Tips for Preventing Work-From-Home Burnout
Let’s talk about how to avoid burnout while working from home or working remotely. With these tips for working remotely from home, we share how tips for productivity and staying positive.
Is burnout only applicable to working in an office? Apparently not, if you’re someone who works from home or works remotely and is experiencing the same type of symptoms.
Symptoms of burnout can include (but are not limited to) irritability, loss of sleep, feeling lethargic, feeling unmotivated, anxiety and sometimes, depression.
If you’ve already read this far into our article, we’ll tell you now that this is not at all a “how-to” article for how to figure out if you’re burned out or nearing professional burnout, but rather, things we like to do that help prevent it.
People who work in offices can get burned out by waking up at 6 am to commute for two hours, spend eight to nine hours at the office and then spend two more hours commuting home.
No one said working from home was easy. The world tends to think that working remotely is something awarded to employees who show their worth or successful freelancers who own their own businesses, but working from home or remotely can be for just about anyone. It also comes with a proven list of benefits.
Working from home involves all the demands of work, plus conquering one’s own autonomy and independence. The biggest struggles – or wait, the biggest wins! – can be the parts of the job that are time management, goal-setting and staying motivated.
If you’re feeling like you’re nearing burnout, let’s get talking. We want to share with you the ways in which you can avoid burnout and stay positive while working from home.
Hopefully, a handful of these tactics will work for you!
Get up for a walk.
I read recently that some of the greatest writers of all time were inspired by walks they took, or by isolating themselves in nature. There’s something truly refreshing about seeing green trees, grass, flowers or landscapes, no matter where you live.
As I write this, I’m inspired by the pines and oaks of Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, as I sit in a lawn chair on a patch of grass next to a garden.
Even though I’m working hard (on writing this article that you’re reading), the green colors and the wind pacify me and make me forget the confines of my home office that I share with my partner, Dan.
Back to taking walks, taking a walk is a time when you can get moving and get some steps. Whether you take a walk around the floors of your apartment building for a break, or if you can walk around your block or to a nearby park, this helps create breaks within your work day.
One of our biggest work from home tips is to leave your phone at home. If everything can wait, then instead, wear an old-fashioned wristwatch to make sure your walk doesn’t exceed 10 or 15 minutes if you have to be back for a meeting.
Walking helps alleviate stress and can help reset your mind toward what motivates you most (which could be finishing your work so that you can take another walk before it gets dark out).
Stamp out work-from-home burnout before you get there by making sure you take breaks. It’s one of the best ways in which you can set a schedule for yourself.
Anyone who works from home is likely guilty of getting sucked into a project, a meeting that went twice as long as expected or finishing jobs for deadlines. In order to stay on task, stay motivated and stay productive, make sure you freshen up your day with breaks.
What kind of breaks do you like? Do you like to run an errand like going to the post office or supermarket during a break? Or, do you prefer to not even leave your home office by setting up an online pilates class to get some fitness time?
Both Dan and I like focusing our breaks around food (who doesn’t?), so usually, we take breaks rummaging in the fridge for a healthy snack or some homemade concoction (today it was pumpkin maple oatmeal – just being honest, here!).
It seems like burnout could easily happen if you don’t make time for breaks, so set some up, whether mentally or literally in your calendar.
Take a day off here and there.
It’s said that Americans have the hardest times taking days off from work. It doesn’t help that work culture has turned a lot of us into people who feel guilty when they ask for time off from work.
While your ideal chunk of time off from the job may be a week or a two-week getaway somewhere far away like Myanmar or Taiwan, the fact of the matter is that taking a three- or four-day weekend sometimes even does the trick.
Prevent burnout by taking mini-trips or mini-vacations, or, there’s always the good old ‘staycation’ where you can stick around your city or region and try things you typically don’t have time to do.
The first step is taking dedicated days off, and raising your spirits while you look forward to time off of any kind.
Make yourself a rewards system.
When people ask how I stay motivated while working from home, I say that I create rewards for myself. Sometimes that’s all it takes to crush working from home for the first time.
For example, if I have 10 emails to work through, I tell myself that no matter how long it takes, I have to get through these emails or I can’t do yoga or start dinner.
And if you know me, I really want to do yoga and start cooking dinner, so I’m putting myself into a box of having to do these things or I can’t proceed with my day-to-day needs.
If that doesn’t work, reward yourself on a weekly basis. Did you hit your sales goals this week, or did you finish a project ahead of time?
