Remote work burnout has alarmingly been on the rise as the line between work and home life continues to blur. A recent Gallup survey found that fully remote workers reported feeling more burnt out than on-site workers. This is partly because of working longer hours and struggling to “switch off” after work.
In a remote work environment, which comes with social isolation and loneliness, the situation is exacerbated.
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What Is Burnout?
According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is a “special type of work-related stress – a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”.
If not addressed earlier on, burnout can lead to a host of physical and mental issues, such as:
- High blood pressure
- A weak immune system
- Depression and anxiety
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Heart disease
3 Signs of Remote Work Burnout and What to Do About It
With that in mind, how do you tell if you’re on the brink of or already suffering from remote work burnout?
1. Dwindling Workplace Inspiration
Is your inbox filling up while your desire to respond to work emails is diminishing? Do you feel exhausted, especially when you have conference calls scheduled or tasks pending? Usually, the first sign of employee burnout is not wanting anything associated with work.
This is an emotional response to your draining physical and mental health, which makes you feel tired all the time. Your mind lives in a heightened state of stress, which triggers it to switch to survival mode. As a result, your productivity, performance, and responsibilities are impaired.
2. Increased Mental Distance from Your Job
In addition to always feeling exhausted and lacking the drive to work, burnout is associated with cynicism and distancing yourself from your job. For example, maybe you’re a nurse who used to love helping others but now feels less empathetic toward your patients.
In a workplace context, you might start to feel disinterested in your work and start questioning the intentions of your organization. In other words, what motivated you to take the job no longer has the same effect.
3. Reduced Efficacy
Do you find yourself unwilling to communicate with coworkers, delaying to complete important tasks, feeling disconnected during meetings, and lacking interest in improving work-related skills?
Or, does it now take longer, more concentration, and more effort to complete tasks than before? You could already be in the realm of work-from-home burnout. A drop in work performance and minimal energy to be productive are clear signs that you need to take a break.
Differentiating Signs of Workplace Stress and Burnout
There are some key distinctions between the signs of stress and burnout. An employee who is experiencing work-related stress may struggle with the anxiety that their productivity levels are not sufficient. They may also display signs like urgent behavior or hyperactivity.
Burnout runs deeper, and often the employees already have experienced work-related stress. They tend to display signs like disengagement, and poor quality of work, or low productivity.
If you’re wondering whether you’re on the edge of burnout, ask yourself these questions:
- Have your sleep patterns changed? (Either you sleep too much or less than usual)
- Do you suffer from constant headaches?
- Are you easily irritable or moody when working?
- Do you suffer from back and neck pains, digestive issues, or stomach aches?
- Do you have trouble focusing on work or understanding your expectations?
- Do you fantasize about quitting your job almost constantly?
- Are you too exhausted to do anything fun outside of work?
- Do you always have this feeling that you don’t want to work, talk to coworkers, or check in with your supervisor or manager?
If you relate to most of these questions, you’re likely already in the burnout phase.
How to Handle Work-from-Home Burnout
Burnout doesn’t appear overnight. It builds up gradually and is made worse by ignoring one’s physical, emotional, mental, and social needs. The good news is that burnout is a temporary state that can be reversed.
Here are a few tips to help you overcome WFH burnout:
Take Breaks Throughout the Day
Rest and time off improve productivity. Your creativity drops as the day progresses and taking breaks helps to re-energize the brain so you can focus better. We understand the temptation to complete a project so you can rest for the rest of the day. However, if you become fatigued halfway, chances are, the quality of work will be subpar.
To ensure you take breaks, implement a time tracking tool that offers reminders and alerts. That way, you’ll always keep tabs on how long you’ve been working and when it’s time to take a break.
Similarly, you can use focus apps that let you set a time limit. When time is up, it chimes or sounds an alarm, reminding you to take a break. When taking a break, avoid using your work devices. Instead, step out for a walk, dance to your favorite tune, find a healthy snack to eat, check out your garden, or do anything else other than work.
Take Some Me Time
One of the drawbacks of remote work is the “always on” culture. But just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you should always be available for your boss. Don’t feel guilty asking for time off from work.
The thing is, you don’t need a two- or three-week vacation in Thailand or the Caribbean. Sometimes, a three or four-day weekend is all you need to recharge and get back to work stronger. Take advantage of all the free time you can get to take short trips or staycation. You deserve it!
Turn to Yoga and Meditation
Yoga offers an incredible way to be mindful, calm down, and break a sweat. The great thing about yoga is that you don’t have to pay for expensive memberships. You can find dozens of yoga classes on YouTube for free, which allow you to practice yoga right at home, including during your breaks.
Try it today. You might find yoga to be the missing link that will help you stay sane and productive when working from home.
Make Time to Work Out Daily
Working from home can take a toll on your physical health. Unless you take the initiative to exercise, you may develop serious health conditions like weight gain, back pain, and obesity. While it takes commitment to work out regularly, start small and build up your routine gradually.
The best part is that you don’t have to sign up for a gym membership. You can find great workout videos and even programs online free of charge. Alternatively, you can create a home workout plan that fits your lifestyle.
Working in isolation isn’t easy and can have negative effects on your emotional and mental health. Connecting with your friends and keeping your social life going is an incredible way to beat work-from-home burnout.
Going out helps you share happy moments, laugh, dance, get inspiration from those around you and build your network. You don’t have to spend time wallowing alone when you can share your troubles and achievements with coworkers or friends.
Remote work offers you more flexibility and better work-life balance. However, burnout is real and can wreak havoc on your life. If you notice any of these signs of work-from-home burnout, don’t push through it. Find the source of the burnout and address it.
Your well-being matters and should always be a priority.