant messages, emails and calls from your desktop and mobile all at the same time), and see what boundaries could be introduced.
For example, when working on a focused task, you could close your emails or snooze notifications to prevent getting overwhelmed. When our focus is refracted across numerous tasks it can be hard to feel a sense of achievement for anything completed which also depletes us.