Consequently, work-from-home burnout is ravaging our headspace, our workspace, and our home space. Our new normal requires new restructuring. We need to recreate the transitions we’ve lost. To do this successfully, we need to understand our brain at work.
1 Redefine, Set and Manage Expectations. Figure out what you are now. Not what you were then. Meaning, you may not have been a primary caretaker before quarantine, but you might be now, or at least partly. Maybe your job role has changed due to the absence of a co-working space with the rest of the company. What you are now is great. Own it, figure out what it looks like and set your expectations around that.
2 Find a different way to “commute.” If possible, take the time previously spent commuting to simulate a commute, like a morning walk, but really it can be any activity you like to do. The important thing is to create a transition.
3 Close out your tabs when in a virtual meeting. When you have a thousand tabs open during a meeting, your focus will suffer and your mental exhaustion will increase. The human brain simply cannot concentrate on more than one, or in rare cases, two, cognitive tasks at once. Sensory overload will cause the brain to focus on one immediate task at the expense of others.
4 Use a doodle pad. Instead of feigning focus and multitasking, actually shut down the other tabs, grab a notepad while you are on calls, and doodle while listening. It will give your impulses the needed distraction but in a way that isn’t diverting your attention and thus, depleting your mental attention and focus.
5 Cushion your zoom calls. Pad your zoom calls with five to ten minute breaks to give your eyes and brain a transition period. Sure, you may have had back to back meetings when you were in the office, but they didn’t give you zoom fatigue.
6 Choose the phone over zoom when possible. Change it up. It will make a huge difference with regard to your energy level and mental exhaustion. Your eyes will thank you; and your brain can focus on hearing rather than hearing / listening / presenting yourself simultaneously.
7 Change positions often. Changing positions every 15-30 minutes from standing to sitting to standing will help your body and energy level (and maybe save your back).
8 Keep your old routines in place. Just because you aren’t going someplace to do what you do professionally doesn’t mean you should give up the routines you set. Routines help our brains feel good. They don’t sap our energy as much as doing novel things. So, wake up at the same time, eat lunch at the same time, exercise at the same time. Keep your routines. Honor them.
9 Do something that feels good. This might be watching a fun video, listening to something fun, sitting outside for a half hour, playing an instrument, cuddling with your pet, just something to soften that work brain a bit. It releases some of the feel-good neurochemicals in your brain and gives you a bolt of needed energy.
10 Honor your mental exhaustion. Don’t fight it; instead, work with it. Keep a notepad by you at all times and jot down the things you have to do or remember. There’s no shame in feeling depleted.
Many organizations may never return to the office in full force like they once were; the sooner you create an at-home work atmosphere and routine that combat burnout the better off you’ll be. If you don’t have an office at home, carving out an official workspace – rather than working from the bed or the couch – will help lend some structure to the day.
None of the above is a panacea for work-from-home burnout; but the more you can create a professional atmosphere and replicate your previous existence as someone who left the house for work the less muddled your day may become.