Recently, the World Health Organization has recognized workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. While not exactly classified as a medical condition, the “symptoms” of this phenomenon can definitely affect the way a person functions every day. These symptoms can be any of the following: aches and pains (particularly in the back and head area), sleeplessness and or chronic anxiety.
Given these, it goes without saying that burnout is something that a lot of professionals and business owners experience these days. Unsurprisingly, people who work from home can experience it. So long as the stresses of work and career aren’t properly managed, burnouts will be a recurring issue.
While it’s virtually impossible to avoid stress from work, being able to manage it is certainly doable. If you’d like to avoid, or at the very least, manage these symptoms of work from home burnout, here are a few things you can do.
Create Clear Boundaries Between Work and Life
In any aspect of life and relationships, boundaries need to be observed in order to keep things healthy. The same can be said about working from home. In an environment where the line between career and life is blurred by the daily demands of work and the comfort of home, putting up boundaries can be difficult but not impossible.
As a start, physically separating work from life is an absolute must. Doing this gives you more control over your circumstances considering how the line between these two aspects in life is thinned by the work from home setup. Getting a room specifically meant for work helps in this regard, as it allows you to stay focused and block out potential distractions.
Once you’ve put up physical boundaries, it’ll be much easier to say no to certain requests since you can physically lock yourself out of work. When it comes to agreements, make it clear to your clients or colleagues that you log out of work at a specific time. Unless otherwise necessary, work tasks and deliverables can be planned out.
Have Regular Breaks
Regardless of the nature business or the kind of work you do, working for hours on straight bereft of any kind of break can be physically and mentally taxing. It drains the inspiration from those who are passionate about what they do and it stresses out those who just want to make a living. In a nutshell, having people work 8 hours with just one single lunch break is draining and can definitely lead to more symptoms of burnout.
Breaks are crucial if you want to preserve your passion for what you do and manage stress from work. This allows you to reset your mind and body for tasks within the day. As a general rule, productive organizations require its members to take a lunch break and two 15 minute breaks.
Another productive way of taking breaks is to follow the Pomodoro Technique. Essentially, it is a method that requires you to work for chunks of up to 25 minutes and take 5-minute breaks afterwards. After four of these cycles (they are also known as pomodoros), you could take longer breaks of up to 15 to 20 minutes. This is particularly helpful specially for those who work eight hours per day as it fits very well with having two 15-minute breaks and one lunch break.
In Work and Life, Stay Focused
One common cause of people extending hours at work is because they want to make up for lost time. They lost this time because they’re either attending to a matter outside of work, that of which can be a range of things or they’ve had to attend to another work-related matter that’s not scheduled for the day. These distractions are a major inhibitor of productivity and, in a world of decreasing attention spans, it might lead to people spending more hours in front of a monitor than with family and loved ones.
The solution of course is to eliminate potential causes of distractions both at work AND in life. Work-wise, having your phone in silent mode and going off only in particular life and death situations is strongly recommended. Blocking social media platforms that you know you’ll get distracted by for a certain amount of time can be considered good practice as well. If you live with family or friends, have a discussion with them about not having you do household chores when you’re working.
When it comes to work breaks, it’s important to keep those boundaries. During work breaks (either 5-minute ones or 15 minute ones), generally avoid going on social media so you don’t have anything that can potentially distract you from getting back to work. You can check on your phone for updates on loved ones or maybe even news – anything that’s not from social media. If they’re on their break as well, chat with your team and ask how they’re doing.
If, as an individual, you’re aware of being susceptible to distractions, get support from your colleagues, friends and family. Have them remind you that there is a time for work and a time for things other than work. At the end of the day, staying focused is essentially being in the moment – make the most out of it.
Clearly Communicate and Reach Out
This recommendation is helpful for both work and life as communication is a vital part of any healthy relationship. When it comes to work, it goes without saying that proper communication about tasks and deliverables can go a long way in terms of getting things done at the right time. Miscommunicated expectations can not only cause you to extend your working hours because of lost time and momentum, it can also affect your working relationship with your colleagues.
So be clear about what you need from each other and be honest in case one of you requires clarification. One way of being able to do that is to write correspondence that leaves no room for interpretation. Having a prompt that encourages a team member of yours to reach out to you for questions is also strongly recommended. At the end of the day, your colleague is someone you ultimately work on your goals with. So trust and clear, uninhibited lines of communication, can do wonders for business processes.
By reaching out and checking on your colleagues every now and then, you’re not only actively showing them that you care, you become more aware of other people’s circumstances and generally have a good idea of how to work with them better. With this in mind, you eventually learn how to communicate with them better therefore eliminating the possibility of your having to work longer hours. Plus, you’ve potentially also made a friend out of a work colleague.
Stay Healthy, Keep Healthy
It goes without saying that if you’re not physically feeling well, it’s going to majorly affect your productivity. That said, it’s imperative that you keep yourself healthy physically in order for you to manage stress effectively. For starters, exercising before you start your work day encourages better blood circulation and produces happy hormones. Going to work in a happy mood won’t only increase productivity, it will also create a more positive environment for your colleagues.
The saying you are what you eat isn’t just a figure of speech, it’s a fact. Eating junk food and other unhealthy articles can cause a lot of problems for your body in the long run, so having a healthy diet is an absolute must. A mix of meat, vegetables and fruits helps in keeping your body on tip top shape, thus allowing you to manage the stresses of working from home better.
Sleep is just as important as regular exercise and a healthy diet. It is when you sleep that the body does most of its repairing and other related processes. Sleep deficiency has often been linked to heart diseases, increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and other unhealthy conditions.
Aside from being physically healthy, it’s important to pay attention to your mental health. Anxiety and feelings of dread or unfulfillment are indicators of burnout. If you feel these, then it’s time to take a break. Breathe the fresh air and talk to a psychologist if you feel the need to. At the end of the day, health isn’t just about being in top physical shape, it’s also having a peaceful mind.
A Time For Everything
When it comes to avoiding burnout, there’s one crucial thing that needs to be kept in mind: There is a time for everything. Whether it’s focusing on your business or work tasks, or just being in the moment with your loved ones or your hobby, it’s important to have neither interfere or interrupt the other.
As always, the tricky part is always going to be the enforcement of these boundaries, considering the fast-paced world we live in and the demands of life in general. Given enough discipline though and proper communication, managing stress and avoiding burnout is completely possible. How do you deal with burnout? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!