A. How burnout occurs in remote work
When the world was introduced to mass remote working, employees globally were delighted. No more rush hours, no more traffic, no more waking up early just to catch the timely commute. Freedom to do what one wanted, when, and how. Being home.
All this made remote work a definite advantage and preferred mode of employment. However, remote work, is not as easy as it seems – more than 69% of employees are experiencing burnout while working from home. With remote work on the rise, the numbers are estimated to go
higher with each passing month.
What do you understand by burnout? If you think burnout is just being exhausted from your job, then you need to reconsider. Burnout causes a host of other problems than just physical or mental exhaustion – high blood pressure, congenital heart diseases, obesity, weak immune system, anxiety, depression, nutrition deficiency, and even increased chances of Alzheimer’s disease. With remote working, which socially isolates employees, loneliness is an added danger. Research shows that loneliness and isolation can reduce life expectancy by almost 70%. Burnout rarely happens all at once. Rather, it typically takes you by surprise, eventually coming to a head after days, weeks, or months
of overwork creep.
While working remotely, you may feel over time, that you are not achieving as much as another employee. This leads to a toxic habit of overworking. You wake up in your bed and start checking
your emails on your phone. You get up from the bed and check your to-do list while grabbing breakfast. There is a conference call and you sit through your lunch. You are working on a report and sit through the evening to finish it in one go. Your trusty laptop – is always at your side.
All this ease of access and availability of internet connection at home means you are always logged in. Which translates to more hours logged in for work. You are having your food, but your mind is on the upcoming report, you are showering but thinking of the meeting to be had. On average, employees have admitted to working additional three hours per day since they started working remotely.
B. Habits that lead to burnout
Remote work is nothing new in society. It is the most prevalent way of working at present. Living at home and working at the same time leads to some disastrous habits, which inevitably leads to burnout.
- Overwork: Being at home, it is very hard to distinguish between your working space and your living space. This impeccably leads to working all the time you are active. From waking up, to actually falling asleep, you are continuously logged in to your job. Accessibility vis mobiles, laptops, and portable routers always keep you connected to the world wide web. Even when you are spending time with your family, the notifications call you. With always being logged in, you overwork yourself constantly, each and every day.
- Lack of distinction: working from home is certainly losing its charm. When you are working where you are sleeping or eating, it makes it difficult to relax in your home. Everything works like a reminder for your pending tasks. Without a marked difference in the environment, you can be easily distracted and lose focus during work, which again leads to longer working hours to achieve the same task.
- Lack of inspiration: Once you lose interest, your emails fill up your inbox, conference calls are pending – and you find yourself dragging your feet to tend to them. Waking up in the morning becomes a challenge. Checking your emails become a chore. Your desire to respond to anything goes absolutely down. This isn’t simply an emotional response; the chronic stress that results in burnout actually affects the functioning of your brain. These changes overwhelm your cognitive skill. Living in a continued heightened state of stress makes our brains switch into “survival mode,” impairing ambition and responsibility.
- Lack of nutrition: The most common habit which you carry on, is skipping meals and eating low nutrition food. Perhaps the most disastrous habit inculcated by us during remote work is
lack of proper nutrition. You would think, being home, we would be eating well and on time. Yet, the exact opposite thing is happening – more employees admitted to skipping meals during their remote-work phase than their office-work phase. A con-call is scheduled during lunch, so you skip it. Woke up late, and skip breakfast to log in. A document has to be completed, with no time to cook or order fast food. Over time, lack of proper nutrition leads to weakened stamina and overall health.
- Lack of rest: As a remote worker, you may be sitting in your living room working. You don’t feel like taking a break – because you are in the living room. Or you are lounging in bed with your laptop – hence, no need for a break. Even when you go to sleep, your mind is constantly on what you have to do, and what is left to do the next day. Till your eyes close, you are browsing the net, checking your emails, etc. During the whole day, your mind is not having a break. It is in a constant state of flux. And it eventually affects your sleep cycle leading to irregular sleep, and insomnia to name a few.
