Working from home or in a remote environment has become increasingly popular and relatively normalized in recent years. While the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic heightened the need for remote work setups, several companies and businesses have adopted a flexible or hybrid setup for their employees even after the pandemic has been controlled.
Remote work has a lot of advantages that benefit both the employees and the business as well. Employees enjoy the flexibility of time and avoid wasting hours on travel and commute. On the other hand, businesses reduce operation costs, rent, and the like.
However, remote working is not always on the positive end. Despite its benefits, many argue that working from home or working remotely can affect one’s social, mental, and even physical well-being. The lack of social interaction and physical boundaries between work and home can make it difficult to keep the two aspects of life balanced.
In relation to this, the phenomenon of burnout is an ever-persistent topic when it comes to remote work environments. Burnout is described as prolonged fatigue and exhaustion accompanied by persistent stress. While it’s fairly common to feel tired or stressed due to work demands, burnout has an entirely different effect on an individual’s mind and body.
One of the biggest debates in remote work revolves around the concept of work-life balance. Primarily remote workers such as virtual assistants and online freelancers struggle with the distinction between work and life while staying at home. When you use the same table to work and eat your dinner, it’s hard to determine where work ends and life begins. So, how can remote employees prevent burnout while working at home?
Stages of Burnout
Before we go through the different ways to prevent burnout while working at home, let’s first explore the concept of burnout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had defined burnout as a work-related syndrome that is characterized by chronic stress and fatigue that influences an individual’s mental and physical well-being. It is a condition caused by unmanaged stress caused by external factors such as work environment, workload, and the like.
Remote work environments magnified the burnout syndrome because of the apparent lack of work-life balance under this type of working condition. The first step to avoiding burnout while working from home is to understand how it occurs. Generally, employees experience burnout in five stages:
The honeymoon stage is characterized by extreme optimism, energy, and satisfaction. It is the initial stage of work where employees feel the most commitment, creativity, and motivation whether they are working on a new task, starting a project, or moving to a new position. The common stresses experienced during this stage revolve around adapting to the new responsibilities attached to the task, project, or work at hand.
Onset of Stress Stage
The onset of stress stage comes with the realization that some days at work become extremely stressful. The joys and motivation from the honeymoon stage start to wane and employees begin to feel stress more frequently. This stress manifests in the lack of focus, inability to accomplish set goals, and poor time management strategies. It can also start affecting life after work with an apparent lack of appetite or difficulty sleeping on some days.
Chronic Stress Stage
When stressful days at work become even more frequent, the physical and mental effects of this become more persistent and ultimately chronic. Regardless of the difficulty of work or task at hand, employees at this stage of burnout may start showing up late for work, refraining from social interactions and activities, as well as decreasing productivity. Chronic stress can also manifest in emotional aspects of life and harm relationships in and outside of work.
The burnout stage starts when chronic work stress is not properly managed and the individual can no longer work or function the way they normally would. At this stage, the effects of persistent stress and fatigue from work would consume the individual mentally and physically. But instead of feeling stressed, they would feel numb and apathetic over their situation. They would feel extremely demotivated and also experience self-doubt. Employees feeling burnout may also experience physical symptoms such as stomach issues, chronic headaches, persistent fatigue, and even gastrointestinal problems.
Habitual Burnout Stage
When symptoms of burnout are left unmanaged, it leads to the habitual burnout stage. At this phase, burnout becomes a part of an individual’s daily routine and a constant part of their life. The stress and fatigue continue and social relationships continue to deteriorate. This can have a significant effect on a person’s mental well-being and may even lead to total isolation, anxiety, or depression. At the same time, performance at work continues to decline and may even put their position at risk.
How To Avoid Burnout While Working At Home
Work is a constant part of our adult life. So aside from learning how burnout happens, the next thing to do is to know how to avoid or come back from it. Experiencing stress because of work is normal. What’s crucial is to deal with the stress properly by managing your routine and maintaining a work-life balance for the long term. To help you stay focused, here are some ways that can help prevent burnout.
Set a timer
One of the biggest mistakes that remote workers do is to lose track of their time while working. While this can be a way to increase your productivity, poor time management strategies can affect your work-life balance. It’s important to keep track of the amounts of time you spend on work. This can help you ensure that you have enough left at the end of the day to relax, enjoy your hobbies, and get enough sleep for the next day.
Establish a morning routine
Another way to prevent burnout is to start your day the best possible. When working from home, it’s easy to just get out of bed and start taking phone calls and answering emails right off the bat. While some people may look at it as a productivity hack, it’s safe to say that your mind and body are not conditioned to work the moment you step out of bed. Instead, establish a routine that helps you adjust to work life with ease. The bottom line is, the more time you spend conditioning yourself, the easier it will be to finish important tasks on time.
Learn when to stop
Working from home means that you have access to your work laptop and any other work-related devices at all times. This aspect of remote work is one of the biggest reasons why remote workers struggle to keep a work-life balance.
To keep your work life separate while you’re at home, it’s important that you learn when to stop working. If you work a 9 to 5, then work ends the moment the clock struck five in the afternoon. You should no longer be taking phone calls or checking your emails. As long as you accomplish your set goals for the day, you are well within your right to keep the rest of the day for yourself and only deal with work the next day.
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