How to Avoid Burnout when Working from Home
A New Kind of Office
With the advancement of technology and widespread coverage of the internet, more people than ever are working from home. Businesses understand that they can cut significant costs by allowing their employees to perform tasks from the comfort of their own homes. Cutting out time spent at the office has a lot of benefits for both employee and employers; however, it does have its potential problems. Burning out is one of those.
In the scope of working from home, burning out typically means that the worker attempts to do too much work at a given time and thus wears themselves out to the point where they lack the motivation and energy to continue to work. Obviously, this can prove to be quite the problem. Workers that don’t produce results for their respective companies could be let go, and they could lose their main source of income. For workers who freelance, a day without work is potentially an entire paycheck lost.
To make sure you don’t work yourself toward burning out, here are a few steps that you might want to consider in order to avoid it.
It’s easy to separate work and your private life when you have a job outside of your home. The pressures and exhaustion of work can be set aside the moment you enter your car or arrive home. That is not the case for those who work at home. Too often, you may move from place to place, bringing your work along with you. When it comes time to relax, you suddenly find yourself surrounded by your work or, at the very least, reminded of your work. This can make it difficult to relax and disengage.
As such, be sure that you designate a single space within your home where you can perform work tasks. This keeps work—and all of the feelings associated with it—confined to that single area, allowing you to find comfort and relaxation in the other parts of your home.
Sometimes a simple change of location is what you need to re-energize yourself. By staying in one room all of the time, particularly if you are alone, the strain of work can sometimes pile up and weigh heavily on you. If you feel as though your workspace is starting to close in on you, take a break from it and take your work on the road. One of the best benefits of working from home is that it’s typically a mobile profession. You can easily take what you need and head to the local coffee shop or park. This change of scenery could offer you a new perspective or jolt to the creative juices that you need.
Another aspect of location to consider is preventing yourself from working in your bed. While this may be tempting, especially in the initial stages of working from home, it isn’t the best idea in the long run. Nor is working in a recliner. For one, such places work to promote leisure activities and relaxation. You don’t want to be lulled into sleep when you’re attempting to work. Secondly, neither offer the proper support that your body requires.
Posture is important to your health. It keeps your spine—and, as a result, the rest of your body—aligned, and it could play a key role in whether or not you develop a headache or migraine. Because these pains can be quite distracting from your work, it’s best to help maintain your posture as much as you can. Staying out of the bed and recliner are both excellent ideas to do just that.
Instead, find yourself a decent office chair and desk—or table—that you can utilize. You should also stay out of your bedroom entirely. Your “office space” shouldn’t even be in your bedroom if you can avoid it. Again, the goal here is to separate relaxation and the stress of work.
Without someone there to constantly look over your shoulder and keep you on track, it can be easy to miss deadlines and get off schedule. When you’re in a place of a business, you have your co-workers and boss to rely on to keep you on task and to ensure that you’re working at the productive pace you need. Those are resources you won’t have at home.
Instead, you need to find your own reinforcements for productivity. For some, this could be as simple as having a written schedule. By understanding your deadlines and what needs to be done at a certain time, you can formulate small goals and tasks that you need to complete each day. By doing this, you can be sure that you don’t overwork or work too little, causing a scramble to finish the project on time.
Print out or write on a piece of paper your schedule and have it nearby where you can easily access it. For those who don’t like to waste paper, there are plenty of apps on your phone—as well as sites on the internet—that are designed to help you stay on task. They can alert you when you should be done with a task or help limit the distractions that the internet can provide.
Due of the lack of co-worker presence, you may feel that you’re the only one doing any work. When you see those projects posted by your employer, it’s easy to forget that there are other people working on them, too. You might end up throwing your all into the project and taking on far more responsibility than you actually need to in the first place. To prevent this, set limitations for yourself. Understand that there are other people who are also working at the office (or their home, like yourself) on the same project. Don’t do twice the work when you don’t need to. By keeping to your schedule and maintaining small goals, you can stay on pace without overexerting yourself.
