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How to Avoid Burnout Working From Home

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Twenty years ago, only a very, very small percentage of people worked remotely. Of course, twenty years ago we all had dial-up internet and America Online was top dog. To say that a lot has changed since then is an understatement. Now many people want to know how to avoid burnout working from home 

The New Normal

how to avoid burnout working from home

Now we have broadband internet, smartphones, and videoconferencing. We store files in the cloud, collaborate with each other in real-time, and discuss projects over Slack.

The way we work has fundamentally changed.

The result is that it’s much easier to work from home, which large numbers of people now do. Check out these statistics:

  • 43% of Americans work from home on occasion.

  • 2% of Americans work from home full-time.

  • 82% of professionals would like to work from home once a week.

  • 52% of professionals desire to work from home a minimum of three days per week.

In 2020, millions of people around the world were forced to work from home for the first time during the COVID-19 crisis.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that working remotely is very different than working in an office. That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to avoid burnout working from home 

Many of the rhythms and routines that help you thrive in the office don’t work as well at home. You can’t just pop into someone’s office for a conversation. You can watch Netflix without fear that your boss will suddenly show up. Your kids can waltz into your office at any time.

How to avoid burnout working from home with a new skill set

If you want to learn how to avoid burnout working from home and thrive as a remote worker, it’s important to learn a new set of skills and strategies.

You need to learn how to be productive in a totally different environment than you’re used to as well as what things to focus on and what to let go.

This step-by-step guide gives you proven tips, tactics, and strategies that will help you work effectively from home without overwhelm and burnout!

Avoid Doing These Things

Before we talk about things you should do, let’s talk about a few things you should avoid when it comes to remote work.

Avoid Trying to Prove You’re Always Working

how to avoid burnout working from home

When you work in an office, it’s easy for your boss to see that you’re working. They know when you’re in the office and when you’re not.

Because this isn’t the case with remote work, you may feel the need to prove to your boss that you’re working by immediately answering every message that comes your way.

The issue with this is that it prevents you from being able to focus for extended periods of time, limiting the amount of work that you actually get done. A better alternative is to let your work speak for itself. If you consistently produce great work, your boss will be totally satisfied.

Avoid Always Being Available

how to avoid burnout working from home

Another big temptation with remote work is feeling like you always need to be available to your boss and coworkers. You feel obligated to respond to messages even if they come in during non-work hours. As a result, you don’t really have much downtime. Even when you’re not working, you still keep an eye on your phone.

As much as possible, try to avoid responding to messages when you’re not working. Sure, there are exceptions to this. But the more you respond during off hours, the more you train others to always expect that behavior from you.

Let everyone know when you’ll be working and only get back to people during those hours. If necessary, create an autoreply that tells people when you’ll get back to them.

Avoid Being Hard on Yourself

If you’re new to remote work, it’s especially important to cut yourself some slack. Working from home is very different than working in an office, and it’s going to take you some time to get your bearings. There will be days when you procrastinate and aren’t as productive as you want to be, and that’s okay.

Over time, you’ll get better at working from home. You’ll start to find rhythms and routines that really work for you. You’ll figure out how to be productive. In the meantime, don’t be hard on yourself. Treat yourself with compassion.

Stick to a Schedule

make a schedule to boost productivity

One of the great advantages of remote work is that you have more flexibility to set your schedule. You don’t have to rush to get ready in the morning or deal with a long commute at the end of the day. You can sleep in a bit later if you want and have more time at home at the end of the day.

However, the absence of a defined schedule can also be a downfall. It can be tough to get motivated to get started. It’s easy to forget to take breaks. Work time and downtime start to bleed together.

Dr. Thuy-vy Nguyen researches solitude and the effects it has on people. She says:

“Usually our time and the structure of our day are influenced by other people. You’re going to experience your day as lacking the normal structures that you usually have. People might have a hard time dealing with it. So one of the things that we found in our trying to understand solitude, is that time spent alone is better if it’s structured.”

 

To keep yourself on track, try to maintain a schedule as much as possible.

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Determine Your Working Hours In Advance

Set clear working hours while working from home

  • When you’ll start work
  • Break times
  • Quitting time

Maintaining a predetermined schedule will add much needed structure to your day. It helps you organize your morning so that you start on time and provides a tangible finish line at the end of the day. It also prevents overwork, ensuring that you take needed breaks throughout the day.

Communicate your schedule to all the relevant parties, like your boss, family, friends, or anyone else who should know. Establish clear boundaries regarding when you will and won’t be working. This keeps work and rest from bleeding into each other.

