It’s been almost a year since many of us swapped Tube seats for sofas and office chairs for kitchen chairs and started working from home full-time. Initially it seemed like a fun experiment, wearing sweatpants to video meetings, working from bed and trying out funny Zoom backdrops. Once the months started trickling by, however, it’s likely that fatigue and frustration began to set in. If you like working in a collaborative environment, it’s very difficult to sit in your spare room alone every single day, willing the squirrel who hangs out in your garden to perch on the windowsill so they can stand in as an emergency co-worker.
If you’ve been experiencing stress, sadness and anxiety about working from home for the foreseeable future, it’s possible that you’re experiencing working from home burnout. Burnout refers to feelings of exhaustion, cynicism and reduced confidence about what you’re doing. If working with your laptop balanced on your knees every day is getting to be a bit much, we’re here to help you cope.
Build up your boundaries
When you can attend a meeting in your pyjamas and have no-one be the wiser, it’s clear how the boundaries between your work life and your personal life can quickly become blurred, or even nonexistent. It’s crucial to ensure that work isn’t seeping into your every waking minute, and to put boundaries on work-related activities. That could mean working in a different physical space to where you relax, using a different browser window for your work stuff and your Netflix tabs, or putting your phone on do not disturb mode at a certain time of day.
Being productive and feeling busy are two different things. Take regular breaks throughout your working day to recharge, relax and rest your eyes for a moment - ideally without looking at a screen.
This is especially important when it comes to lunch. It’s likely that when you worked in an office you took at least ten minutes to stroll to Pret and back. Don’t compromise yourself by eating lunch al desko every day and getting endless crumbs underneath your computer keyboard (never a good look). Try using your lunch break to get a workout in, do some simple stretches or simply take a walk to the park. This way, you’ll support both your physical and your mental health, and almost certainly make yourself more productive when you return to your tasks in the afternoon.
Give yourself a treat
If COVID-19 didn’t exist, we’d all be going out to dinner, meeting friends for drinks and trying out a fun new workout class on a weekday morning. Just because we’re now working from home doesn’t mean we can’t do nice things for ourselves during the week. Schedule a video call with a friend, crack open a new novel or have an indulgent bath with your favourite expensive bath oil. This will help both your mind and body to reset and help you to feel less stressed.
Get some sleep
Sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing, and if you’re feeling burned out from working from home, it’s even more important than usual to give our brains a chance to rest. Getting a good night’s sleep will improve your mood and energy levels.
If you’re having trouble nodding off, check out our guide to getting the best night’s sleep of your life. Give yourself the best possible chance to rest, such as having a hot bath or shower just before bed, limiting screen time and doing some mindfulness or meditation before you close your eyes.
Plan your day
If you’ve been waking up every day with the fear of a day spent working alone weighing on you, you might find it helpful to plan out what you’re going to be doing in advance. The human brain loves structure, so this could help you to feel more in control and less alone.
Try writing down a list of tasks you want to do today and setting alarms on your phone for the start and end of the workday. Ticking things off and getting stuff down will give you a sense of achievement and a concrete sense of having got things done.
Try to focus
Computers, phones and the internet in general are all designed to distract us and suck up every drop of our attention span with constant notifications, flashing messages and endless windows of different information. Seeing these can break your cycle of productivity and creativity, distract you from what you’re doing and make you feel as though you’ve been jumping from task to task all day without getting anything done.
To limit this, you could try muting notifications for periods of time when you don’t want to be distracted, going for intervals without checking your phone and muting the alert sounds on your emails so there’s less temptation to check.
Ask for help
If you’re persistently worried, anxious and upset because of your work, ask for help. Whether that’s speaking to a colleague (sometimes even a good gossip session about that coworker you both hate can help), letting your boss know you need some adjustments to do your job the best you can, or considering some therapy to help you through this difficult time, there’s no worse time to suffer in silence than in the middle of a pandemic. If you keep pushing on without making any changes, you’ll only become more and more tired and overwhelmed as the weeks slip by - and this kind of thing always catches up to you eventually.