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A lot of us are working from home right now - many of us for the first time and for longer than ever anticipated. We've all heard of worker burnout in the office, but can you burnout from working from home? It turns out, yes, work from home burnout is real, and may in fact be more common than workplace burnout, especially when you factor in things like childcare and lack of clear boundaries between your work life and your home life. Many of us are looking at working from home long-term, so what can we do to cope? Here are just a few tips to get started.
1. Create a "start" and "end" work ritual
We've all heard about assigning a space in your home as a work space to keep your work and home separate, but this goes beyond just having separate spaces for separate tasks. This is about creating a mindset of work-mode versus home-mode. Create a ritual that works for you that teaches your brain "it's time to start work now." This could mean preparing your coffee, laying out your work equipment in a specific way in a specific space, turning on a specific type of music or following a set of tasks like checking email, checking news, etc. The point is to do the same thing at the same time every workday to train your brain to get into work-mode. Then do the same type of thing at night, close your laptop or turn off your computer, put away your equipment, etc., and immediately step away from your work and do something non-work related like preparing a meal or playing with your kids or pets to get your brain out of work-mode and into home-mode.
2. Don't let web conference fatigue happen to you
A huge part of the WFH blues is due to the near-constant stream of web conferences, webinars, and video meetings. It can be hard to be "on" all the time and smiling. It can be stressful to look at the video of yourself looking back at you. You might roll from one meeting to the next and just wish you had time to grab a snack. These virtual meetings can be just as stressful if not more so than a regular meeting or day in the office because they lack the familiarity and ease of a face-to-face meeting. So what can you do? Start by, when possible, cutting back your video calls and conferences. Ask yourself, can this meeting be an email? If so, just write the email instead of coordinating schedules. If the meeting isn't a requirement for you job, it's okay to skip it. If you must meet, consider bringing your pet along if you have one, both to break from the monotony and for the relaxing benefits they provide.
3. Take your breaks
It's easier than ever to just work through lunch or skip your 15-minute breaks. You're working from home after all, isn't that basically a break itself? No. It's not. Working from home is working even if you get the joys of watching your kids or pets play while you do it. Taking breaks can help with productivity and creativity, so don't avoid them. Get up and walk around. Prepare your lunch and snacks. Go outside if your weather allows it for a walk in your neighborhood or have a picnic on your lawn. Do something for yourself that isn't work related because you deserve that break and a little time away from your work.
Working from home may be the new reality for a lot of us, but it doesn't have to result in burnout. This experience is new for all of us and it's important to be gentle with yourself. Take care out there and stay safe and strong.