Of course, you had breaks when you were working at an office building. It’s only right that you have breaks in your own home, too. It may not feel like you do since you’re in a comfortable space, and you can easily use the bathroom whenever you want. However, breaks are just as important when you work at home as they are in a place of business. While you may not feel as physically exhausted, your mind most certainly will. As such, take a few minutes—perhaps even a half hour to an hour, depending on the hours you work—to just relax. This can help your brain to break up the monotony of the work.
Performing the same task over and over can leave you bored with monotony. When this happens, you can easily become distracted. This immediately lowers your productivity level, and you may have to scramble and burn yourself out sooner in order to catch up. As such, take those breaks and give your brain a chance to focus on something else.
With a refreshed brain, you might even be able to return to work with a refocused mind with a breakthrough on something that might have previously been eluding you. In addition, breaks also help you to retain memories more easily and efficiently, so don’t be afraid to step outside of your home for a bit and give your brain a break.
Organization is key. Surely your desk at the office wasn’t cluttered. You should keep such standards of cleanliness in mind at your home office, too. If you have unnecessary papers cluttering up your workspace, you should get rid of them. Many researchers have found that a disorganized workspace leads to a disorganized mind. Since you want to make the most of your brainpower and run at peak efficiency, you should do what you can to give it its best shot.
In the case of practicality, all of those papers scattered about without a purpose could be covering the papers that do serve a purpose. Instead of spending precious minutes searching for the right file or paper that you need, you can get rid of the waste and organize the remaining relevant documents. In so doing, you can easily collect the information that you need and streamline some of your work. As a result, you’ll find you’re more efficient and your brain will take less of a toll in trying to remember where everything is, too.
Another key to ensuring efficiency is determining what part of the workload is a priority and what can wait. Priority projects should always be performed first, and you should focus most of your attention and energy towards completing them. The unimportant tasks are mundane. The last thing you want to do is spend an hour or two on something that will have no great impact on your employer one way or another. Not only was that an hour or two that you wasted when you could have finished more important tasks, but that’s also a toll on your brain and energy that you can’t necessarily get back. When you’re given your tasks, or you have to determine your tasks for the day, carefully weed out the unimportant tasks from the priority ones. In this way, you can be sure that your employer is receiving your best work, and you can spare your brain from needless work.
Working Hours and Communication
Unless you invite your coworkers to work at your house, you’re going to find yourself in your home office all alone at work. Not only can this make you lonely, but it can make your brain bored without a bit of social stimulation. Luckily, there have been numerous sites and applications on the internet created just to give coworkers an easy method for communicating with one another. These sites can include text-based communication, audio, and sometimes even visual. You can send links, share gifs and images, and just have a nice place to either encourage one another, take one another’s minds off of work for a bit, or even seek help if you’re struggling with a particular portion of your project.
It’s important to communicate with your coworkers. For one, you won’t feel as alone, but also, it gives your brain some sense of enjoyment when performing the work. You can practically guarantee that if the only sensation your brain is receiving during work is monotonous boredom, pain, and stress, then it’s going to try to convince you to do other things to fill your time instead. Just be sure that when you do communicate with your co-workers that you still remain on task. Don’t let them be a distraction and don’t become one for them.
Another aspect to consider is your work hours. Because you work at home, you can make up your own schedule to a degree. However, if you’re like anyone else, you likely have engagements and a life outside of work, too. These activities and responsibilities might come into conflict with your work hours if you choose to have your work hours later in the day. Ultimately, you need to find what works best for you. You should also keep in mind that you may need to match your work hours with those of your coworkers. Not only will this allow you to reliably communicate with them, but if there is a problem that arises, and you need help during everyone else’s off-time, you might be out of luck.
It might also affect your performance if you’re working on a schedule that doesn’t quite match with your employer or fellow employees. You might miss important phone or video conferences, and that could significantly affect your job performance. As such, you need to put a lot of thought into what your work schedule is going to be. Once you have that decided, you need to ensure that you keep to it consistently and that you inform your coworkers of your schedule. Make sure they know when they can and can’t disturb you, so you can log off without interruption.