As we all get used to working from home (or at least some of us who aren’t used to it), I thought it would be good to write a post outlining some tips on how to avoid burnout while working from home. You might find it ironic to read about how to avoid ‘burnout’ while being at home but I’m here to say it’s real and can sneak up on you very easily. Working from home offers a lot of convenience – no morning traffic, don’t have to pay for parking, coffee is cheaper. But one danger that we don’t think about is how much time we put into work while being at home. It’s ironic that the sheer convenience of being able to work remotely also comes with a potential risk of work being too convenient and thus taking more of our time than we’re mentally prepared to give. Here are some tips to keep that burnout at bay during your time working at home.
Start and Stop Work on Time
Think to when you were working in an office – there’s usually a set of core hours that you need to adhere to which normally leads to a fairly standard start and end time for your work. As you work from home, those hours can quickly get thrown for a loop and you can wind up working somewhat ridiculous hours. Waking up at 6am and deciding to check a few emails before the family gets up can lead to a 12-hour day before you know it. Deciding to open your laptop at 7pm to finish of some presentation slides for the meeting in a couple of days can lead to 11pm calls from your spouse asking why you’re still working. Set a semi-rigid start and stop time for yourself to help stem the tide of temptation to get back to work when you should be taking advantage of some downtime.
Don’t Live in your “Office”
I have a dedicated office in my home since I’m a remote worker and have been for some years. A lot of us aren’t set up for working from home and have had to make makeshift offices out of the kitchen table or the spare bedroom. That’s great – use some creativity to set up a productive workspace. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that if you spend downtime in your “office”, when it comes time to work again on Monday morning, you can already feel burnt out. Example – if I spend a 50-hour work week in my home office, then spend a full Sunday watching Netflix on my laptop or doing freelance work in my office, by Monday morning it feels like Thursday afternoon and you want the week to be over already. You are not mentally refreshed and ready to take on the week. Separate (physically) yourself from your “office” when you don’t need to be in there.
This was a tip that a fellow remote co-worker gave me when I first started working from home full time. He told me that his trick to keeping a high level of sanity was to start his day by taking his dog for a walk around the block before he began work. That became his morning “commute” where he went from personal-mode to work-mode. When he arrived back at the house, his focus was the job. At the end of the day instead of just closing your office door and turning on the TV, he would do the same thing – take the dog for a walk and come back home with the switch flipped to “personal mode”, ready to refresh and be with his family. It’s important that we find some sense of routine that has been ripped away from us in order to keep a sense of normalcy and keep us focused on staying both focused and refreshed.