Reward yourself with tacos from your favorite restaurant, or with an hour-long FaceTime with an old friend. Use a constant system of rewarding yourself to avoid burnout and to introduce positivity.
Find a remote work accountability buddy.
Having an accountability buddy might sound lame, but if it works for you, that’s all that matters.
Do you know of anyone else in your network in the same type of position as you are, whether that’s someone who’s working from home for the first time, or someone who’s having trouble working with a remote work schedule at home?
Phone a friend (or Slack him or her) and ask to be buddies. It doesn’t have to be any type of long-distance or long-term relationship, but sometimes all you may need is someone to voice a concern to, or someone who can help keep you on track.
An accountability buddy can also come in the form of virtual coworking, and as I discuss in our article about staying productive, you can try this method of dedicated yet social work time with friends or colleagues.
Turn your breaks into relaxation.
As mentioned above, we recommend taking breaks to help avoid burnout, but what if your breaks are making you busy? Or even busier?
Dedicate time to meditation, yoga or even napping, if that is what suits your productivity cycles.
Schedule time to cook.
If you want to prevent burnout, I wouldn’t say cooking is going to completely reverse you, but it definitely will help. It’s our top tip for eating healthy when you work at home.
Cooking is therapeutic – at least that’s what I learned once I gave in to start learning how to cook in my mid-20s.
For two years, I had lived abroad in China, where eating out was a) incredibly delicious and b) sometimes the same price as a cooked meal purchased from my groceries.
I carried this bad habit (of eating out) into my early 20s when I moved to Manhattan and was once again faced with incredibly delicious food options, all at my fingertips.
Using cooking as a way to “create,” when you work from home, is something enlightening that you can put positive energy into.
If you use Pinterest, or even just the Internet, you may know (if you don’t – start your Googling now!) that the web is full of amazing recipes from chefs and bloggers.
If you’re feeling burned out, channel your caffeination or frustration into slicing fruit or vegetables, or using a blender to make an amazing smoothie. What are you waiting for?
Use yoga to free your mind throughout the day.
Yoga is the work-at-home fitness method that I’m passionate about.
I used to go to studios in Manhattan and then in Brooklyn to practice yoga, and then I found out that I could also do yoga in classes anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes on YouTube.
If you’re new to at-home fitness, check out our guide to fitness for when you work from home.
In my opinion, yoga creates a challenge, a way to sweat, a way to continually improve and a way to calm down. I used to be stressed at work and then go to yoga on 103rd St. on the Upper West Side, where I’d channel everything that dismayed me into stretching in new ways and trying my best to improve at practicing yoga over time.
As for preventing burnout, yoga is an incredible way to be mindful, learn about your body and relieve stress. If you don’t believe me, try Yoga with Kassandraor Five Parks Yoga with Erin, on YouTube. You don’t even have to tell anyone.
What’s a 10-minute yoga session here and there? 10 minutes is almost nothing, when it comes down to being a fraction of your workday.
I’ve started doing 10-minute yoga classes to refresh throughout the day. A specific one I recommend is Yoga with Kassandra, as she has put together a 30-day Morning Yoga Challenge, which drops in your inbox around 11am ET each day and you can use the 10-minute class as a break whenever you need a stretch.
Using yoga as a way to give your mind a temporary reset can help you stay sane while working from home.
Don’t forget about your vacation time. Even if you have to stay home, get your mind off work.
Three words: take your vacation, and savor your holidays off from work. Having time off from work can be difficult when you work at home, because your home is your office, but remember to leave your home office alone when you don’t have to be at work or working on something like a professional project.
Burnout happens when you work too much and too often. If you take your vacation and schedule it in advance, you’ll know when you can get off the grid and adventure somewhere special, whether it’s a corner of your neighborhood park or some place on your wishlist like the Dominican Republic.
Be honest about if something “can wait until tomorrow.”
One of my downfalls is working on things after dinner or right before bed, telling myself that it really cannot wait another hour.
If you find yourself finishing tasks and projects and you’re not on deadline, ask yourself: “Will this have the same effect if I do it tomorrow at 9 am?”
If the answer is yes, engage in a leisure activity you enjoy (Netflix? pilates? cleaning your kitchen?) and call it quits on work-related things to stop burnout before it happens.
Stop working on weekends!
Do whatever you can to finish your work during the week, if that’s what is expected of you. Of course, if you’re a freelancer trying to hit a Sunday night deadline for a client, then put in those hours during the weekend, but don’t forget to give yourself a day off during the week.