C. How to prevent it
Taking about the habits which lead to your burnout, there are preventive measures. Sometimes you make an intentional effort to adopt a new habit. Other times, life forces you to. In this instance, consideration for your health should encourage you to take these preventive measures.
- Take breaks: It is very easy to constantly be ‘on’. But this constant motion is not conducive to your physical or mental health. This is why, no matter how important the work is, schedule breaks for yourself in between. Get up move about, grab a fruit to snack on, and check on your family. Catch up with your colleagues on non-work topics. Working from home has led to isolation and a lack of physical connection between team members, the coffee breaks were actually the much-needed breaks to beat the monotony. Make a habit of taking frequent breaks to keep yourself mentally fresh.
- Dedicated workspace: It is easy for the lines between office and home to blur when you are working remotely. Your attention span is highly reduced as your mind is distracted by the noise from the living room or your family calling. Splitting attention between two simultaneous situations overworks and tires your brain easily and you lose focus constantly.
Additionally, working where you relax takes away from your resting time. Small things like a pen on the bedside table become your triggers reminding you of work while you are trying to sleep. Thus, dedicate a space completely to your work and treat it as an office. Even a single table with a chair will work wonders for your focus and attention. It creates a change of
environment for your mind to process easily. Additionally, it also creates a clear distinction between ‘home’ and ‘office’.
- Importance of leisure: Lack of inspiration is your brain’s coping mechanism with over-stress. To counter it, remember your hobbies. Leisure may look like a waste of time when you can be doing something much more productive, but only your mind and body does not think so. In the long run, the stress gets to you. This is why it is very important to invest time in your leisure. Do what makes you happy, inspires you, and relaxes you. Listen to music, go for a walk, spend time with your family, play with your pet – anything that takes you away from work and makes you happy. Do not forget your leisure, these are the moments that inspire us to be better people.
- Eat well: No matter how important the work is, NEVER SKIP MEALS. Proper nutrition is the most basic of our needs. Not only lack of food leads to a host of major health issues, but lack of proper nutrition leads to a weakened immune system which leaves you vulnerable to other diseases. Eating fast food is also not a long-term solution as the nutritional value of the meals
is very less. The very reason you are working – remotely or otherwise – is to have a good living. And the food is the first basic of that need. Eat a balanced diet, as many fruits as you can. Remain vigilantly hydrated. Work can wait, but your meals cannot.
- Sleep: Another important human need is sleep. While we sleep, our brain recovers from the rush of the day. It unwinds and rests for the next day. It may be said that young people do not need much sleep, but it is not possible in the long run to skip or have sleep less. Sleep is not only needed for your brain but also for your muscles. Irrespective of your work schedule, make sure to get at least 8hrs of sleep. Before sleep, do not engage in any cellular activity. Have a sleep routine so that your body anticipates that it is time to rest – light a scented candle, do a skincare routine, listen to music, and do yoga. Maintaining a regular routine will improve your sleep and help your mind and body in the long run.
D. Bouncing back from a burnout
A major part of recovering from burnout is taking care of the basics: eat well, sleep well, exercise, and hydrate. It is easy to neglect any or all of these components when you are stressed and running on fumes. But getting a proper eight hours of sleep, drinking enough water, eating lean proteins and vegetables, and getting regular exercise is the foundation of your physical health, and taking care of yourself is the first step to recovering from burnout.
Communication is another key to bouncing from burnout. Talk to your professional team about your concerns, and take leaves from work if needed. Let your family and friends help you. Reach out to them and convey your troubles. In case of work, let your higher-ups know if you are overworked.
If you recognize the signs and realize you are going through burnout, immediately take preventive measures. Begin a routine of self-healing and consistently follow the routine for yourself. Meditate, take up physical activities, ride a bike, go for a walk – any new hobbies or activities which encourage you. If you need to rest, do so. It is easy to revert back to your previous way of life before the burnout once you have bounced back. But going back to the same monotony will affect you worse. It is important to be consistent and maintain the healthy routine you have scheduled for yourself – do it regularly, take breaks, eat well and sleep plenty.