No commute. Flexible schedules. Boosted productivity. There’s a lot that remote work gets right.
Yet, employees starting remote work may feel some growing pains. Learning how to manage and maximize the benefits of remote work can take some time. In particular, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overworking and getting remote work burnout when working from home.
A recent poll suggests that 69% of remote workers are currently experiencing burnout. For many, the stress of starting remote work, dealing with a global pandemic and balancing their personal lives have reached a tipping point.
Luckily, remote work burnout isn’t the new normal. To get your remote teams back on track, we’ve put together a guide to understanding and beating remote work burnout. By applying our tips, you’ll strike a better work-life balance and go back to enjoying the countless benefits of remote work.
Plus, you can get even more resources on NoHQ. Access guides, tools and advice to support all your remote team’s challenges – including burnout.
What is Remote Work Burnout?
Remote work burnout is a “state of emotional or mental exhaustion” that comes from never-ending stress and overwork. Often it leads to lowered productivity and performance, as well as mental health concerns.
Why is Remote Work Stressful?
Remote work is unique because it requires employees to juggle their work and home lives in the same space. For some, there’s a learning curve to figure out what works best. Here are some common issues for remote newbies:
- Overworking while working at home.
- Unplugging from work during non-work hours.
- Working overtime out of fear of getting laid off (especially during the pandemic).
- Blurring work-life balance, especially with extra stresses such as kids at home.
- Feeling isolated from co-workers and any available support.
- Getting overwhelmed by digital distractions.
- Not taking PTO, even if you have it.
What Causes WFH Burnout?
People can get work-from-home burnout in several ways. The biggest challenge reported by 27% of remote workers is unplugging. It can be tricky to set boundaries between work and home life, especially at first.
In addition, other remote-specific challenges can lead to overwork or stress, including:
- Feeling isolated or lonely.
- Engaging in too much digital distraction.
- Having unclear job expectations.
- Not getting support for flexible work-from-home hours.
- Never taking days off to recharge.
Remote workers may even experience more than one of these challenges, which can make burnout symptoms even worse.
How Do I Know If I Have WFH Burnout?
Work-from-home burnout is characterized by exhaustion and stress. Here are some red flags that you may be experiencing remote work burnout:
- You notice a dip in your productivity.
- You have low energy levels and even wake up tired.
- You feel guilty about not working enough.
- You experience mood swings, including irritability and anxiety.
- You skip meals to finish work.
- You’re having trouble getting restful sleep.
- You drink alcohol more than usual.
- You ignore family calls to avoid virtual time.
- You dread workdays.
In addition, you may experience physical symptoms, including chest pain, loss of appetite, headaches and fatigue.
How Do You Beat Remote Work Burnout?
Beating remote work burnout is a matter of recharging and resetting your work-life routine. Often setting hard boundaries and protecting your personal time is the best way to prevent burnout. You’ll even find that your productivity increases once you’ve hit the sweet spot in your routine.
1. Take a Staycation.
Take a break. If you’re experiencing remote work burnout, it’s essential to rest and recharge. Even if you can’t travel, you can schedule a Friday off or plan a week-long staycation. Slow down from your work and get the rest you deserve.
2. Create an Unplugging Routine.
Unplugging is the #1 most important part of your work-from-home routine. It could be as simple as powering down and storing your computer. However, you can get creative here, too.
For example, your unplugging routine could be to take your dog for a walk, drink tea on your porch or go to the gym. Whatever you decide, keep it consistent and you’ll find it works well as a buffer to protect your personal time.
3. Turn Off Your Work Notifications Starting at 6 p.m.
Try to set a stop time for work, as it can help prioritize your tasks and add structure to your day. For example, create a calendar notification for 6:00 p.m. to shut down your computer and turn off your work notifications. You can even set up your phone to turn off work notifications automatically.
4. Do Slow Mornings.
If you wake up anxious to start working, take a deep breath. You can set yourself up for a great workday if you try doing slow mornings.
Don’t open your computer or check your email until you’ve showered, eaten breakfast and done a personal activity, such as journaling or doing yoga. Work can wait until you’re ready, we promise.