When you work from home, the physical and mental separation between work and life, and life and work, can get really blurred. If you slide into your desk chair on a Sunday afternoon and you wind up checking work emails and answering clients, remember that you’re also putting yourself in a place where people will expect you to continually answer on weekends.
See how to set up a work from home schedule so that you can separate work from play.
Break the cycle by leaving weekends for “you time,” if that fits within the demands of your career and job requirements.
Prioritize your relationship between wellness and eating right.
There’s a lot of linkage between your health and your mind. Again, we’re no doctors, but we did write this guide to eating right when you work from home and it’s been helpful for lots of professionals who are struggling with snacking poorly or skipping meals when working at home.
Your future (yet avoidable!) burnout could be happening from too many hours hunched over the desk with salty chips for snacks instead of carrots, or, you could be skipping dinner and opting for a tray of cookies before you know it.
Get your relationship with yourself and your work together by making sure you consume vitamins, nutrients and fiber to help your mind feel good and to avoid fatigue. That’s step one!
Find time every day to work out – seriously.
Working from home can make you feel lazy if you look at your step count on your iPhone or Google Fit app (one of our favorite apps for travel) and you see 32 steps. Yuck.
While doing an at-home workout won’t contribute to that step count, toss your phone to the side and work up a sweat or a heart rate with an online workout or a workout in the park.
Working out every day gets your body to do something other than sit in your home office and work, take calls and attend meetings over Zoom.
It’s that important. It should be something you make time for and feel good about, and eventually, you’ll tell yourself that you have to work out or your day is not complete.
The worst feeling would be feeling burned out by work and by being ‘stuck at home,’ and not moving your body at all. So, make yourself a home workout plan and get crackin’!
Avoid using medicines as crutches.
While we personally don’t have much experience in prescription medication or a wide array of painkillers (you could say we’re lucky), one thing you definitely don’t want to be doing is contributing to professional burnout by hiding it with medicine.
Take a step back. Figure out why you feel burned out by work or why your work-from-home lifestyle is contributing to burnout. Figure out what you could do to solve things. Maybe online therapy could help. Maybe talking to friends more regularly could brighten your day or help create positive vibes.
Whatever you do, avoid curing your burnout through experimentation with medicine, and if you find yourself having any type of addiction or issue, please, please, please seek help from a medical professional.
Remember that you are human, not some type of superhero.
We’re all human: me, Dan, you, your colleagues, your friends, your family. No one is perfect.
Instagram may make lots of people look perfect, but if you use your head to see through the setups and highlight reels, it’s clear that not everyone is having ‘the best day ever.’ This applies to work lives as well.
Don’t be too hard on yourself to create perfection, especially if you’re new to working from home and it’s looking like this may be your way of life for a while.
If working from home is what your future holds, check out our list of the ways working from home in the long-term can benefit you.
Accept your faults, work on your struggles to create solutions and give yourself a break. You are the perfect You, and maybe you needed to hear that right now!
Stay connected socially and make time for human interaction.
Whether this is in-person or virtual, make socializing a priority. This is especially important if you work from home and you’re alone (I’d love to say dogs and cats count, but humans are what we’re counting here).
Working from home can make you feel isolated or cut-off. That’s no secret!
Staying connected can help professionals who work from home to connect to their networks, coworkers and friends. It could also be that you need some networking to feel good, and for that, there’s lots of speed networking sessions, virtual happy hours and interactive webinars that can do the trick.
Don’t let burnout make you feel completely alone, because you’re not. Behind every computer screen is a person who enjoys human interaction just as much as you do, and all you have to do is find it!
Plan a trip or dream about travel.
Yes, we’re biased (have you seen the destination guides on this website?), but dreaming about going to other places creates a sort of adrenaline and positivity that can’t be beat.
Whether you’re able to take a trip later this year, or next, or even in two years, start dreaming. It’ll give you positive vibes. If you’re planning a trip with a friend, share travel advice or travel destination ideas.
If you hope to travel with family, start an email chain to talk about budget, a restaurant list or tour agencies that can get you to landmarks of interest.
Burnout is real – very real – for many people, and if you’re feeling down, remember: there is life outside your apartment (we borrowed this quote from the musical Avenue Q) and outside your house, and there’s a world outside your neighborhood.
Remember that if work is giving you anxiety, there are other jobs out there that you can find on a remote job board, and there are indeed very healthy ways to work from home or talk about how you’re feeling.