One of the many things I have enjoyed about working from home over the last 15 years is the commute. It is literally steps for me to get to work, and when I hear colleagues speak about being stuck in traffic for their long commute, it makes me thankful that I do not have to deal with that on a routine basis.
While this is just one of the advantages that I receive working from home, there are many things that have to be considered when your commute is literally footsteps to your office. One of the biggest of these is burnout; a very real dilemma in today’s modern workplace.
According to a March 2020 study conducted by Gallup, 28 percent of employees “always” or “very often” experienced workplace burnout. Another 48 percent said they “sometimes” burned out. I will spare you having to do the arithmetic and tell you that 76 percent of the workforce experiences some kind of burn out on an annual basis, and work-from-home employees are not spared.
While organisations should take steps to ensure that all of their employees avoid burnout, here are a few tactics that I highly recommend for those working from home to avoid burnout.
Develop a Routine
I remember the first few weeks when I converted from working from an office to working from home, I was scattered and felt like I could not be as productive at home as I was when I was in the office. When I shared this with a friend he encouraged me to develop a routine.
By establishing a routine for your week, it ensures that you stay on task and you are more productive. As part of my regular routine, I include the following:
- Work begins at the same time each day
- I begin the day by responding to emails and documenting any new tasks that I have
- I plan out what tasks and projects I need to finish that day and that week
- I end work at the same time each day
- I look to put the bulk of my meetings on Tuesday – Thursday so I can use Monday and Friday as optimal workdays
I would encourage you to take the time to establish a routine, write it down, and follow it.
Once defined, also be open to altering it until you find a routine that fits you and allows you to be highly efficient and effective.
Manage Your Calendar – Closely!
We can all relate to having meetings stacked up throughout the day with hardly a minute in-between them. While this may be permissible from time to time, to make it a habit is highly ineffective and also drains your mental capacity by the end of the day.
To help avoid this and enable yourself to take the necessary breaks, manage your calendar closely. My calendar is full of time that I give back to myself, ranging from 15-20 minutes breaks to align with my ultradian rhythms and times for a workout or run. These times are hardly ever moveable because I know they are important for my well-being, they allow me to be more efficient and effective and are key in not bringing me to the point of burnout.
Just because you are requested at a meeting does not mean you need to be there, so it is OK to say no and to say that your calendar is blocked. It is your time, so use it wisely.
Leave Work at Work
Just because your office is footsteps away does not mean you have to continually work, no matter how easy it is to access the office. In reality, working more than 50 hours per week makes you less productive so getting that “extra time” in the office is most likely not netting you much.
If you want to avoid the burnout factor when working from home, begin the discipline of leaving work at work. I do this by each day shutting down my computer and exclaiming out loud, “I am done.” This is a small but impactful trigger to let my mind know that the workday is done, there is nothing left for me in the office to accomplish on this day and that my work is done.
Additionally, I look to leave my phone in my office so that it does not become a distraction and it allows me to leave my work where it belongs . . . in the office.
This practice was something that took me a while to adjust to, but now that it is a part of my approach to work I find I am more efficient and effective than ever before.
Employers and employees benefit nothing from burnout. Beyond the material cost, the mental, emotional, and physical costs are not worth it. Following a few simple practices can put you in a place where you consistently bring the best of yourself to work, even when you are doing it from the comfort of your own home.
Originally published Jun 30, 2020, updated Oct 16, 2020