How to Eliminate WFH Burnout [5 Remedies]
Working from home?
For many, the flexibility that home working provides is life-changing and vastly positive. Yet for all the positive press around the Work From Home (WFH) movement - it far from solves all the issues associated with the modern way of working.
Although, in theory, WFH should help us limit the potential to suffer from burnout. In many circumstances, this isn’t the case - instead contributing more stressors that can lead us to feel like it's just all too much.
In this guide, we walk you through everything you need to know about burnout in a WFH context. We cover how to spot symptoms of burnout, the causes of burnout and what you can do about it.
Even if you don’t believe you are suffering from burnout yourself, this guide is important for two crucial reasons:
It will help you mitigate the risks of future burnout
It will help you spot potential burnout amongst your team members and help you help them
We dive deep into the topic of burnout in this article. If you just want the top-level pointers, here they are (although we do recommend reading the whole thing for maximum value):
Burnout is the word to describe feelings of increased mental distance, exhaustion and reduced efficacy in the workplace
Working from home can increase the chances of developing burnout
Burnout symptoms include struggling to disconnect, having a short temper, lack of motivation and a consistent feeling of fatigue
In a WFH setting, burnout is usually caused by a poor work/life balance, a lack of social connection, stressful work environments and a lack of control
Some top burnout remedies include understanding your personality, removing workplace distractions, leveraging technology and prioritising time away from work
You may need to find professional support if you are dealing with severe or long-term burnout
What is Burnout?
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
reduced professional efficacy.”
Although there are plenty of situations in life that may make you feel depleted of energy, have increased mental distance and reduced efficacy - the term burnout is exclusively used to describe these symptoms within a workplace context.
Burnout is a growing concern in the workplace. In fact, a study by Deloitte found that a massive 77% of those surveyed said they had previously experienced burnout - with an even more worrying 84% of millennials surveyed reporting the same.
Burnout & Working From Home
You would be forgiven for thinking that the huge rise in Working-From-Home (WFH) arrangements has helped limit workplace burnout. After all, WFH is often hailed as a much better way of working, especially as it is supposed to help employees better manage their work/life balance.
Although this is certainly the case for many, WFH can actually have a negative impact on the mental well-being of many employees - especially when their home working environments aren’t conducive to productive working.
The first step in eradicating burnout is actually spotting it is happening. Here are some symptoms to look for:
Struggling to Disconnect
Struggling to disconnect can mean that you find it difficult or impossible to take a step away from work. So, you may find yourself in personal situations such as at a family birthday party, unable to stop thinking or stressing about work.
You may also struggle to disconnect on an emotional level. For example, you may find yourself being deeply offended or upset by comparatively small issues that occur at work.
When you struggle to disconnect you may also find it hard to sleep, as your mind can’t stop thinking about work.
Short Temper, Irretible and Impatient
Burnout can often result in the sufferer losing their temper more easily than usual. This can often occur to the person after the fact - leaving them wondering why they overreacted to something that would usually bother them very little.
Of course, some people just naturally have short tempers and can lose their patience easily. However, if you notice you are more easily losing your cool - this could be a sign of burnout.
Lack of Motivation
Everyone loses their motivation a little sometimes. However, burnout can result in a long-term negative impact on how motivated you feel. This may show itself at work, such as feeling unmotivated to complete work tasks but can equally be seen in your day-to-day life outside of the office.
Consistent Feelings of Fatigue
Feeling a little tired every now and then is natural - especially when you have been up all night watching your new favourite Netflix documentary.
However, burnout can result in a consistent feeling of fatigue. This can occur regardless of how active you have been or how much sleep you are getting. Instead, the fatigue you are feeling is emotional and mental exhaustion.
Causes of WFH Burnout
Once you have noticed the signs of burnout, the next step in dealing with it is identifying why it might be happening. Doing this will help us connect the reason with the best remedy.
It isn’t hard to see how a work/life imbalance might be a key reason you are struggling with burnout.
When you spend unreasonable hours working, this can make it feel like work is the only thing in your life. So getting stressed, feeling fatigued and struggling to disconnect is hardly surprising.
Working from home can actually make it harder to create a healthy work/life balance. This is because you are working and living in the same space - making it tricky to physically and mentally disconnect from work.
Lack of Social Contact
However much our colleagues may annoy us (sometimes), having them there to talk to is a great way to relieve stress and limit the potential for burnout. This may be through talking about situations you find stressful, or even simply chatting about your weekend in order to help you mentally disconnect from work.
Needless to say, a lack of positive social contact is more likely to occur when you are regularly working from home.
Stressful Work Environment
Sure offices can be stressful, especially when you work in a high-pressure environment. But they are also built to work in. This means they typically have everything you need to do your job and limit distractions.
On the other hand, home environments aren’t always the best to work in. This is especially true for people with limited space or who live in households that are busy or noisy during the working day.
Low Levels of Control
A lack of control over your workload can be very stressful for some people. This can easily occur in a regular office but is even more prevalent in a WFH environment when it is more difficult to communicate with those who are managing your workload and time.
5 Burnout Remedies
Ok, so we know what burnout might look like and why it occurs…but what can you do about it? We offer 5 of the best remedies for WFH burnout below:
Don’t worry, we aren't going to recommend that you go on some deep spiritual journey in order to understand yourself (although feel free to do that if you want). What we will recommend is getting to know your own personality and what you need in order to thrive in the workplace.
So far in this guide, we have offered some reasons why you may be feeling burnt out - but these don’t apply to everyone or can vary in importance to others.
For example, lack of social contact may matter very little to some people, especially those who are especially introverted. In fact, they may experience burnout as a result of too much social contact. Equally, some individuals may experience little stress from lack of control, whilst will feel burnt out without it.
There are plenty of specialists out there that can help you understand your personality type. You may want to use a free online personality test to get started.
Knowing your own personality will help you identify what you specifically need in order to limit burnout.
This tip is easier said than done in a WFH environment. Yet taking some time to remove as many distractions from your workplace can be highly beneficial in reducing the potential for burnout.
Work in a separate area of your house from where others are active during the day
Remove distractions such as TVs from your work area
Create a workspace in a room that you can close away at the end of the day, making your ‘work space’ away from your ‘personal space’
Technology can help you overcome many of the potential causes of burnout.
For example, you may use a team communication tool such as Slack to help improve communication with others in your team. You could use project management tools such as Monday.com to help streamline your workload and get better visibility of what is expected of you. You could also consider using tools like Zoom to develop better social interactions with your team members.
At the end of the day, your mental well-being is more important than your job. Suffering from long-term burnout is going to make it more difficult to provide for yourself and your family - so it is crucial that you prioritise yourself over the need to ‘get work done’.
Ensure you book in time to relax and unwind away from work. This is a great sign of self-respect and will ultimately make you better at doing your job.
Seek Professional Help
We have spent a lot of time researching this article and we hope it offers some solid insight for many of the people who read it. However, we are not experts in burnout and in more severe cases professional help may be required.
This may involve talking directly to your manager at work or talking to external mental health professional. It’s ok to ask for help.
WFH Burnout: Summary
It is clear that burnout continues to be a major issue in business. Although the working-from-home movement can make life easier for employees, it also produces a new set of challenges and pressures which can make burnout more common.
This guide provides you with everything you need to identify burnout, its causes and how to remedy them.