Consider creating pre-work routines that will get you in a productive mindset. Think about the things you do prior to starting work at the office. Maybe you listen to an audiobook during your commute. Maybe you make coffee or enjoy an at home workout. Think about ways you can duplicate these routines at home.

Google employees Kim Mok and Gabriel Manga write:

“When you work in an office, the daily routine of getting ready and commuting helps your brain get ready for the day. When you’re working remotely, you can create “start the day” triggers that get your head ready for work in a similar way, like exercising, reading the news, or making coffee.”

 

As tempting as it may be to spend all day working in your pajamas, take the time to actually get dressed. When you get dressed, it’s a signal to your brain and body that you’re transitioning out of relaxing and into work. This makes it easier to get started.

Make Sure to Take Breaks

take breaks to boost productivity

It’s essential to take breaks while working from home.

When you work in an office, your day tends to be broken up with meetings, conversations with coworkers, and other items. At home, many of these things don’t exist. If you’re not careful, you can end up working for hours without giving your mind a rest — a sure recipe for burnout.

Schedule activities that will refresh you mentally, like going for a walk, drinking tea on your porch, or calling a friend. These things aren’t time wasters. They actually make you more productive.

Set Clear Boundaries & Enforce Them

how to set clear boundaries

It’s also important to establish clearly defined boundaries about when you will and won’t be working. If your quitting time is 5:00 PM, do your best to completely quit. Don’t use your smartphone to keep monitoring your email or Slack messages. If you don’t have a clearly defined quitting time, work will quickly take over and you risk becoming a workaholic.

Your goal is to be fully present whatever you’re doing. During work hours, you want to be able to focus on doing your job as much as possible. When work is over, you want to be able to give your time and attention to your family and friends.

You may want to experiment with your schedule a bit to find what works best for you. Some people are more productive when they start early in the morning. Others do better starting later in the day and working into the evening. There’s no right way to schedule your day. You just need to be available to your boss and coworkers for a chunk of time.

Obviously, you don’t have to stick to your schedule 100%. If something important comes up, roll with it. If you need to work longer or end early, that’s okay. That’s the beauty of working from home. But a schedule is a powerful weapon in your productivity arsenal. Use it wisely.

Create a Working Space

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Similar to a defined schedule, a designated working space can help keep your work life and home life apart. When you enter your working space, you know that it’s time to get down to business. When you leave, you know that it’s time to relax.

As much as possible, try to make your workspace feel separate from the rest of your living quarters.

This doesn’t mean you must have an entirely separate room to work in. If you live in a small home or apartment, that might not be possible. It simply means that you primarily use that space for working and not leisure.

Any area will do:

Choose an area of your home as a working space and try to use that space consistently for work. The more you work in one area, the more your brain will associate that area with your job. As the association in your brain strengthens, entering your workspace will act as a trigger, signaling to your brain that it’s time to work.

Create a Distraction-Free Work Environment

how to avoid burnout working from home

To optimize productivity, you need to make your workspace as free from distractions as possible.

This probably means being separated from your family. As fun as it is to interact with them all day, they’ll distract you and keep you from getting your work done.

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If you can’t physically separate yourself, using noise-cancelling headphones can also reduce distractions. Listening to relatively peaceful music or background noise can help you block out what’s going on around you and focus on your work.

Some listening options to consider:

Comfort is Important for Effectiveness & Efficiency

how to avoid burnout working from home

It really helps if you can make your space comfortable.

Remember, you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time there. If you’re working in a dark and dingy spot, the thought of starting work will make you cringe.

Get a comfy chair and maybe put a few decorations around you, and even an office plant. If you can, work in a well-lit area, preferably illuminated by natural light. Get creative with your space!

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When the day is over, “close” your working space. Shut down any work-related items on your computer (browser tabs, email) and avoid opening them until the next day. Tidy up your space so that it’s ready for tomorrow. Doing these things will help you mentally “leave” work so that it doesn’t bleed into your down time.

.As with your schedule, feel free to experiment with your work area. Try a few different locations to see what feels best. You don’t have to work at a desk or table. You can sit in your favorite chair or on your back porch if the weather is right. The choice is yours.

You can THRIVE as a remote worker

Some people thrive working from home while others really struggle. The difference is the ways in which they adapt to their new environment.

Those who struggle try to work remotely in the same ways that they worked at the office. Those who thrive understand that working from home is an entirely new ballgame requiring new techniques and strategies.

We covered 5 techniques that can help you supercharge your productivity and happiness as a remote worker:

  • Avoid trying to prove yourself
  • Avoid always being available
  • Take it easy on yourself
  • Stick to a schedule
  • Create a working space

We cover 5 more techniques and share a ton of resources in this post: >> Remote Working Burnout? You Need These Resources!

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