Well into a second year of the fallout from our global pandemic, organizations continue to adjust their work-from-home (“WFH”) strategies. Although some offices have opened up, many more remain fully WFH. And still others are moving to a hybrid format. Given that a recent slack survey of 9,000 knowledge workers indicated a strong preference for hybrid office work arrangements, it appears some form of WFH is here to stay. With so many employees having lived now the life of working remotely, many understand the very real effects of burnout.
The Reality of Work-From-Home Leads to Burnout
When office workers retreated en masse to work via their homes in the spring of 2020, many had never experienced this type of work arrangement before. The common fantasy of an “easy” life—exercising midday, getting some laundry done during that conference call and even juggling child care responsibilities—was quickly replaced by the reality of fractured attention, lack of onsite support resources and longer hours. By the summer of 2020, over two-thirds of remote workers were reporting burnout because they were working morning, noon and night.
As someone who’s worked from my home long before it was in vogue, I know how simultaneously seductive and depleting it can be.
For many, burnout is a result of losing the temporal barrier that had previously separated work from home life. When WFW (working from work), there are multiple actions that signal the brain to know that it’s time to transition. Shutting down the computer. Checking out with co-workers. Listening to the news while sitting in traffic during the commute home. In the absence of those signals and that transition, the workday simply continues.
Work-From-Home Rituals that Work
People who successfully and sustainably work from home understand the necessity of balancing all of the other things they do from home with the work. For many, the key is to develop and religiously observe shutdown rituals that trigger the brain and body to shift gears. Consider these incredibly simple strategies as you craft rituals that work for you.
- Close the door. Many who are working from home are doing so from dens and dining-room tables. But, if you’re fortunate enough to have a separate space, when day is done, simply closing the door can be a powerful message that it’s time to move on. Not only that, the closed door is a literal barrier and a reminder of your intention when you’re tempted to dip back into work.
- Say “goodnight.” Trade bidding co-workers adieu on your way to the parking lot for a quick text, IM or email. Share a short message of appreciation for their contributions to your day or reference something you know about how they’ll be spending their evening.
- Capture insights. Reflection has long been acknowledged as an excellent way to bring closure to one’s day; but it also serves as a transitional signal for those working at home. Ask yourself: What did you learn? How did you feel? What will you do differently? What are you grateful for? Journaling your thoughts can be a powerful and satisfying way to wrap up one’s day on a high note and ready yourself to move on.
- Make a plan. Another way to wrap up one day is to begin planning the next. Take a few minutes to review your schedule. Pull together necessary resources. Anticipate challenges and issues. List your to-dos. This clears the conscious mind, freeing up more energy for evening activities while allowing the subconscious to begin working on issues as necessary overnight.
- Phone a friend. Remember those calls you used to make on your commute home, checking in with friends or family members? You don’t need to be on the road to reach out. Not only can it act as a transition; it can also satisfy today’s heightened need for human connection.
Shutdown rituals can reduce burnout and make working from home work. Use these five tips to make your work-from-home days—whether full-time or hybrid—incredibly productive and satisfying.
A modified version of this post appeared on Smartbrief.