Tell me. When was the last time you really stepped away from work and took some time just for yourself? Turned off all the emails, the WhatsApp, the texts, the Facebook notifications, the constant worry about that next big project or deadline — and just took a moment for yourself to regroup and refocus?
Well, here’s the thing: Workplace burnout doesn’t solely happen when you’re putting in long hours at the office. It’s also a risk when you’re working from home, camped out at your kitchen table or living room couch in your sweats.
In fact, with PM Lee’s announcement on Wednesday, 22 April 2020 of the extended circuit breaker period till 1 June 2020, the risk could be even greater given our current situation.
One expert even mentioned that the suddenness with which so many of us were forced to start working from home — while also having our children prancing around at home 24/7 due to schools and childcare services being shutdown — combined with a global pandemic that seems to have no end in sight, means the risk of burnout has intensified. Not great news at all. I mean, come on, we’ve got enough on our plates to worry about, am I right?
So what are some signs of burnout and what you can do about them?
You do not have a work-life balance.
When you were going into the office every day, there was a clear physical distinction between your work life and your personal/ family time. But now that you don’t have to commute to mark the beginning and end of your day (which could be a blessing in disguise for those who hated the long commute and sardine-squeezed trains during peak hour), you can end up working all the time if you’re not careful!
How to fight it:
- Set your work hours – Sticking to a 9-to-6 schedule may also prove unrealistic as you might need to cook lunch and dinner for your family, help your children with their e-learnings or do house chores. Setting your work hours that functions best for you is crucial, then remember to stick to it. But be conscious and respectful that others might work at different times than you do. With or without children, you can also create intentional work hours by adding an “out-of-office” reply during certain hours of the day. A less-extreme reply might just be to let others know that you might be slower than usual in responding, decreasing response expectations for others and yourself.
- Prioritize work – While working from home, you might feel compelled to project the appearance of productivity, which can lead to you working on tasks that are more immediate instead of more important. But busy doesn’t necessarily mean productive. It’s essential to work on tasks that are important. I generally schedule my work priorities the night before or in advance, so that I don’t get sidetracked and stay on task the next day.
- Allocate a proper work area – The location for setting up your home office is crucial to avoid distractions. If your office could be your kitchen, your living room, your kid’s playroom, etc., stop and allocate a proper work area. This is to help you separate work time from personal/ family time.
- Don’t work in your PJs – Getting showered and dressed can help put you in the right frame of mind for work. You don’t have to put on makeup, but at least comb your hair!
- Distract your children with activities or school work – With school and daycare closures, it will be hard not to get distracted by your children being home 24/7. If you have younger children below the primary school age, try engaging them with stimulating activities (that aren’t the television or your phone) that will keep them occupied. If you have older children, ask them to keep up with their e-learning and homework assignments, or engage in other stimulating activities during the upcoming May holidays.
- Have a transition ritual – Create a practice that helps you change gears and transition from work to downtime. That could be exercising, taking a shower, changing your outfit, meditating for five minute, making a list of the top three things to be done the next day, zeroing your inbox, and straightening up your workspace.
You feel a lack of control over your schedule
Employees who feel that they lack control over their schedules, interactions and time management are at risk of burning out. I mean, if you are setting meetings or replying work emails throughout the whole day and night, then there is definitely some lack of control going on. Just because you are working from home does not mean that your work hours should change to being 24/7.
How to fight it:
- Keep to a schedule – Create a schedule that designates time for work, family and yourself — and then be sure to stick to it. Just like when you are in your work office, establishing a daily routine will help you stay on track and limit your ability to get sidetracked. Try to stay off social media as it can be time-consuming. Also, schedule time at the end of the day to clear your desk and plan for the next day.
- Turn to your boss and colleagues for support – Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others if you are feeling overwhelmed with too much on your plate.
- Maintain the social connections with your boss and colleagues – Working from home can be isolating, even when you’re in a house full of people, as you don’t have your colleagues right there to turn to with a problem or to provide some relief when things get stressful. Maintaining these social interactions takes more effort when working from home. Be deliberate about reaching out, setting up phone or video meetings to help continue to foster your relationships.
These are just a few recommendations that may help you avoid burnout while working from home! Who knows, you might even get used to it and never want to go to the office again!
We hope that everyone is coping and keeping safe during this global pandemic we are facing.
This article is brought to you by eVantage Technology.
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