How to Cope With Work-From-Home Burnout

If your symptoms do feel like burnout and are significantly impacting your functioning and happiness, it’s best to let a loved one know and seek help from a behavioral health provider. Burnout can impact your productivity, but when it is more severe and chronic it may be associated with depression, spiritual crisis, and suicidal ideation (particularly among those in caregiving occupations, like medical professionals and health science students, as documented in many studies. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, seek help immediately.

If your symptoms are milder and you’re finding yourself in an unmotivated work-from-home funk, there are steps you can take to come to the table (or couch or kitchen island or wherever you work) in a more focused and motivated frame of mind every day. Here’s where to start.

1. Outsource What You Can

If you have the money, hire the dog walker again, keep the grocery delivery coming, figure out day-care and babysitting options, enlist more tutors, get house cleaners, or hire a personal trainer.

Outsourcing also frees up your work time in a serious way. Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you have to do it all (or have the time to), says the North Carolina–based productivity coach Tanya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less. Taking on too much because you feel obligated is the path to burnout, whatever combination of work or household tasks is adding up to “too much,” she says. “Your time is finite. Stop trying to get more done in the same few hours.”

2. Go Back to Phone Calls

There’s no doubt COVID-19 ushered in a new era of video calls and teleconferencing. Even years in, this era can be summed up in two words: Zoom fatigue.

These tools can be exhausting. “I think the need to be ‘on’ is very draining,” says Dalton. Unlike an in-person meeting, when you can have moments of zoning out, most people feel the need to be very focused and present on a video call, and that means no micro-rest attention breaks. Also, even the minor delays caused by the online connection for videos make our brains work slightly harder than they would in person to process what’s happening and respond.

If you’re finding that you feel depleted after a day of Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, and other video meetings.

3. Define Your Work and Nonwork Boundaries

Whether the lines you previously delineated around work and nonwork have blurred or you never drew them in the first place, these boundaries deserve some thought and attention. Are you sticking to them? Are they helping you be productive and happy? Are they wearing you out?

In either case, find new ways to freshen up the strategy. Maybe it’s as easy as changing everyone’s workspace to different locations, or starting a new habit, like having lunch together, being diligent about taking a lunch break every day, or creating a “commute time” that’s on a consistent schedule.

Setting boundaries can be challenging; it can be helpful to get support from a trusted friend, therapist, or mentor. These things are even more important if you’re at home most or all of the time. “If you are going to work from home 100 percent of the time, you need to make sure you’re putting in the extra effort to get out of the house regularly, as that aids in your overall rest and rejuvenation,” says Dalton.

4. Try the 90/20 Rule

Add structure within the workday, too, Steginus says. She’s a fan of the “90/20 rule”: Work with focus for 90 minutes, then take a 20-minute break.

The key to this method is to really stick to the task at hand for 90 minutes. And then take an honest-to-goodness no-social-media, no-email 20-minute break. Perhaps you’ll walk the dog (without checking your phone en route), do a mindfulness meditation exercise, fix yourself a nourishing snack, or have a conversation with a roommate or family member.

Don’t even read a magazine or newspaper during that time because it involves mental consumption and processing. Instead, she does nothing — as in, she sits in a corner of the room away from her workstation and just lets her brain have a complete rest.

The point is to feel refreshed when you come back for that next 90-minute session. It might take some time to find what rest and refresh means for you, but play around with it.

5. Find a Job That Works for You (or Find the Work That Works for You Within Your Job)

Many factors contribute to burnout, but working in a field that is out of alignment with your values and goals can definitely be a big one. Maybe you’re working in a field you don’t find fulfilling. Maybe the office culture isn’t supportive. Ask yourself, Would a job change help? Would it help to shift some of the responsibilities you have in your current job?

“Strategies that don’t address the roots of your work burnout will be successful only in the short term.” “They can be helpful as a reset, but you want to prevent that burnout from creeping back in.”

Talk with a manager about being taken off a stressful project or added to a project you find exciting. Take some time to learn different professional skills you’ve wanted to try. Be realistic — it’s not always an option to walk away from a job or change a job even if it’s not working (and stressors will come with any role) — but every step toward a position you’re passionate about will help. Exploring the contributing factors to your burnout in a current or previous role can help you determine the type of work you really want to be doing, Westbrook adds.

6. Take Time Off

Social media might make it seem like otherwise, but the point of vacation is not to get some Instagram-worthy pics or do something fabulous, says Westbrook — it’s to get a complete break that gives you a larger reset.

Take a whole week off where you can disconnect from work and reacquaint yourself with other interests and hobbies. Or try scheduling vacation days throughout the month instead of saving them up for a larger block of time.

However you use the time, use it wisely, Westbrook recommends: No meetings, no answering email, and no last-minute projects that cut into your time off. Following these rules helps establish the structure and better boundaries that our virtual office walls too often lack.

7. Double Down on Self-Care Practices

There are many ways to care for yourself, and some of the things you found energizing or rewarding before (homemade lunch, a midday HIIT workout) may be draining now. Change it up, Dalton says — self-care routines aren’t meant to be set in stone. “How you nourish yourself and feel supported is a work in progress,” she says.

Try swapping a high-intensity workout for a more restorative type of movement, like yin yoga or tai chi. Try virtual dance lessons or start listening to inspiring TED Talks as you do housework. Even just taking a different walking route outside on your break can be refreshing, says Westbrook.

“It helps to think of self-care as play and adventure, rather than just recuperation.” “You’re not a robot. Just do one thing today that makes you feel healthier, and then keep that going.”

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4 Responses to How to Cope With Work-From-Home Burnout

  1. Adegbola Opeyemi June 29, 2023 at 9:48 am

    I’m really gaining so much from reading articles on above whispers

  2. Iyanuoluwa Isinkaye June 29, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Very insightful

  3. Rachael July 13, 2023 at 12:20 pm

    This is so helpful

  4. Fisolami July 15, 2023 at 8:49 am

    Indeed knowledge is power.. Thank you ma’am


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