5. Emotionally Proofread All Your Messages.
It’s easy to forget the importance of tone when working remotely. Before you hit send, take a final look at your message and emotionally proofread it. Is it too curt? Could you use more empathetic phrasing? Take care of yourself and your co-workers by setting the right tone.
6. Use the Pomodoro Technique for Productivity.
The Pomodoro technique is a way to manage your time and avoid digital distractions. Basically, you focus on a work task for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.
The idea is for those 25 minutes to be free of open tabs and other distractions. If you’re struggling to concentrate at home, try out a Pomodoro app or extension such as Marinara to get back on track.
7. Schedule Self-Care in Your Calendar.
You may feel silly doing it, but scheduling self-care into your day can make a big difference. Open your calendar and block off half-hours with personal activities.
For example, you can schedule a 11:00 walk every day, or a 3:00 personal reading time. Make it a formal part of your routine and you’ll see the benefits.
8. Track Your Screen Time, Then Reduce It.
It’s amazing how much we spend on our screens. If you’re thinking that your screen time isn’t so bad, try tracking it. Use an app like RealizD to track how much time you’re actually spending online. Often this can drive you to make changes and reduce your screen time.
9. Ask Yourself “What’s the Worst That Can Happen If…?”
Sometimes we create false urgency in our work and end up working until late for no good reason. Get perspective by asking what’s the worst that can happen if you submit an assignment tomorrow morning instead, or ask to reschedule a meeting.
Usually, the answer is that nothing bad will happen. Prioritize your work and protect your time, even if you didn’t finish everything you wanted to today.
10. Create Virtual Water Cooler Moments With Co-Workers.
Virtual water cooler moments can re-energize and motivate you. Find ways to reconnect with co-workers by spicing up your virtual meeting or doing a team-building activity. They can be short yet effective for making you feel like part of a team again.
What Can Companies Do to Reduce Remote Work Burnout?
Remote work burnout can have negative impacts on a company. In addition to putting an employee’s wellness at risk, burnout can lead to more sick days, poorer performance and a higher turnover rate.
Companies can take the lead on mental health in remote teams by working together to create policies that reduce burnout and better protect their employees. Here are some excellent ways to get started:
1. Take the Pulse on Employee Sentiment.
Find out how your remote workforce is doing. Take the pulse on their motivation by sending a weekly survey using OfficeVibe or ThriveIndex. You may uncover key insights that help you guide your employees towards a better work-life balance.
2. Open an Anonymous Safe Space.
Encourage conversations about remote work burnout and wellness. Use an anonymous forum or online space to open the conversation and find out how your employees are doing.
3. Allow Flexibility Within Workdays.
Not all remote workers have flexibility within their workdays. Yet, 56% of remote workers believe more flexibility is the best way to support them. Encourage flexibility so that employees can create their ideal routine and avoid working late to “catch up” when things go awry.
4. Invest in a Virtual HQ.
Just because you don’t have a physical HQ, doesn’t mean you can’t have a virtual one. Create a virtual space where employees can collaborate on tasks and connect on topics beyond work.
5. Create Clarity Through Documentation.
Documentation can be empowering to remote workers who don’t know what’s allowed or encouraged. Define your remote work policies, including the parameters of flexibility and any policies for improving wellness.
6. Drive Empathy-Based Management.
Offering verbal support, mental health days and time off are all part of empathy-based management. Motivate your managers and leaders to use empathy to boost wellness and productivity in their teams.
7. Consider a Mental Health Benefits Package.
A mental health benefits package can do wonders for making sure your employees are doing well. Platforms such as Wellable are a good start for offering services and encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
Build Better Remote Mental Health
Remote work can be an amazing way to get more done and achieve the ideal work-life balance. To reach this remote work nirvana, it’s important to avoid typical remote work challenges that lead to overwork and stress.
With these tips, we hope you’re able to power up your remote teams and beat remote work burnout for good. In addition, you can get support for remote burnout – and more – on NoHQ. Boost your remote teams with our guides, tools and advice today.