On March 13, we “celebrated” the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 quarantine. We were sent home with our computers, tasks, and sobering truths about the pandemic. This new adventure was a little exciting at first – we got to work from home in our pajamas with our pets. But, over time, the line between work and home blurred, we felt more isolated, and our energy and motivation depleted. In short, we started burning out.
More and more, we experienced fatigue, irritation, and distraction throughout our day. These negative feelings resulted in further isolation, apathy, and detachment. Feeling all of these emotions from time-to-time is normal, but feeling them on a regular basis can be a cause for concern. So, what can we do to combat this and overcome burnout?
1. Carve Out Your Space
You need a desk and computer setup that works — including a comfortable chair. Since there’s no timetable for going back to the office, now’s the time to reassess your situation so that you can work comfortably and efficiently.
2. Combat “Zoom Fatigue”
When you are on a Zoom conference, turn off self-view mode — this will keep your camera on but it won’t show you that mirrored view which can have a positive effect on your behavior. Turn off the camera — opting for audio-only meetings when possible also allows you to feel less tethered to the computer. If possible, schedule time between Zoom calls to allow your eyes to rest and refocus your attention.
3. Set Boundaries and Limits
Establish a firm start time and end time to your day — and take time for breaks and meals. This can be incredibly difficult to do, but it is vital to your mental and physical health. If you are overworked or overwhelmed — if you’re burned out — you can’t be an effective employee.
4. Set a Schedule
Establish a schedule and rhythm with your family to accommodate dueling Zoom calls and/or establish head-down work time. Ask yourself what’s working and what’s not and make adjustments. Have a conversation with your boss to see if you can rearrange your schedule so that you have more flexibility. Advise your co-workers of you working hours/availability.
5. Practice Self-Care
Exercise is critically important, as is making sure you’re sleeping well and practicing mindfulness. Make a list of the things that bring you joy and incorporating them into your daily routine to avoid burnout.
6. Bring Back Your Commute
If you were working in an office, the time to mentally transition and decompress would occur on your commute home. Repurpose that block of time to mark the end of the workday by going for walk, tuning into a podcast or calling a friend.
7. Plan Your Non-Work Time
If you don’t plan, nothing will happen. The sameness of the pandemic will continue to repeat itself. Plan “little things” to look forward to — puzzle night, cooking together, walking in the park, or drinks in the driveway. Plan a couple of “little things” events during the work week.
8. Take Time Off (The Right Way)
It’s important to take a time off if you’re experiencing burnout. Structure the time so it will be different from your work days — in a way that aids in your recovery. Make a plan for self-care: exercise, meditation, time with family, whatever helps you relax and recharge. You need the break because WFH can be more stressful than it appears.
This has been a challenging time. Give yourself (and those around you) a little grace. As the old adage goes, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”