3 Tips to Avoid Burnout When Working Remotely

August 3, 2020 | Business Management
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3 Easy Ways to Take Care of Yourself and Avoid Burnout When You Work Remotely

Tired? Burnt out? Feeling unable to do what you need to do today?

Pause for a moment and take a deep breath. What you’re feeling is entirely normal.

All of us experience work-related stress and fatigue from time to time. It can manifest as anxiety, boredom, anger, sadness, disgust, or a mixture of these emotions. Many people also feel guilt or shame for not being as productive or as interested in the work as they feel they should be.

Whatever it looks like for you, burnout is a very real and common concern. By some estimates, over a third of workers suffer from it every week. No profession is immune from burnout, and it can happen even when you work remotely. 

In fact, the recent shift to remote work has created the conditions for burnout for many people. As organizational behavior researchers Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review:

“The lines between work and non-work are blurring in new and unusual ways, and many employees who are working remotely for the first time are likely to struggle to preserve healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives. To signal their loyalty, devotion, and productivity, they may feel they have to work all the time. Afternoons will blend with evenings; weekdays will blend with weekends; and little sense of time off will remain.”

If you’ve been struggling lately with remote burnout, you need to take the matter seriously. Chronic stress can lead to or compound mental and physical health issues such as depression, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and gastrointestinal problems. No workload is worth all that.

Don’t keep pushing yourself. Here are a few quick tips for managing burnout and stress when you work remotely.

1. Advocate for Yourself

Many people find it difficult to ask for help. Even if your boss has told you, “my door’s always open,” it can feel awkward or embarrassing to bring up concerns about workload and burnout. This is particularly true in the context of remote work. Maybe your manager is hard to reach, or maybe—if you work for yourself—you don’t have a manager at all.

In either case, it’s imperative that you take your well-being and work–life balance into your own hands. 

If you do have a manager or a team member you can talk to, remember that communication goes both ways. Don’t wait for them to check in with you. Don’t always assume they know what’s best for you, or that they know how you’re feeling. Be proactive about starting the conversation, advocating for your needs, and keeping that door open.

If you’re your own boss, you need to take that role seriously. Do the work, go above and beyond, underpromise and overdeliver—but at the same time, protect yourself. If you’re tired, overstressed, or not feeling well, give yourself a day off. An occasional mental health day is vital.

However your work is structured, keep in mind that you’re human. You don’t need to constantly be available or work yourself to the bone. Practice saying “no.”

2. Establish Boundaries

Ever wondered why some people excel at balancing their careers and personal lives? How do they get everything done without working all the time? 

Their secret is boundaries. Happy, successful remote workers establish clear, inviolable boundaries. They differentiate between work hours and off-hours, as well as between their workspaces and the rest of their homes. 

This has the effect of creating two distinct mindsets: one that’s focused entirely on the job, and one that’s entirely unplugged from the job when it’s time to relax. Think of it as a work self and a non-work self.

There are a few practical ways you can practice establishing boundaries and living as two “selves”:

          -Work somewhere other than where you sleep, eat, and hang out. A personal office (with a door you can close) is ideal; but at the very least, a seat at a table, spot on the couch, or countertop will suffice as long as you don’t use that space for any other purpose.

          -Go into do-not-disturb mode. When you’re off the clock, don’t check or respond to work emails, messages, and phone calls. When you’re on the clock, don’t engage in chores or give into small personal demands. If someone doesn’t respect this boundary, politely but firmly talk to them about it—and if all else fails, ignore them or block them.

          -Create a work playlist. Maybe it’s a collection of music you can listen to while working (if your job allows for it), or a few songs that pump you up before you start working for the day.

          -Communicate your boundaries. Make sure any employers, clients, or colleagues—as well any family or co-inhabitants—have the right expectations about your work schedule and availability. You may want to set an away message or autoresponder during off-hours.

3. Create a Routine

Remote work can feel chaotic and erratic, with unpredictable busy periods and dry spells, sudden influxes of emails, changing deadlines, various meetings and calls scheduled on top of each other, and so forth. And then there are the unanticipated floods, electrical outages, plumbing problems, and the various needs of family members, roommates, and pets. 

Routines to the rescue! If you’re like most people, you can find peace and comfort in predictable meal times, breaks, and starts and ends to the day. 

One of the benefits of remote work is that this routine doesn’t need to be the typical 9–5 or 8–6. You can start and end earlier, or later. You can take multiple breaks. You can frontload or backload your week, or work a little every day, or work just a few long shifts per week (as your work permits, of course).

In any case, the fewer choices you have to make and fewer variables you have in your schedule, the more time and energy you can devote to your job when it’s time to work. This is why people like Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear the same thing every day.

Regardless of what your routine looks like, remember to block out time to take care of yourself. Get up from your workspace regularly. Make time for exercise, recreation, meals, and hobbies. Find healthy, fun ways to reward yourself at the end of the day. Give yourself an hour or several to take a walk, listen to music, watch a movie, or just relish your alone time.

If you’ve tried doing these things and still feel exhausted, stressed, and burnt out at work, it’s time to consider a job change. Learn how Liveops gives you the flexibility to pursue your career and live your life on your terms.

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Matt Lurie

Matt Lurie

Matt Lurie is a freelance writer, editor, and designer. He has worked in industries such as retail, marketing, accounting, real estate, legal services, and technology, with a focus on helping pioneering and transformative brands tell their stories.